i sat outside her room at 5am and waited. the floor tiles were dirty- the corners were chipped and there was bus station era streaking. the corners of my eyes were thick with glass. i kept a wool blanket about my shoulders to protect me from the madness air conditioning and her eventual postdooropening survey. i had an itch all down my back, the side of my neck, the pillow.
there was a cardboard box at the end of the hall that contained christmas tree parts, garlands, the empty packaging of hoisery, a small piece of wire bent into a man with doubled arms but singled legs. the garland seemed to be breathing a little, but i kept still.
her door opened at 8:30am. she was dressed in gingham and she walked to the mess. i followed close behind. she left a tiny trail of small flying primary colors behind her. i could follow her movements exactly. as her left leg would raise, mine would then towards me and tandem her. i felt physically focused and mentally vacant.
she had not noticed me. she pushed the heavy metallic door open and i glided in behind her soft. there was a stack of individual milk cartons on the counter. the sugar in baskets. she chose a white round moonplate, and i did, and i traced her meal onto mine. three pieces of pineapple, one strawberry yogurt, one spoonful of scrambled egg, one thick half slice of french toast, two links of sausage. there were flowers on many of the tables, white linen on all. she held the yogurt in her hand, away from her chest, and the rest on her plate clockwise from the start.
we sat, i just a left behind her. my shoulders shy. i heard her shadow twitch to my presence, but still. the lighting gave our skin surprise gifts. she began eating. i followed her exactly. left fork, right knife, to the sausage, the cut, roughly one-fifth of the sausage, through the air, to the mouth, 5 major chews, 16 minor. a two second swallow. a three scene smile: a testraise, then back down, then full arise. arise then for the forgotten juice-- we get it together. the machine hums as we press our glass. she drinks the first sip while walking back, so beautiful is the orange; and she lets her juice enter her mouth just to the right, the right front incisor receiving the first splash. i do the same. i had never done it before. we peel our yogurt back together and pour our syrup from a height of seven inches and we eat our meals exactly the same. there are posters on the walls, but i cannot read them because she will not look at them.
after a while, i begin to notice that my eyes are watering. her eyes are watering also. there is a vague mint. she raises her hand to her face and touches it once, just under her eye, the sensitive upper cheek with bone just beneath, and i copy her and feel two hands upon this one spot on my face. our eyes close and we see the blackness. our sounds are the same, the ocean waves to the left and behind. there is mint.
inside this mint blackness we see an older woman sad, lying under a shawl, and a mahogany clock ringing a dullsonorous Db. we see the soft down of dirt under a lakeside tree, and there a wasp cradles our fingers and gives us her own smile. the mother is unrecognizable, but her face is like mine, and like the woman, and like the pieces of french toast...the the piece piece ofof frefrench ttoast...
that is finally finding its way onto our mutual tongue and the sweet sweet firework joy of that first swallow shimmers up both of our memories of swing metal cold and pleasently painful in our thin hands.
and i open my eyes and see that my skin is soft, my breasts full, my belly doubled with sustanence. a three, no six, second smile. two threes overlapping. the day can begin.