i burned things
I said this to my daughter:
“If you’re bored, why don’t you go burn things? That’s fun. Here, honey, you can use my lighter.”
She holds the lighter gently in her fragile hand, and studies it. She weighs her words carefully. “This. This kind of thing,” she says finally, “is why the other moms don’t like you.”
“Fuck them,” I say.
“Things like that,” she says. “You see?”
“I don’t say it to their faces,” I tell her. “They don’t like me because you’re beautiful and they’re jealous.”
She sighs, and even the whisper of her breath is beautiful, and the sorrowful tilt of her head. “Mom,” she says. “Mom, you do. You told the PTA to fuck off.”
“No, I did not. I told them their idea was fucking asinine. That’s very different.”
“They didn’t think so,” she says. She is still holding my lighter. “What do you want to burn?” she asks.
We choose a chair I hate. We take it into the back yard, and douse it with charcoal starter. It flames beautifully. A throne of flames. Ashes float into the blue, and fall around us.
“Look at that,” I say, “Isn’t that gorgeous, in a scary way? Now it looks like the chair of Satan.”
She smiles and sits in the grass and weaves me a crown of pink blossoms, and then one for herself. We watch the chair burn until it is a black skeleton of a chair. A chair of death.
“I’m worried about what will happen to you,” she says, “when I leave. I don’t want you to be alone.”
“I’m a big girl,” I say. “Don’t be silly.”
“You’re just a little girl,” she says, only smiling a little.
“I have a plan,” I say. It is a lie. “I’m going to buy a mini van, and grow a big fat ass, and make silk flower arrangements. I’m going to redo the house in American Country crap. Maybe geese, or something. Yes. Or cows. I won’t swear anymore. I’ll come to see you in New York, and say, Kate, take me to see Cats. Or Annie. Yes. I’ll be the envy of all the neighborhood moms. I’ll wear glasses. I’ll learn to golf. The other moms will love me. I’ll say, okeydokey.”
Okeydokey slays her, and she laughs until the pinks blossoms tremble in her hair. “Or not. Annie, for heaven‘s sake.” She knows better.
We look for more things to burn. We add an ugly sweater, a barney purple bathrobe, a broken table. A few bills I can’t pay. Broken branches from the lilac tree.
I don’t want to think about New York. She is right. I am terrified to lose her. I want to keep her near me forever. I will keep her safe, and far away from men, and her eyes will always look like they do now, like dark stars. Holy and pure and brilliant child. I say this to her:
“Run. Run away. Run as far away from me as you can. Go to New York. Go to Florence. Go to Athens. Go to Budapest. Fall in love. Buy beautiful shoes. Never buy a mini van. Don’t worry about me. Swim in the Adriatic.”
“Why Budapest?” she asks, curious.
“How the hell would I know? But it’s fun to say.”
“Budapest,” she repeats, and laughs.
My husband comes out, and looks at us, two bedraggled May queens, throwing branches on a burning throne.
“What the hell are you doing?” he demands. He looks baffled by the skeleton of the chair.
“Burning,” I say.
“Fucking nutters,” he says, and goes inside.
Run, I tell Kate. Run.
© amy muldoon