“Crushes” by April Vazquez

03 May 2019 on Nonfiction  

How old were you when you had your first crush? you ask me out of the blue as I lean over the table, clearing the supper dishes. We’re alone, your sisters having finished their meal and migrated upstairs toward greener pastures of books and toys. But you, as you so often do, have stayed behind to talk with me. It’s not for nothing I call you my right-hand man, or that Daddy jokes that you’re my shadow. You even walk like me.

I blink, caught off guard by the question. Um, I say, pretending to think.

(I don’t have to think. I always had crushes. Tony in kindergarten, whom they later moved to the special class. Ben, who turned out to be gay. Marshall, at the beach one summer, whose last name I don’t remember.)

(I think he may have been Eminem.)

What I say: I was younger than you, I think.

What I don’t say: By the time I was your age, I’d already been kissed. Open-mouthed. By an older boy.

You’re relieved, I can see it. Your dark eyes widen, and the hint of a smile passes over your face. You bend down, mess with your pants cuff, and in that instant, I catch a glimpse of the woman you’ll be. She’s there, along with all the previous Daisys, the Daisys of each age and stage that I’ve loved and cherished and who are all gone forever now.

I think I might have a crush on someone. The words tumble out, one upon another, and then—there—it’s out, and no taking it back. I stand without moving, feeling your eyes on my back as I run the dish water.

Then I think, I’ve got this. Channeling Liam Neeson’s cool dad character from Love, Actually, I turn around, smile, and ask, Who is he?

You remember that boy at catechism that I told you about, the one who always talks to me?

I remember. How could I not? You’ve mentioned him every Friday since August. He said hey tonight, or I didn’t see that boy, or he smiled at me during the Rosary. You don’t know his name, but he calls you by yours.

Yes? I say.

Well, it’s him.

You’re perched on the step stool, body coiled, at rest but still full of energy, ready to spring. At eleven, you’re already taller than your grandmother, with the clean lines of a runway model, lean and graceful. Charmingly oblivious, you don’t realize yet how beautiful you are.

I run the dishcloth over tableware, into glasses, between the tines of forks, remembering the night you first told me about the boy. He has something wrong with his lip, you said. Like this? I tapped out the letters in the Google bar: c-l-e-f-t l-i-p. You picked an image: Just like that. You looked so serious, awash in the myriad miseries that befall the flesh.

Like Joaquin Phoenix, I told you. The one from Signs. And look how handsome he is.

Your eyes were anxious.

And then I said: It’s nice that you don’t mind about his lip. It shows a depth of character. You like him for what’s inside.

What I didn’t say: I don’t know in what ways multiple sclerosis will ravage my body before it’s through with me. But perhaps I can dare to hope that you’ll love me whether I can walk and see and swallow, or not. Maybe, to you, I’ll always just be your mother. And if that’s so, I’ll be so, so grateful.

Now, after a silence filled with clinks and jostling suds, I say, It’s a natural way for you to feel. You’re at that age.

Yeah, with a ghost of a sigh, then you’re quiet again—lost, I imagine, in thoughts of the nameless boy.

But I’m crushed beneath an overwhelming sense of loss.

Because I understand now why, again and again, the Old Testament describes God’s love in terms of the passionate and heartbreaking jealousy of a parent. This is only the first step. In the not too distant future, you—the child who made me a mother—will be gone, and nothing will ever be the same again.

April Vazquez is the winner of the William Van Dyke Short Story Prize and Carve Magazine's Prose & Poetry Contest and a Best of the Net, Orison Anthology Award, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. A sample of her published writing can be found at aprilvazquez.wordpress.com.

"Is This A Preference Or A Fetish?" By Jeff Musser, oil on linen. Jeff is a decorated artist whose work has appeared in solo and group shows internationally since 2000. He is the recipient of multiple honors, including a grant from the James Irving Foundation and residencies at the Pantocrator Gallery (Shanghai, China) and in the Dawang Cultural Highland (Shenzhen, China). Jeff's work is held in public and corporate collections, and has been featured as public artAbout his craft, Jeff says, "Certain memories about my life are meant to anchor me, to keep me from drifting into severe depression and fear. Other memories, if clung to desperately, over time, will petrify me. And yet memory, the faculty of recall, is constantly under threat from new experiences. This change, this faculty of recall, is where my process of painting comes in...Bold colors coupled with realism and abstraction are employed to seduce, engage, destabilize, and create new memories, new realities on the canvas." Jeff holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and currently resides in California. You can find his work on Instagram at @jeff.musser.art, on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.jeffmusser.com

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