The Unsaid

Laurie Blauner


"Those are my people, the ones who worship someone broken in another room," my mother said before and after. Her interior lining was frayed. She was pointing incoherently at framed portraits pinned above her large wooden baroque dining room table, surrounded by a manifesto of chairs.

My beautiful mother rehearsed her analogies. "You have mere fragments of our ancestors in that cave you call a body," she chided me, dramatically raising her hand to her forehead to form a human visor.

I peered at the general shape of my skin, my limbs alive and directed by muscles, curling into themselves. My face and dark hair were different from those paintings and photographs before my time. I couldn't recall anyone, having never met them.


Before: I   

Mother's Mahjong tiles, with their abstract symbols, clicked endlessly as I hid inside her. I was the victim of numerous cucumber sandwiches and cigarette smoke that coiled in the unfettered air, then clothed the players. Her pipes were clanging. I didn't live where I should have, at first. The rumble of her words echoed in my mouth.

"My little cocoon," my father cooed as he passed all the women at the table. He patted her shoulder with his hand that wasn't holding a drink aloft. "Keep on winning so our little family can move to a larger house." He laughed, liquor staining his hope.

My mother was losing, to a younger woman whose shade of red lipstick dotted my father's stiff collars. She began misplacing her purse, jangling keys, forgoing card games. She was being reabsorbed.

Father approached the table happily, setting fresh drinks down in front of the women. The glasses cried in the heat. He kissed my distracted mother's shellacked blonde hair. A tile fell sideways when she looked away. "Drink, my little mouse."

She wanted to scoop out everything inside.


After: I

I watched intently as our refrigerator continued buzzing. I could barely reach the cold, curved handle, but I pondered whether the noise and light had affected our food. Father left us last year for the younger woman. All our appliances seemed to be falling apart.

"Are you praying to an electrical apparatus?" mother asked as she slipped past the gadget full of food and my yellow kitchen chair that held and comforted me. She was wearing a sequin party dress that scattered light across the refrigerator door. Her velvet high heels clicked on our cheap linoleum.

"I miss him." My little voice didn't mean much.

She ignored me, peered at her reflection blossoming in a mirror. I poured her a drink, exactly the way she liked it, to the brim, clear and bitter. She drank it in three gulps. She fixed the blonde fountain of her hair. She smiled at herself, showing her white teeth. My teeth were crooked and rotten. "Don't worry. I'll find you another father."

"I want mine." I sniveled but the refrigerator was louder.

As I grew older, I began talking to my drinks, which understood me better than mother or father. "I don't have any history," I lied to one with something blue and swirling in it as though it was winking at me. "It's just you and me, Babe." I winked back. I did things with people I immediately forgot.

It was my recently dead father, with his enormous nose and thin lips who introduced me to the linings of my expansive night dreams. He seemed to be saying, "Don't worry about your mother or her imagined family. Life is a rehearsal."

"For what?" I asked him from my sleep, which felt as though it could encompass everyone else.