Funeral in Mainz

My mother’s foster mother keeps a glass-
eyed, stiff collection of stuffed bears. About
half wear ruffled collars just like Shakespeare,
or Queen Elizabeth without airs. She
stores ice cream sandwiches in a box inside
the freezer, and after dinner touts the bright,
pre-wrapped assorted treats. Dipped chocolate cone
or Neapolitan between a pair
of waffles? Strawberry? I treat it like
a personality quiz. She clears the plates.
Is that domesticity: the ice
cream, bears and plates? It doesn’t quite add up.
Her husband hides old Polaroids of his
first wife in his glovebox anyway. I snap
it shut, forgo the map. I wear the same
black dress for weddings and for funerals,
just trade my jewelry for wool tights. I once
pulled over in an Aldi parking lot
to roll them up. I wiped mascara from
the corners of my eyes, and in the rear-
view mirror, exchanged happy tears for sad.
Was that acting, or just life? I never
learned to open paper milk cartons;
someone always packed my lunch. The man
who finds me lurking by the lilies says,
you’re late. Two months, and all I remember is
the time he cooked for me–a salmon dish
with capers, lemons, a cookbook recipe–
and after, wanted sex. I say I hope
I wasn’t needed.
Which is to say: I hope
that I was needed. Sorely. Quite a lot.

But with the mourners present, that feels crass.

Emily McDonald is an emerging writer from Frederick, MD. She recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in the Writing Seminars.

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