I remember that porch. I remember we were sitting on its steps that summer, when I asked Mama about the house.
“What about the house?” she asked.
“Oh hon…” She trailed off, but her eyes finished the sentence. So blue, so bright, so full of hurt. She wrapped her arms around me.
“Well June, you see…” She stopped to think for a second, but hung onto me too tight, squeezing my shoulders as if she could wring my doubts right out of me. “It may be broken, but it’s still alright. Windows don’t need glass for you to see outside of ‘em.”
“Mama, this isn’t just about the windows.”
They were part of it, that was true. I might’ve jumped when they were shattered, but I didn’t care enough to feel anything about it. I just sighed, that house had a mean draft before the window came down.
“What do I always say, June? We might not have it all, but we’ve got all we need.”
But this wasn’t enough for me. Somehow, she sensed it. Back when she had a good head, she was all there and then some.
“Now listen, Junie. Sure our fridge doesn’t work right, but really that’s just fine. I’m out of a job too. And your father’s just like our washer.”
I knew she was getting at something, but I just didn’t know what. I felt myself almost smiling, even though I didn’t want to be. I swallowed that smile and turned to look at her.
“Mama, what washer?”
“Exactly. And what father? But we get along just fine without both.”
She paused for a second to think, eyes momentarily fixed in the distance, before she continued.
“Now, I know we don’t have enough beds, but sharing with your sister can’t be too bad. ‘Specially now that she never sleeps at home.”
She looked down to avoid my gaze and started smoothing her dress of non-existent wrinkles before she added, “We’ve got it all between the five of us. Don’t need a chimney when we’ve got your brothers. And I’m a regular old doormat. Two more problems solved.”
After that a pause hung in the air. Mosquitoes idly drifted by, knowing well enough not to land on us.
“I guess so” I said, choking on nothing, but the humidity of June and the bitter truth. My mama had a way of dressing things up to make them seem pretty. She’d always do a good job, making herself look like a princess each time she managed to find a date. It still wasn’t enough. Those men never loved her and I never loved my home the way we all should have. Its emptiness crept into me at a young age, making it hard to breathe. I never really had a breath of fresh air ‘til I was hours north, in a state I had never been before. Maine and some clarity, a mental state just as foreign to me as the physical.
I took my first breaths in a hospital just outside of Charleston, an hour or so from my hometown of Cairo. I don’t remember this, but my Mama tells me it was so. My father was there, and so was my sister. Lori tells me I was so pink, I scared her.
I couldn’t help but wonder if I was pink the moment I stepped off that bus and took the first breath that I ever remember taking.
Simea Stevens enjoys writing stories about others in the first person while writings bios about herself in the third. Currently, she’s working on her first full-length novel and continues to write poems and short stories. Contact can be made through firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting her new website.