She has gone by many last names, stretching from B to W in the Standard English alphabet. She has gone by city, by yellow rose, by bird, by screwdriver, by drinking well until after she has drunk. My relation to this woman is uncertain, as is the history of disappearances that surround her. She has gone by, stretched sparsely among decades, weekends, and Monday mornings, until her final disappearance on one mild July. By blood she is a mother, leaving her offspring scattered in different parts of the country. But this all, is all known. At a certain point the facts give way, the knowledge ends, and left there is only silence. A silence of only one subject, where all other conversations continue, unchanged. Note that this now is the only true silence left in the world.
She was a religious fanatic. During particularly violent storms she would cower behind the navy couch, dotted with many unnamed, pixilated flowers. Tucked away in the corner of a basement, clutching the phone and her illustrated bible, she screamed at God, convincing him to let her into heaven.
Every Sunday morning she drove her children across the state line between Indiana and Illinois in her ninety-three Jeep Cherokee. The purpose of these ritualistic endeavors being to buy two six-packs of Budweiser beer. With one hand on the steering wheel, and one on the dial, flipping on and off county radio, she chewed Wrigley’s Extra Original Mint gum mechanically and simultaneously smoked Marlboro light after Marlboro light. Her dry skin reflected inner turmoil, and required pure vitamin E applied daily to her facial “T-zone”. Her eyes were two different colors, one brown, and one green, dominant and recessive respectively. Her hair enhanced her height and was obsessively permed, crimped, colored, curled, and sprayed. To stand near her was intoxicating.
She was an expert pool player and was playfully referred to as Hoops at her local haunts. The Sunset Lounge, McCool’s, Drifters, The Port, these were her churches, her sanctuary. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening she stalked, legs coated in acid-wash denim, through their dark smoky corridors, wine glasses stacked precariously on table edges and sink ledges. You can just imagine the terrible crash of sound, the result of an out-of-line elbow, the bump of a broad hip. Her blood pulsed, the speakers crackled, and the music played.
Some Fridays she would go line dancing at a place on the outskirts of the county, where the ceilings were high and caked with spray on foam insulation. She lounged on musty barrels of hay next to giant thread spool tables; she line-danced to the live band, the rhinestones on her collar shimmering, and fed peacocks kernels of corn in the petting zoo. At the bi-weekly rodeo she cheered on her favorite bull rider, throwing up her cowboy hat and whooping until her voice was hoarse.
She was not a woman of monogamy. Through marriages, divorces, and scandalous affairs, she remained unsatisfied. Her second marriage was to a shift worker at a steel mill that lined the southern coast of Lake Michigan. His schedule allowed her the luxury of solitude. He rotated on a schedule of seven days of mornings, seven days of days, and finally seven days of four-to-twelve’s. These shifts, marked in pencil by her hand on the Kitten calendar hanging in the seventies style kitchen, dictated her moods, movements, and schedule. For the first few years of their marriage it is only fair to say she tried. She attempted the role of a loving wife, giving him two children, a boy and a girl of normal ability and intelligence, who grew up healthy, although were born jaundice, premature, and the boy with a curious but removable extremity.
The various houses she inhabited throughout the Midwest, (eventually dipping into the south) serve as museums, which forever will contain her memory. The doors she slammed, the closets where, drunkenly, she urinated, the children’s rooms where she briefly sang them to sleep, her voice cracking into imperfect harmonies. She lived for a short time in a basement apartment on Market Street for three hundred dollars a month. The curtains made the whole room appear stained in red wine. A huge painting of the last supper hung ominously in the hall that connected the kitchen to the remaining rooms, the place is stale and reeks of guilt, even today.
Beloved were her series of Jeep Cherokees, all forest green, all with an acrylic blend interior, all with “Jeep” tiny, tiny, embroidered on the waterproof seats, all eventually destroyed and replaced by her various husbands. Hanging from each review mirror, a feathered and beaded dream catcher, and dangling equal with her elbow from each ignition was her collection of key-chains. The most fascinating of these, a four inch tube containing glitter stars and hearts suspended in some liquid medium. They floated from top to bottom with each rotation, colliding and sticking together.
The destruction of her favorite, the 93’ model, purchased for her by her second husband, happened a week after she had received her third DUI, and a month prior to her scheduled hearing on the matter. Upon returning one night from a holiday party at Drifters, she took a hard right into the driveway and traveling at a devastating 30 miles an hour, crashed through the automatic aluminum garage door and into a large hand-built wooden work bench, bolted to the concrete floor. The impact moved the bench several inches outside the back wall. Unaware or uncaring no one can know, nonetheless she turned the car off, stepped out, entirely unharmed, and retired to her waterbed to sleep off oblivion.
This marked the decline of her second marriage. Following a brief stint in the state insane asylum for undisclosed ailments her relationship quickly degraded. She went on as if nothing had ever happened; she was a free woman again. Her previous life trailed off into an endless ellipsis. She forgot, the yellow linoleum- imprinted with cylindrical circles by chairs feet, cigarette burns in blankets. The vinyl rooster seat covers, the heart shaped plaque above the light switch in the kitchen, “Take a number – mom’s busy.” the ceiling with the tiny spackled bumps- glitter stuck to everything, her children could walk on the moon. Pushed from her mind were the hours of labor, the moment of birth, and the corner bedroom where she had sponged every inch of the northern and southern walls a translucent pink on her daughters eighth birthday. She took only what she needed, personal toiletries; the under-eye creams, lotions, curling irons, a veined pale-skinned life-like dildo, three aerosol cans of aqua-net, her clothes; a pair of cowgirl boots with turquoise buckles, white pleated blouses, her leather jacket with fringe from wrist to wrist, straight-legged, high-waisted size zero blue-jeans, underwear. She left, without apology, a considerable amount of credit-card debt, a lingering scent, and emptiness that no one could comprehend fixing.
In comes the bull-rider, her third husband, his house on a tree-lined street near a Bob Evens. She married him the month following the finalization of her second divorce. In the southwestern style living room her children enjoyed a second Christmas, receiving identical money orders, each for twenty dollars. The year was 1997, and again, she tried. She redecorated, she sewed the rips in his clothes, she set her hair in rollers and had his name tattooed above her left breast. She grew impossibly tall sunflowers next to the back fence and set off fireworks at the end of the driveway on the fourth of July. A year in she returned to her previous life-style, drunk by noon, she fought a vicious custody-battle, insisting upon keeping children she didn’t actually want. In her afternoons, unemployed, she followed soap operas twists and turns, and prepared elaborate dinners. Eventually she gave into temptation. Carefully she contained a few secret relationships, culminating in yet another annulment in 1998, although this time the circumstances are uncertain.
Here the details blur, her transition from third husband to fourth seems in my mind seamless. Her fourth marriage was to an iron welder who worked high above the city, tightrope walking on a skyscrapers ribcage. He loved NASCAR and big screen televisions. She became pregnant, birthing a child, surrounded by gangly giraffes at the age of fourty-five. At this point her fourth husband began reciprocating her abuse, and she fled to Tennessee to live with her mother and a man she insisted molested her when she was a little girl. At this point her children stopped receiving money orders on holidays and birthdays, her ex-husbands remarried. Thus began her final disappearance.
Although most details of her life are questionable, the details of her final exit are made certain from numerous sources, at least I know, this is the last time I saw her; Rose tattoos on wrists, handcuffs chaffing, she ducks into a police car, a uniformed officer holding her elbow and protecting her head. He wears no wedding band.
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