We were smoking Dad’s cigarette butts (okay just me) before he got home from work, taking turns spinning in his special chair. I liked to run my fingers over the arms, see the patterns I could leave in the beige velour. I liked to go into his drawers, flip through his Playboys and Ouis. They had such perfect skin, names like Tina and Sandy. Surprised eyes, knowing glances, lips in red and coral and plum. Cheeks blushed, hair feathered and sprayed. I studied their faces like maps sprawled out on satin. This was it, how I’d feel someday.
A bowl of corn flakes and homework in front of the TV: Little House on the Prairie, The Brady Bunch, I didn’t like Thundercats or HeMan—so many muscles, all that armor. Where was the mother, the home-cooked meal she made every night? Where was the woman, we had no woman.
My sister and I took the insides from a ripped stuffed animal, I pulled it between two brushes, carding wool, like Ma in Little House. I cut scotch tape up into pointy pieces, stuck them on for nails: see, everything I wanted I could get for myself. But they bent, and folded, crumpled at whatever I touched.
Sometimes I picked up the faintest scent of perfume on the cushion in the corner of our couch:
amber and freesia, white musk and rose. Sometimes, after he tucked us in at night and I was supposed to be asleep, I could hear the front door open, high heels click across our floor. Another one who wouldn’t be ours.
Ronit Plank’s work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, The NYT, Brevity, Writer’s Digest, and elsewhere. Her first book is the memoir When She Comes Back about the loss of her mother to the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and their eventual reconciliation, and her short story collection Home is a Made-Up Place won Hidden River Arts’ 2020 Eludia Award and will be published in 2022. She is a creative nonfiction editor at The Citron Review and the host and producer of the podcast Let’s Talk Memoir. She lives in Seattle with her family.
Story Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Abril Socairos
Strong sensory imagery. Boom of an ending. Congrats.
Wow! This is so powerful, Ronit!
So much relatable longing and then POW.
I recognize much of this from your wonderful memoir, but reading it again here brought it all back in a new way with new impact. Thanks for allowing me another read.
A young life in a few words! The perfume got me and then that ending. Wonderful.
Wow! Beautiful writing – now I need to go and buy your books!
A compact story – so much in a few words. Wow! Brava!
Thank you for reading it, Margaret. 🧡
LOVE THIS. Gorgeous writing.
Barbara, thank you! Thank you so much for reading.❤️