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Paying No Attention

I mean, its only a few years more before rheumatroid arthritis will steal away her cooking
days. Shes my grandmother; I mean, without her, thered be no I. But god sakes, Sanka?
Sanka, in the spaghetti sauce? Fer thickening, or so she says. At least I know whats coming.
Shell ladle and glop it on our plates, say fer thickening in her thick, plain tongue, as if to
assure us there was a method to all this. Mom, Orch and I had sat in the very positions we now
held many times beforearound the old table with the rattan placemats, tumblers of water, not
daring to look Grandma in the eye. Mushy spaghetti noodles, Campbells tomato soup, Sanka
coffee mix, and no seasoning. Somehow, its Aunt Jos favorite. I worry about my blood.

Theres nothing to be said, or to be avoided at this point. The dish is full. And in this nattering
silence, I canter off. My mind catches, like the sweater on the errant nail: I had decided to sing. I
dont usually sing in any others presence. My mothers repeated insistence that, Gally,
sometimes its good, and sometimes its just awful, (and her smokers cackle emphasizes the
point), pops up like the balance on an antique cash register when opportunity knocks. She sits
across from me now, swirling her fork and lollygagging naturally.
Mom, didja hear about Alice Beery?
Oh ya, shes in the prayer circle this week said Grandma, chowing down. Aw gee, I
already messed myself. I always do that! Some soup on her shirt.

But, on the night Im remembering, I felt safe. Confession: I also had some liquid courage. Steve
and Kellys quasi-finished basement: You walk down the wooden steps onto a cement floor,
impeccably scrubbed. Kelly is warm, fastidious, and speaks with her hands. Even though its just

us, she cleans. To the immediate right is one of those rear-projection big-screen TVs circa 2002
(one of his fathers old prizes). Along with it, a futon, leather easy chair and loveseat unite in a
square shape. The video game drum kit stands in the middle, and the kick drum pedal has worn
holes in the floor.
You have the voice of an angel! Steve is relentless every time we hang out with him
okay, no. This isnt the memory I want to go with.

Ive made progress with a handful of bites. Orch has simply refused. Shes texting openly, her
turned-up nose crinkled. Even so, she has a beautiful face. I take a look around, because
Grandma is retelling that story of when Grandpa told her to shove a broom up his ass for the
jillionth time. At this point, I can see it happening as if I was there, yet he died over a decade
before I emerged. Anywho. Grandmas condo is pale pinkwalls, plush carpet I laid on to watch
Petes Dragon, Heidi, and the three other VHS tapes Grandma owns over the course of many a
sleepover. The vinyl flooring in her kitchen is more of a mauve, but it holds with the theme. The
other dominant theme in the place is The BVM. Her bust is on a plastic pedestal next to the TV;
rosaries are hanging in each room. Over the kitchen table, the BVMs bronzed hands are held in
prayer next to some Latin in cursive meant to look holy on a plaque. Grandma is one of those
people who was raised in the faith, and never felt the desire to think twice. Sometimes this
bothers me, that and the fact that she can watch Gunsmoke everyday for decades and it never gets
old. Well, and All in the Family, which, if you ask me, is a boil on the butt of pop culture.

Be that as it may, I go back to false memories. I created them to see if I could emulate the feels
into existence. One of my old favorites is walking hand in hand with Grandpa down the

sidewalk, and somehow, Solsbury Hill is playing over the scene cinematically. There are willow
trees, and it is spring; the feels are bouncy. We are in front of my mothers childhood homea
two-floor colonial with a crabapple tree in front.

And then I look up. Im in the alley, running with the blade of fresh air in my nose. There are
willows back here, too. Its even narrower than it should be. The lanky branches, the music
stopped, and theres a something in my sights. I have that metallic sense that Im being chased,
which Im not. Unless you can be chased by something standing still, that you can see, that you
cannot stop running toward. Its a bruin. Ursinus. Hes standing, and imperious. I get to him, and
these are the words for him: bruin, ursinus, imperious. He says nothing. The series of garage
lights are beneath him, and darken his face. Our breathing is off kilter from one another. I realize
I have this in the bag. It would be poetic if I sang, and that did the trick to make us friends now.
But, no. All I have to do is stand, and hold out my arms as if Ive earned a hug. There is the fear
of those in their houses, looking out their back windows over the kitchen sinks, in between
pineapple-printed curtains, but Ursinus only acknowledges me.

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