One night when my dad was on a business trip, I slept in the master bedroom with my mother. We were both excited to be alone--just the two of us. Pillow to pillow, she told me about a time when she was in love with a man named Paul.
She met him when she was twenty-two and working at American Can Company in Connecticut. From the way she's painted, I picture him as a young George Peppard, always dressed up in business suits, his hair parted to one side. He was built, and she could kiss him for hours. I told her I thought that was disgusting. "Aly, when you love someone..." I'd never seen her kiss my dad.
I told her once that I liked banana chips. "Paul liked banana chips," she said. Even after thirty-something years, she's remembered.
I have a black and white photograph of her at age twenty-two; I hang and re-hang it each time I switch college apartments. I think because it proves that she once had a happy time. In it, she has black-brown hair past her waist and is carrying a breakfast tray. Her face is smooth and white, and her high cheekbones synch in her thin cheeks. Her body looks flawless—she tells me that she'd cure her hunger with cigarettes and an occasional PB&J on an unsalted Matzo cracker.
From listening to her stories, I've developed this image of my mother in a yellow, 1960's Volvo with her bare feet on the dashboard of the passenger seat. Paul is in the driver's seat, and the car is parked at the beach. Her hair falls from both sides of her head in long braids, and she's wearing a blue and white striped shirt, Daisy Dukes, large circle framed sunglasses, and a straw hat that she keeps from blowing away by holding it to the top of her head. It's a hot day and all of the windows of the car are rolled down. Paul has said something, and my mother has the same smile and look on her face as she does in that old black and white photo, before she met my dad.
Two hours before my parents were married, Paul called my mother. "Are you married yet? Are you married? I'm coming to get you." My mother said yes it's too late, got drunk on tequila shots, and married my dad.
She cries when she tells me this, as we lie pillow to pillow. I cry too.