Norah asked for more backgroun, so I wrote this in about an hour tonight; I haven’t read it bc when I do I go back and change things & delete until there’s nothing left. lol
Ive always remembered a dream I would occasionally have as a young girl, but always really thought of it more as a memory, I suppose because it’s so vivid. It was as though I had a feeling that I had actually been there, had lived that day, not just imagined it against my Smurfs pillowcase. I knew I was quite young, so young in fact that I didnt know what had happened or what was going on, only that it was something horrific.
For some reason, I see a red bandanna tied over my mommas shiny, black hair that day she was so beautiful, so petite. I assume this particular figment of my imagination is because Ive seen faded photos in one of those big, dusty albums who lie forgotten somewhere in that house, and therefore have conjured up a mixture of these two images of my momma, in I suppose what I have developed as a most tender connection with her in my imgination; this is most likely the effect on my mind, and my heart, of a forbidden gesture to bond with my mother by ever even being able to ask her about that day.
In my vision, the room was ugly and smelled of alcohol, but not the kind that PawPaw hid in his barn behind the bags of rice, but rather the kind Dr. Busbys nurse rubbed on my skin before my shots. I remember going through the doors of a huge, old hospital; my first thoughts are bursting through the big glass doors with my momma. It was cold, and we were obviously in a waiting area: my momma, grandpa and Uncle Calvin (one of my mommas four brothers; she was the only girl, and they are still deathly afraid of her wrath til this very day).
Not only was the outside of the building aged, but the waiting room seemed old and decrepit, too .olive green walls, a dark brown floor, and hard, plastic orange chairs. This was obviously a room of the 70s that I remember .I know only because I spotted my elementary-aged sister Amy, four years my elder, sitting in the corner of the room, staring at us in bewilderment. In this dream of mine, she couldnt have been any older than five or so; she was wearing a pair of lime green bellbottoms, white halter top, and tan mary-janes swinging a few inches off the floor.
Although her tiny face was also covered in fear of the unknown, her snow-white skin, dark brown freckles & flaming red hair was a beautiful splash of color and abnormality on a day when things were obviously going so terribly wrong.
I didnt join my sister on the orange chairs, though; I went through the shiny doors instead. I dont remember anything after that, except for bright lights, a lot of clanging noises, then silence. Suddenly my mother was screaming and wailing, over and over, and my daddy and grandpa were holding her tiny body from collapsing onto the linoleum floors ..and thats all I remember.
But nothing like that had ever happened to me, I had never even been inside a building like that; a new hospital was opened just months before I was born, so I have always held the honor of being one of the first babies in what is still our local hospital. The old hospital, I dont even remember the name ..stood at the end of Main Street, lined with 19th century mansions just a stones throw from the town square. It was a lonely, old building with shattered windows. It was always scary to me on Halloween when wed have to pass it in our quests for candy corn, and Amy always knew to stop at the corner of the lot to wait for me to stumble up behind her in whatever garb I had chosen: princess, cow, Dolly Parton so that I could squeeze her hand until we got to the other side. It had always been closed down my entire life .by the time I came along, the building was condemned and blocked off until its demolition years later.
That was the only other hospital in this part of southeast Arkansas, so it must have been a dream .
I never did know much about Ricky. I saw his picture in a yearbook a few times after I was 8 or so. He was never much mentioned in our family, and even in my young innocence, I understood that it was simply too painful for some reason. I didnt know what would happen if I asked Momma who Ricky was, but I knew it would have been bad. Really bad.
But Amy, four years my elder and the expert at everything (she assumed) from Tonka trucks to Hamburger Helper, filled me in on what little she remembered about those tragic days. She snuck the yearbook out one day and showed me his picture; we used to love looking in our parents high school yearbooks; Momma always got jealous of the We love you, Bennie notes scattered throughout, and our dad looked IDENTICAL to Buddy Holly, with the big, ugly glasses and everything.
Daddy was the town genius .more scholarships than anyone in the history of the Monticello Hillbillies (later changed to Billies, but I dunno how being a goat is better than bein a person, even if they ARE hillbillies); he passed up full scholarships to medical and law schools to paint cars and marry the love of his life; my momma was four years younger than him, and they were such a spectacle .my daddy never weighed below 350 lbs and towered over everyone at 64. My mother was 53 and weighed 90 lbs soaking wet. But he sure loved her and would defy the world and everyone in it for her sake .nearly 40 years and a dozen of her breakdowns later, he often does.
Amy poked through until she got to the very back of the shelf, and pulled out a yearbook I had never seen before; it was even hidden behind Daddys old math books. The book hadnt been opened in so long it sounded as though the papers inside were tearing when she opened it. She thumbed through the pages until they were loosened up, then began scrolling page after page of tiny, black-and-white, grainy pictures. After what mustve been 100 pages and I had grown bored and moved on to look at my favorite book the one where journalism students had printed insults under everyones names (it was quite a scandal for the town, Im told), when suddenly she gasped and said Here it is.. She slid the book over to my lap, wiping a cobweb off the corner of the book, and smiling back at me was a beautiful blue-eyed, freckle-faced teenaged boy. Thats Ricky, Amy said, then whispered, but dont ever tell nobody I let you see that, and dont you ever say his name to her, Jayme. Ever.