My mother is butcher than a butcher who’s been cutting up frozen whole pigs all night and consequently has cold hands and a melancholy disposition. She's a broad woman and across every lingering inch of her broaditity roams amply lush fields of puckering pink flesh which proclaim that why, yes indeed, she is most certainly a broad. A woman of the truckstops, a lady of the plains in the cubist sense, for visually she cannot be described by simplicity of just plain. She encourages thoughts of good old homely being a positively upscale address. Her look is less sackcloth and more ashes, but more than anything, she is proudly prodigious and with the liquor in her a full ship under sail and close to tipping. And for sale also, God love her, which he might as well, seeing as so many other men have already done so. This is how she explained my father to me.
Salt on the lips, but from where? It’s as though I am becoming saline and sleepy also, the pillar of salt, here dozing at the wheel of my own contraptions. I sense meaninglessness and it goes like this: Salt, salt on the lips, but from where? It’s as though I’m being approached by the inter-planetary Lot, finally getting back home after all this time. He says ‘Marry me,’ he says, when I know all the time he already has a wife, it’s just her name I can’t remember. So then we go to the Polo Lounge and he buys me drinks and keeps saying my name in every sentence, sat there in a plaid golf jacket, fingering his carkeys like they were some part of my body I never want to see again. “Now I’m alone and I don’t even have to think for myself.” This is what I'm singing over and over in my head, trying to drown out the sound of him, zeroing in. The place is getting empty and I am beginning to feel bad in these sequins. I try so hard to keep still, but with every breath most of me flutters, ten thousand plastic eyes sending him messages only the insane wouldn’t understand. My dress is speaking so clearly, it’s saying: It’s the shame of it though, not the horror, just the shame. Eventually we’re in the lobby there and it’s too late to fight with him anymore and he’s saying all he wants to do is dance, but it’s then I remember how Lot only likes show tunes (“Whiplash girlchild in the dark...”) and I realize just how much trouble I’m in. You see I am Lilli Marlene. I am Sally Bowles. I am bewigged, already ordering room service, and trying to remember doing The Strand when younger, trying to remember if I’d ever really loved it and what that would feel like.
Later we’re driving through the dessert, one big fucking thousand mile road of cherry cake, and I’m in the back of his Lincoln cracking Amyl and singing like this: “Soooo open the door, I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” He’s sitting there in the driver’s seat drinking out of a whisky can, just screaming and screaming and screaming at the night because it’s already two a.m. but the sky is completely white and that’s what he’s screaming about, about how the night has gone and this is all happening about ten thousand miles from Scandinavia, this is Nevada after all, and I’m certain that one of us won’t make it and then I realize that at this speed if he dies I’ll be the same way, so it gets me whichever, that old black angel’s deathsong; either I don’t make it or he don’t and then I have to crap out into some telephone pole anyhow, get eaten up by the dogs on the sponge layer roadside. “I was always for the man that drives the hammer....” he’s shouting, but my ears have long since been blown off, I mean literally, which is a shame because I was that man, with the hammer, that was me way before. You wouldn’t believe it if you saw me now all broken down and ordinary like this, but in my strong years, in my strong years I could snap a spine between my fingers like it was frozen paper straw. I was something to see back in those days. Now it’s just this golden nose and the boots I’m kicking with, hob-nailed.
“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat....”, but really what am I the hat-check girl from one of those Ray Milland movies, or not Ray Milland, maybe that guy who was in The Killers with Lee Marvin, Broderick Crawford maybe, whatever. But then he says how as that’s a line from a song and anyway he hasn’t smoked a cigarette since his first wife died of her spleen bursting in the Naval Hospital in Bethedsa, Maryland. He was in the service apparently. Anyhow, we’re in a coffee shop and I can see him trying to look down the front of the awful orange uniform the waitress is wearing. I mean she’s only like someone’s grandmother with more veins on the outside than in. At least he’s forgotten about me for a while and I’m having this idea about stealing the two dollar tip some guy in the next booth left, wondering whether that’ll be enough for a bus ticket when all along I know it’s not even close. I mean I haven’t got more than loose change in my purse. Then he says “Let’s have the lox, I think the lox will be good.” Sure daddy, here we are in Sweetwater, and not Florida neither, and you want the Jewish fish. Please. Well I see a Help Wanted sign, but give up on it, because he’s never going to let me go that easily. If I could only get a change of clothes and some dark glasses. If I could only be like someone else entirely. Or at least lose this jerk and find myself something better in the world. But it’s then I see this truck the size of about seven trailer homes and I get my idea about going out and looking for America. Check please I’m saying, about as quietly as I can.
I love my mother and I never heard her say another word about my father or their past. I'm grateful to her for that, but also feel less than well-informed about the real insides of me. I can do no more than carry on.