'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?