“The Shape of a Tear”, by T. Coraghessan Boyle
POLICE DOGS AND FIRE HOSES
I’m not going anywhere. They can get in with police dogs and fire hoses and I hang on to the woodwork until I’m stripped to the bone. They would love that, wouldn’t they, their one and only child, who never asked to be born in the first place, reduced to an artifact in his own room in the only house he had ever known? A memento mori. A musculoskeletal structure without musculo. Shout matches? If they want to call matches, well, I’m more than equal to the task. They are old, weak and ridiculous and they know it, with their stained teeth, drooping necks and faces like masks cut out of sheets of sandpaper, with two holes drilled for their glowing, hypercritical eyes to ignite. But what a fool I am – thought the final drop was when they let me down from the family plan and woke up one day without cell service and, really, banging, how do they expect me to find a job if i don’t have a phone? Is it that hard to understand? Does this require further reasoning? Putting one and a whore together? The next straw was when they brought Lucas Hubinski, who was in high school with me in the previous era, and made him put a lock on the fridge and pantry, too, as if he s acted as showcases at Tiffany’s. Do you think it was extreme? How about the final final straw, the one that could have filled an entire barn with ungulate fodder tied into eight-foot-tall bales? Are you ready for this? They came out and got an eviction notice and stuck it to my bedroom door like it was going to mean something to me, like I cared what Danbury Superior Court had to say about whatever it is. Or what they had to say. Them too.
He had all the advantages. We loved her, we still love her, our only child, who came to us as the sweetest and truest blessing from God when I was forty-one and so empty inside that I watched. in the void in every moment of my waking and in my dreams, too, which was once full of wonder but had grown so rancid I could feel my brain rotting right there on the pillow while Doug snored all night – because that he had given up, he was really, exhausted from working overtime so we could afford the in vitro treatments, which were just money, because nothing ever came out of it except grief. But I don’t give up that easily. I have a hard head like my mother and her mother before her. When the calendar said I was ovulating, I went to Victoria’s Secret for lingerie, drank Doug’s champagne, posed for him, sat on his lap and watched porn with him until we both got so hot we practically raped each other. Yet nothing happened. Months flowed like slow poison. I thought there were other ways to be fulfilled besides having children, but when you get there, God and heaven aside, the whole point of life is to create more. life. Then about these things – the mysterious way, I mean, the way the world turns, whether you think you’re responsible for it or not – I missed my rules. One morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. I knew right away. I was delighted. And my baby was more beautiful than the beauty itself.
THE DOCUMENT IN QUESTION
The document in question is just a long, concise, precise paragraph, and was written by an inferior life form with a JD degree that they had met at Emilio’s bar, where they were taking me in happier days, before, in my dad’s words – no kidding, my own dad – I was becoming an embarrassment to them. Ha! Shame on them? Have they looked at themselves in a mirror lately? Anyway, it was a hell of a day, the first week of February, a cold needle shower pestering me all the way back from the mall, which is a 2.3 mile walk away, and , of course to get there in the first place i had to go 2.3 miles and forget to stick my thumb out because no one here has taken a hitchhiker since the first “Star Wars” movie was released. or maybe even before that. Who knows? This is a question for social historians. But why haven’t I driven? Because my car, Japanese shit, needs a new front end, and it’s been riding blocks in the driveway for eighteen months, because my parents won’t lend me any money. money to get it fixed, and, again, their thinking is beyond amazement because, even if I did manage to find a job without a cell phone, how would they expect me to actually achieve my workplace?
But I needed to get out, if only for my own mental and physical well-being, because you can only re-read the crumpled and moldy paperbacks you’ve had on your shelf since you were fourteen, playing video game retreads and watching the aquarium for so many hours a day before you start to feel like Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, so I decided to do the trek. In the rain. I’m not much of a drinker and since my unemployment ran out I don’t have a lot of money to throw away but there is a bar at the mall where I like to sit on top of a pitcher and watch the bartender go fast with his business, which is mostly polishing the bar top and flirting with male customers, a subset of which I belong. Her name is Ti-Gress, or at least that’s what her badge says, and considering how much I have to put up with at home, it’s more than refreshing to just sit there and watch her while the system goes. sound delivers electronics and the clients become one another and the TV redirects its pixels until everyone is in a trance. Also, I wanted to stop at the Pet Emporium to pick up a pair of doomed cichlids for the large tank (fifty gallons, freshwater, strictly Central and South American species, as this is my method, not like these so called amateurs who mix Asians, African and South American species in a way that outrageous nature, if you think about it). Anyway, I watched Ti-Gress and exchanged a comment or two with her as she glided like a large silk kite up and down the bar, finished my beer, chose convicts and had the sixteen-year-old animal with stringy hair. -shop nerd put them in a larger plastic bag than normal, with an extra hit of O2 (which I slipped inside my jacket to keep it warm during the 2.3 mile walk home).
It’s getting colder. The rain turned to sleet. No one would even consider stopping to buy me a ride, and, no, I didn’t have the money to waste on an Uber, if that’s what you think. Then I walk around the house – no one at home, they are always at work, I thank the guardian gods for the little miracles, and Jesus, Muhammad and Siddhartha too, if they listen – and there is this advice stuck to my door. You are hereby informed. Etc.
I didn’t even have a chance to get out of the car until he was there, in front of me, telling myself that I would come home during my lunch break to check in at his door so that he wouldn’t. there is no mistake. intentions, no more second or third chance – or twentieth, for that matter, if you want to know the truth. He was ugly then, which I hate to admit, scampering through the slush of the driveway, giving a tantrum like a two year old. And with the neighbors watching too – Jocelyn Hammersmith across the street, whose stone face I could see peeking through her separate blinds, in the front row of them. Oh, he was so mistreated, so mistreated, and I was inhuman, the most callous mother in history, who had never understood him, had never supported him, had never given him a break. Doug had called him embarrassment, which was cruel and insane, but at that moment – with his crooked face and that neglected growl of a beard he never trimmed or washed, so speckled with dandruff. that he looks like a fur trapper in a snowstorm. , and with all the weight he put on feeling sorry for himself in the room, I haven’t been allowed in since he got home after breaking up with his girlfriend, there is seven years old – I couldn’t help but see the truth of it.
Will he think to open the car door for me? No, he just wants to be raving. “You kill me! Is that what you want? You want me to be homeless? You want me to sleep outside in this shitty weather and get, what, multidrug-resistant TB from all the bums ? Huh, would that make you happy?
Does he notice my arms are full or wonder why I am bringing home a bunch of pink roses and white carnations (which my eighth period honor class went out of their way to surprise me with? )? Does he even know it’s my birthday? And what about a card? What about a birthday card, even generic – or handmade, like the ones he gave me when he was in elementary school? Am I mean to want some kind of recognition that I’m alive and breathing, even if it’s only one day a year? Who is this person? What did I do? What has happened to him?
The car door – a Jeep Grand Cherokee that Doug insisted I get a four-wheel drive – is heavier than the door of a safe and even in the best case scenario I have to push hard to get it. open it up, but now juggling my purse and briefcase and trying to protect the flowers is a real trick. Somehow I get by, then I have one foot on the sidewalk, in the slush, and I’m so angry I’m scared of what I might say, scared of myself. unleashed, reminding him of all the “loans” over the years and the fifteen hundred dollars we gave him for Christmas to find himself an apartment, which he says he spent on “expenses,” so I match my expression to the hers and say, “It’s my birthday.”