Identical, p.21

Identical, page 21



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  than cute. Built. I’d like

  to say intelligent, but that

  hasn’t always proved the case

  with some of my selections.

  Still, if I could build the perfect

  guy, he’d be smart. Just not

  as smart as me. Funny.

  And, oh yeah, a stoner.

  Killer combination. Lawler,

  with connections. Sounds

  pretty good to me. Yet even

  all that can’t add up to “happy

  ever after.” Does anyone

  really believe in such a thing?

  Happy Ever After

  Is a concept I’ll never believe

  in. I would be content to sample

  some little taste of happiness

  today, tonight, right now, though

  I know

  without a doubt that tomorrow

  will arrive, saturated with pain.

  Life is like that. At least

  my life. And honestly,

  I can’t

  think of anyone whose life

  is any different. The price

  tag for joy is misery. I don’t

  want to go inside, but I can’t


  out here on the grass all night.

  It’s crunchy cold. I watch

  Lawler drive away, wish with all

  my heart I could keep him


  beside me, wrapped around

  me, blanketing me with security,

  fragile as that might also be.

  Oh yes, I would like that

  very much.

  But he’s gone already, out of

  sight, a shadow blurred into night,

  and I will weave dreams no



  Sunday Morning

  Post-Halloween. The house

  is silent, fast asleep, but

  despite the seeming calm,

  I know

  in my bones that I’m straddling

  more than one powder keg,

  lit torch in hand. Everything

  wants to blow, although

  I can’t

  say exactly why I think so,

  but it definitely has to do with

  Mom getting home late last night.

  I guess she plans to


  through Election Day. Depending

  on the outcome of that, she’ll

  leave for DC right away to find

  a place, or she’ll settle back


  indefinitely. Meaning until she

  finds a new crusade to embark on.

  Why can’t her crusade be me?

  The polls say the race is still


  close. Either way, I feel her slip

  away. Either way, our lives

  won’t be the same

  much longer.

  Either Way

  Mom is sleeping in the guest room.

  Maybe that’s truly what she is—a guest

  in her own home. God, how sad.

  For me.

  I just want my mommy back,

  just want to be the little girl she tells

  stories to, whose hair she brushes

  every night

  until it shines like polished brass.

  Why does life have to be so messed up?

  Why can’t it just keep marching in

  perfect order?

  I Was Supposed

  To be asleep last night when Mom blew

  in through the door, an unsubtle wind.

  I wanted to run to her, throw my arms

  around her, snow kisses all over her face.

  But something told me to crack open

  my door, sit beside it in the dark, silent.

  To listen, no more than a hint of the child

  she loved once upon a time, so long ago.

  Then, she would never leave me or Raeanne.

  My sister and I would sit in the dark, like

  this, only together. We’d sit very close,

  listening in to our parents’ discussions.

  Then, Daddy would often ask to go away

  with Mom, who refused to leave us

  with an au pair. Then, the only person who

  ever watched us was…was…a face

  surfaces in memory. She looked like Daddy,

  and her breath always smelled like Dewar’s.

  Oh Yeah, Blast from the Past

  I sat there last night, shaking, no Raeanne

  to make the jolt of remembrance better.

  And it was about to get worse.

  Mom greeted Daddy about as expected,

  with a clipped Good to see you. Next came

  several minutes of usual campaign banter.

  Daddy went on to talk about plans

  for Tuesday, skipping the Hannah

  part. I just about fell asleep.

  Around the time I decided to go

  ahead to bed, Mom began,

  Oh, I spoke with your father….

  My father? Daddy’s voice

  was startled. Why in bloody

  hell would you do that?

  Mom’s turn for surprise:

  You don’t know?

  Daddy: I couldn’t hazard a guess.

  So you haven’t heard from

  your mother? No demands?

  Her words sank in slowly.

  I could imagine the expression

  on his face. What in the fuck

  are you talking about, Kay?

  She spoke slowly, as if to a dull-

  witted child. Your father called

  to let you know you might expect

  to hear from your mother. His take

  was she wanted money to keep quiet.

  Quiet about what, Raymond?

  I have no idea, answered Daddy,

  a little too quickly. Frankly, I’d be

  shocked to hear from her….

  So long, with no word. What, exactly,

  happened between them? Surely

  something more than just the scene

  after the funeral. I shifted my weight

  and the floorboards groaned.

  Conversation skidded to an abrupt halt.

  Finally, Mom said, We’ll finish this

  later. I’m exhausted anyway. We’ll

  both be clearer tomorrow. Finis.

  I Lay Awake

  Most of the night, pondering

  mysteries. Where did my father

  come from? Who made him,

  and who made him the way he is?

  Who is my grandmother? Where

  has she been all these years, and what

  does she know that Daddy wouldn’t

  want us to know? What happened

  between her and Grandpa Gardella?

  What happened between Daddy

  and him? Does Mom know

  the answers to these questions?

  If she does, why hasn’t she ever

  talked about them? If she doesn’t,

  why doesn’t she? Why don’t I?

  Why are there so many mysteries

  shrouding our lives? Will I ever

  know the answers? If so, when?

  If not, why?

  Not a Good Time

  For those questions. Of course,

  I doubt there will ever be a good

  time for those questions.

  Our family puts the “dys”

  in dysfunctional. And every time

  I start to think I’m the sanest

  in the bunch, I turn around

  and do something completely

  insane, like letting myself

  fall hard for Ian. He called

  yesterday, caught me on my

  cell. Hey, you. What’s up?

  Just hearing his voice warmed

  me, from the inside out. “Same

  ol’. What’s up with you?

  Not much. In fact, I’m bored

  as hell, so I thought I’d call and

  tell you how much I miss you.

  I’ll be home Sunday morning.

  Think you could steal a few

  minutes with me?

  “Maybe after work. We can

  always try, although my mom

  is supposed to be home.”

  Oh, that’s right. The election

  is Tuesday, huh? How’s it

  looking for your mom?

  “Okay, I guess. Barring some

  major revelation, she’s got

  a pretty good shot.”

  Major revelation, huh?

  He laughed. And what

  are the odds of that?

  At the time, I thought

  they were pretty long.

  But now I have to wonder.

  I Want to Talk to Ian

  About Mom and Daddy and Raeanne

  and Grandma Gardella, whose face keeps

  trying to materialize behind my eyes, and whose

  motives for appearing now can’t be guessed.

  But I don’t dare talk to him about any

  of that, because then he’ll realize how truly

  screwed up my family is, and that includes

  me, and if he knows all that, he’ll dump me.

  I want to talk to Mom about Daddy and his

  parents and most of all about Ian, who I

  think I might really be in love with. I want

  to talk to her about love and what that means.

  But I’m not sure she knows what it means

  or that she cares in the least that I might

  have found it. I’m not sure she cares about

  me at all, and that’s what I’m really afraid of.

  Afraid, afraid, afraid. I’m always afraid

  and I’m sick of it and I don’t know any

  other way of dealing with it than to go

  find food and stuff myself with it. So I do.

  And Still No One’s Awake

  So I bundle up against the drear

  November fog and pedal off to

  work. I pass a church, starting

  to fill with early risers, almost

  think about going inside.

  Like what for, Kaeleigh?


  You’ll burn.


  No one wants you.


  Huh? What?


  Oh yeah, break down.

  Daddy would kill me.

  If Mom didn’t kill you first.

  And if I don’t stop talking

  to myself, I’ll only prove

  that I really am crazy.

  Schizophrenic, maybe.

  Yeah, Kaeleigh, shut the hell up.

  Schizophrenic Me

  Can barely pay attention

  to what I’m doing at work,

  with all the conversation

  going back and forth in my

  head. Mental tug-of-war.

  Finally I get the breakfast

  table set. The residents start

  to trickle in, many dressed

  up for their own worship

  to come. Among those women

  in cheerful flowered dresses

  is Greta, no gentleman beside

  her. She sits and I go over.

  “No Lars today? And you

  look so pretty, too!”

  Greta sighs. Lars will not

  come to church with me.

  He says there is no God.

  He used to think differently,

  once long ago. The war…

  She’s known him that long?

  “I didn’t realize you’ve known

  each other since before the war.

  Is that how you lost each other?”

  What wedged them apart?

  Greta’s Tale

  Comes from a place deep,

  deep inside. It takes a few

  minutes to surface.

  Finally it shudders free.

  Lars and I met as small children.

  We played together in the streets,

  and by the time the war started,

  we were in love. Really, we

  were still only children. I must

  have been twelve or thirteen,

  and Lars was a year older.

  Our love was pure, and born

  of friendship. But when my father

  found out, he forbade me to see

  Lars. We met in secret, shared

  kisses and laughter. Nothing more.

  One day my father discovered

  us together. He nearly beat me

  to death. I feared he would kill

  Lars, and so it was almost a relief

  when Lars put on a uniform

  and went to fight the Nazis.

  Almost. Her voice softens, slows.

  I mean, he was only a boy inside,

  although on the outside he looked

  every bit the handsome soldier.

  My father tried to stop me

  from going to say good-bye.

  But for once, my mother

  intervened. “Let her go,”

  she said. “She may never

  see him again.” And I didn’t.

  Not until a few weeks ago,

  when he showed up here.

  More than sixty years have

  gone by. Sixty years we can

  never get back, six decades

  filled with things we will

  never speak of. But we accept

  that, and have promised

  to share the few years we have

  left, create new memories,

  joyous and loving, that we

  can take with us when we go.

  Love, Resurrected

  After more than sixty years.

  Must be that love never died.

  And that means it had to have

  been alive in the first place.

  I want to know living love.

  And I don’t want to wait for it.

  I go through the motions of this

  mindless work, mind totally

  locked on Ian and possibility.

  As soon as I finish, I call him.

  He’s home. Hey. I was hoping

  I’d hear from you. So…

  He doesn’t have to ask. “Pick

  me up. Mom can wait.”

  It’s an impossibly long fifteen

  minutes. Finally I hear his bike,

  and the sound of its approach

  fills me with happiness. And

  something else. Something

  very much like desire.

  And Now I See His Face

  And the warmth of his smile

  intensifies the heat wave

  flowing inside me. But I have

  to play cool because that’s what

  good girls do and I want to be

  good for Ian. “Hey. Missed you.”

  Not as much as I missed you.

  Come here. And he pulls me

  into him and now we’re kissing

  and I want to make this amazing

  sense of belonging last forever.

  Have I told you lately I love you?

  I fold myself up into his arms,

  close as one body can get to another,

  except for…I go stiff at the thought.

  No Kaeleigh, no. That’s not what

  this is. It’s okay to be here, plastered

  right up against this incredible guy.

  But the magic has dissipated,

  the warmth frozen over. Ian can’t

  help but notice. What’s wrong?

  I shake my head, cling tighter.

  In the past, Ian would have turned

  away. Today he holds fast. Stay.

  Like a Puppy

  I stay, and for once I stay

  long enough f
or the ice dam

  to melt, warm into an easy

  flow, burgeoning into

  a river

  of need. My pulse picks up

  speed and I lift my eyes to his,

  have to look away or I might

  go blind at the blaze


  there. “Oh God, Ian, I can’t

  believe how much I love you.”

  And he kisses me again, and now

  I understand how love can come


  inside you, beneath your skin,

  beneath your flesh and bone,

  a separate entity, breathing

  in and out its own special air,


  to fill all those hollow places

  that you can’t fill by yourself.

  I want to be good. Don’t want

  to go stiff. But if I don’t, this

  sudden rush of want will become


  So maybe I’d better stop it now.


  Home Bitter Home

  Mom’s home, oh yeah, oh

  boy. Waiting for her to light

  into Daddy is like standing beside

  a river

  knowing you’re going to fall

  in, no matter what you do.

  The only real question is when.

  I didn’t used to mind their


  at each other. When I was little,

  I thought it was better than

  a deep freeze of silence.


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