'Meet Cute in Menlo Park' & 'Left Its Mark'

'Meet Cute in Menlo Park' & 'Left Its Mark'

by Erica Hughes

Meet Cute in Menlo Park

 

Please don't close the door to our future

- The Jackson 5

 

I see my father—a thirteen-year-old boy in a tie

and slacks approaching a girl, my mother.

 

He holds a shoebox full of rocks. The fog

has just burned off the morning—

leaving the day bright and dry. Do you want

to see what I found? he asks her.

 

The other neighborhood children play cops

and robbers—dodging bullets

and putting the bad guys in handcuffs

 

at the shore of the bay. I know my mother

was skinny (like my sister) and her mother

would go weeks without re-pressing

her hair—so her edges must be beginning

to bloom back into afro.

 

Why do you dress so funny, like a pastor? she asks.

I see her looking at her jeans that fray

down the pants leg, and the green Chuck

Taylors—see her feel a new hole wearing

into the sole of them.

 

My mama always wants her children to look nice, he says.

She counters, Well, you look like you just got out

of church. They both laugh.

 

Their story begins much like it ends—with children

trying to understand pain, curious to feel

any kind of love.

 

Is it fair for me to tell you what will become

of these children?

 

In this moment, my father must think of only one thing:

the gap, still widening, between my mother’s teeth

as he opens the box to an assortment

of wet pillars of earth.

 

My mother reaches out to touch the collection,

her fingers moving across a red one—flat,

smooth, and marbled. You can have it, if you want,

my father says. She smiles. What’s your name?

 

Timothy Hughes, he says.

     I’m Kimmy, pastor Hughes

 

 

Left Its Mark

 

like the extension cords. The way my drunk grandfather must have wrapped his large, calloused hands into a fist and wore the wires like brass knuckles. The way he must have snatched the arm of his eldest daughter, my mother. Twelve years old. The way he must have whipped her good. His janitor overalls probably smelled of gin and sweat and piss. She must have remembered the smell keenly—wet and musky like the bar he frequented; where he would leave her and her siblings in the cold Pontiac in the parking lot for hours until he was finished drowning. She, by now, had learned not to cry over her father’s beatings—but to take it. Must have learned to tell herself He doesn’t know any better. Must have learned to call his touch love. My grandmother, down the hall, did not intervene. Kim! She must have yelled when he was done—Have you finished the dishes yet?


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