The dead never stop talking.
On my trip to the eye doctor this afternoon I drove through my small town as the high school spit out students onto the curved asymmetrical streets. Cliques of girls waited at crosswalks for the signal that indicates it’s ok to cross; in this town that signal is the white outline of a figure like the sort you see on police dramas chalked around a dead body.
Watching the girls I hear my mother, dead twenty years, say, “You’re not leaving the house like that.”
If I were the guardian of a girl child, she would hate me. I would not allow her out of the house wearing shorts so short the underside of her butt cheeks, lighter-skinned than the rest of her exposed flesh, peeks out, jiggles even, as she strolls down the street.
The girls not wearing shorts go for skin-tight jeans, and tank tops with visible bra straps, and perky cleavage so in your face you can’t look away.
Is my town a town of motherless children? Or is that battle not worth the effort? Pick your battles, my sister says. Easy for her to say. She has a 13-year-old girl child who has no interest in short shorts, or skin tight jeans. Her daughter’s wardrobe consists almost entirely of black yoga-type pants and oversized Marvel t-shirts. She doesn’t obsess about her looks. Not yet, anyway.
The girls at the crosswalk are slightly older. I wonder if that’s the difference. My niece will start high school next September.
At the eye doctor’s office my chin is cradled, and my forehead pressed against the metal headrest. An intensely bright light glides across my right eye. I try not to blink. I am thinking of germs, of contagion, and all the people who have pressed their faces into this contraption before me, when unexpectedly, the doctor, whom I’m seeing for the first time, rolls his stool closer. His crotch presses against my knees. I attempt to pull my knees back, but I have nowhere to move.
The doctor’s female assistant sits inches away. Surely he didn’t intentionally press his genitals against my knees. He makes no effort to alter his position. I have long legs; his are short. It must be that.
The words of my dead grandmother float through the bright light: “Always sit like a lady, with your knees together.”
She never considered knee fetishes.
On my return through town a cluster of short shorts and bra straps sit cross-legged on the lawn in the small plaza. A dark-haired girl pulls up an errant strap while a pale blonde rearranges a jacket beneath her bare thighs on the cold grass.
If her grandfather were alive he’d encourage my niece to become an engineer. He’d hoped one of his six daughters might follow in his footsteps, but none have. His granddaughter certainly has the smarts for it. She and her crowd are nerds. Her word, not mine. It’s impossible to say whether she’ll start wearing short shorts in a year, much less predicting where her talents will lead her.
My sister, like our father, tells her daughter that she will go to college. She pronounces it as fact, as our father did.
The dead never stop talking.
A sort of journal entry… I hope to keep it up… we’ll see how that works out…