Home, Without Shades

 “Hey! Womens!”


My mom sighs. “God, I hate this.”


“Really?” I think she should be used to it and good at handling it. After all, she was an adult when I was a kid and I was just a child. But she is scared like a newbie stripper, and maybe that explains my childhood a little.


“Yeah. I don’t know how you work in bars like you do, I could never handle it.” Suddenly I understand: my mom thinks strip clubs are all like this all night long and that I’m an expert in Men Behaving Badly. I am an expert. Shit, what does that say about me?


We come around the corner and the men really perk up. “Hey, womens! What are you womens doing?” “Womens! Womens! Where are you going?” It’s hard to explain the danger inherent in these things, and even harder to know if it is real or a reaction to past traumas.


But I am an expert in Men Behaving Badly. So I laugh. “What are you men doing?”


They are eager to explain. Boards, paint, tourists. Like children, eager for attention. As She would say, like overgrown children wandering around Disneyland with their dicks in their hands, pulling at Minnie Mouse’s dress. We are almost past them. “Womens! Are you twins?”


I look at my mom. She’s a shorter, older version of me. Someday I’ll shrink and have beautiful silver streaks of curly hair and saggy jowls. I’ll never be too afraid to react. “Yeah,” I tell them, “we’re time delayed.”


“Wait! Where are you going, womens?! Won’t you at least tell us your names?”


I turn around, walk backwards, yell back: “That’s top secret, man!”


They love it. In the car my mom says it’s the stupidest question she’s ever heard. Twins. So stupid, and I think of once when someone asked Davka and her twin if they had been twins their whole lives.


* * * * *


My mother is pointing up into the air, and I shift on the metal canoe seat to follow her gaze. A bald eagle perches atop a spruce tree, watching us. Have you ever seen them perch on the very top of a spindly spruce, so that they have to constantly shift their weight not to fall? If I had wings, I would do it to.


“Yeah,” he says, revving the motor, “you watching us, we are stupid people, don’t know where we are.”


The bird flies away, and we are thrown forward as the boat runs into another underwater sand bar. I grab a pole and go to the front.


“That way,” he points to the left.


“There’s a channel over there, by the cut bank,” my mom says, “look at how the water’s running there.”


We push and push at the sand under the boat, but the boat doesn’t move. Someone’s going to have to get in again and push the boat back off the sand. I’m still wet and shoeless from last time, so I pull my pants up and step over into the three inches of water…


and never touch ground. I shriek and laugh and catch myself on the boat before my head goes under. The current is swift and pulling me under the boat, which is bad bad bad. My mom is deathly afraid of water (really, six inches in the bathtub is panic attack material), and she is hovering near me, probably afraid that if she comes too close I’ll pull her in, hyperventilating and telling me to keep my feet out from under the boat.


“I’m trying, mom,” I tell her. “You need to calm down, and you need to go back on the other side of the boat or it’s going to tip over.”


I probably could have floundered six inches through the water and been on a sand bar, but for some reason it didn’t seem that way. The current was surprisingly strong and it was pulling me under the boat. I wished he’d cut the motor and I’d just try to swim it out, but I think that possibly my falling in dislodged us from the sand bar and we are moving, and maybe that is why the current seems so strong. I don’t want my legs to get lodged between the bottom of the boat and a sandbar, so I throw one leg up over the side of the boat and use the leverage to pull my other leg out from under.


He leans forward, looking confused, “can’t you touch bottom yet?”


I lower my leg and hit sand, let go of the boat and sit up in four inches of water, laughing.


He laughs too. “So dramatic, drowning in four inches of water!”


The air is cold on me as I stand up, laughing, and check for the ziploc baggie in my pocket. Cell phone, lighter, matches. Still there. Now it’s ziploc baggies, but when I was a kid I would sit with my mother for hours dipping matches in wax to make them fireproof, filling film canisters with cotton balls soaked in vaseline, and I never went anywhere without them. I pull the boat towards the channel and step back into it.


There is a mud slide on the little cut bank where I get back in the boat. I point at it, and ask my mother, “muskrat?”


It’s a game we played when I was little. Who walked here? Who pooped here? What were they doing?


She looks at the slide, smiles. “Otter.”


* * * * *


My mom wants me to help her cut down trees. She’s cutting, I’m supposed to be stacking. Later she’ll put their bodies in her husbands truck and take them to the dump. “I want to make better use of my yard,” she says. “More room to park cars, and a garden, and some herb beds. I own this, it should look like my yard, not my neighbors.”


I want to ask her if she ever thinks about how people want to cut her up, how they’d like to use her. I think of it, sometimes, lap dancing when a man digs his fingers into my hips, tries to force me back and forth on his erection and I grab his hands, hold them over his head, and push my soft skin into him. It’s the only way I know how to say this this, to whisper with my skin, “I am not for using. You may enjoy me on my terms or not at all.” I like to think this lesson will work it’s way into them, will change the way they try to use women and salmon and trees, but lately I don’t have much hope.


I don’t ask her that. Instead I ask her if this really seems like a good reason to murder all these trees, and she says yes. She says it’s not like there aren’t a million other trees all over the place, and I say the more she wants the more she will kill, and eventually all this wanting and using will kill us all, and she cuts the trees down and I stack them.


We take the leaves and the berries from the alder. We will use them.


  1. Love it. Wish it was a book. At least five hundred pages. I would read it from cover to cover without stopping! Thanks. 😀

  2. I love the idea of whispering with your skin, and I know just what you mean. I’ve been on some of those greedy laps. It takes a fine and subtle set of gestures that tell them what you need to tell them firmly and clearly but with grace, and without breaking your spell. I’d like to think the lesson will stick, but am happy if I can just get them to get it for the moment… 😉

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