get off here

The next day is always rough, when my fingers don’t work and I cannot make a fist. Mother eyes me when I approach the breakfast table with my hands limp at my sides. When they just lay there like that I remind Mother of how a monkey looks. I know this because she’ll scream at me when I sit down to my waffles. She’ll scream “You look like a goddamned monkey with your hands all screwy like that.” She always says it just like that, excited and shrill, like it’s the first time her child ever approached the table with those two dead slabs hanging, when in fact this type of thing happens all the time. And when she refuses to help me with my waffles, when I have to use my palms to cut them up, that can smart. Sometimes, I have to prop up the carcass of my right hand by its elbow and bring it down on the waffles, hard. I usually begin like this with my right, but always follow in the same manner with my left until Mother’s face, across the way, is smattered with syrup and my waffles look good enough to eat.

The night before, at the bar, my hands were working just fine. I had a rocks glass full of bourbon palmed in my left and the stale nub of a cigarette in my right. I was flanked on both sides by a couple of gentlemen who as I understood it, were visiting New York in search of a girl they had misplaced a while back, someone they called Gizelle. When after a few rounds, the boys had begun to call me by that very name, I didn’t question. In fact, I answered to it. And when after a few sloppy games of pool, these very same gentlemen brought me out in the alley and had their way with me, one after the other, again and again, well I dropped my smoke and beer bottle onto the ground, clenched my fists up into little balls, and took their loving.

And Mother, she knows about that type of thing. I have of course, never told her what goes on in those dark places; what goes on when you’re a girl like me, but still. When she points a finger at me from across the breakfast table and says, “What are you doing to those waffles? What in the Christ are you doing to those waffles?” I know what she’s really asking. 

~ Dana Kooperman ~

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