Posted on July 7, 2015July 7, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair7.7.2015 Journal Prompt Image from The Motorcycle Diaries July 7, 2015: Some mornings… Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Mama says he was tall, and thin as a rake, and his hair held oily curls and coils like a fistful of black snakes. And his skin was almost white, like the colour of men and women we watch on the American tv channels – watching but never understanding a word they say. And his words, mama tells me, was a little the same, except there was music in them and she reckons he was able to charm all the fruit from the trees with his voice.
And mama says he could pull pennies out of the air, so many that if he was here we’d never need be poor. And he could fly off the ground just by outstretching his arms and holding his breath; and he could see through walls with the sharp blue of his eyes, and he could hear lizards talking and flies talking, too, the actual words.
And he came one day and left the next, and mama says she was a girl back then, and I can’t think how that could be. Mama, once small and thin and her diddies like lemons that fill only the hand? So mama brings out a picture she has, and all the colour has leaked out of the picture so it is just in black and white and grey. In the picture is a girl who looks like me, all white teeth and wide eyes and her hair tied up in ribbons. And mama expects me to believe she is the girl in the picture.
‘It was a beautiful day and he came sitting on a machine that roared his arrival. And all the girls of the village came out to meet him and some of the boys, too.’
And mama was the girl that took the man’s eye and she smiles when she tells me that and maybe it is the same smile she gifted to the man for it is a silver smile and Zander, seeing that smile, calls across the street and what he calls I can’t repeat for it is rude what he would do with my smiling mama.
And the man called his machine to silence and he asked mama if there was fruit and water and bread that he could buy with his pulled-out-of-the-air pennies, and mama took him home to grandma. I do not know if any of what mama says next is true for grandma sleeps in the ground by the church and she don’t never say a word more, not unless grass-whispers is grandma talking. And mama says the man came to her in her bed when it was breathless dark and he kissed her.
I ask mama how she knows it was the man that kissed her if it was dark, and she says he smelled of grease and smoke, and he tasted of mint, and he kissed like no man in the village ever kissed. Kissing like the men on the tv kiss, she says, and there was American music playing and she says he brought it with him like they do on the tv.
The man she is taking of is my papa. That’s what mama says. They made me together in that one dark mint-kiss night. I don’t know how that is possible, how a baby could be made so quickly, but mama swears on The Book and so there is no room to doubt what she says.
And some mornings I climb up out of the village and go stand by the road. I look north and south, which is all the directions the road has, and I look for a man on a machine that roars, a man that smells of grease and smoke and his hair is dark as black snakes. And every one that stops, I ask him if he can pull pennies out of thin air and if he can fly easier than a bird. And I ask him if he could maybe be my papa.
And some mornings mama comes, too, and we sit on a rock, our ears sharp as pins, listening for far off roaring, and close to lizards chatter noiselessly in the sun-warming dirt and as hard as ever I listen I never can hear what they say.
Papa don’t let me watch the tv these days. He says it is just full of American shit and he don’t want that sort of thing infecting all my thinking. He says there’s better things to do with my time, even if that’s just sitting in the shade under the silk floss tree and watching lizards catching their breath and flies scribbling invisible messages over all things.
Yaya watches the tv though, and so I like it when papa says I can go visit her house on a Friday. Yaya is as old as hills or forests and she has the tv on all the time and she talks to it like it is a real person. And Yaya says papa is just lonely and he misses mama and, though he visits Carmencita the whore every Friday for an hour, one hour with Carmencita is not enough woman for him or any man, and so papa’s thinking is not always straight.
Yaya says, whenever I ask, that mama just went a way. She says mama was tired, which is how women in the village mostly is. And she says as mama was a dreamer, which is something that one scarce dares to be and which yaya says takes courage.
Yaya drinks pisco and lemons from a tall wooden beaker, pisco that she makes herself in a great glass bottle the size of a squatting child and it sits under the stairs of her house and you can hear the bottle blowing pisco whispers if the rest of the house is quiet. Yaya drinks pisco and lemons till all her words is singing and bubbling and her thoughts is foggy. And then, with her guard down, I get Yaya to tell me ‘bout mama and her dreams.
The story Yaya tells is never the same twice and I think that is what I like with her telling me ‘bout mama. But some things are a constant and so I think maybe there is something in what she says that must be true. Yaya says mama’s dreams was always beyond the village and she wanted a house with room enough to swing a cat in and a bed that was not made of straw and plates that washed themselves in a big metal box. Or she wanted dresses that were bright as flowers and they made her look slim as a girl again and boys would kiss her neck and make much of her titties, and every day would be breathless and dizzy and filled with music.
And Yaya says mama went up to the big road most days – papa says I am not to watch the tv and he says I am not ever to go up to the big road. And in all Yaya’s stories mama going to the big road is unchanging. And a man came by on a motorbike that roared louder than any jungle cat and his smile was white as clouds and he was tall or he was short, and fat sometimes and other times thin, young and old, and he took mama away with him – always he took mama away.
Yaya don’t know where mama is now. She says that’s why she keeps the tv on, just in case mama is in there somewhere, sitting idle in a great house, with a bed big enough for a king or a queen to sleep in, and self-cleaning plates and cups and spoons, and boys touching her titties more than is proper. And yaya saying that makes me watch the tv all the sharper, just in case there is truth in that bit of her story.
And when I am not at yaya’s house and I am just sitting in the cool under the silk floss tree and the lizards are panting and flies are writing out their secrets, well I hold my breath and listen sharp as bee stings or cat claws, and I listen for the sound of a motorbike up on the big road, and the sound of a man maybe bringing my mama home again.