It was a sunny day, much like many of the days there in Louisiana. Hot. Sweaty. But being that I was indoors, I was saved from the heat by some lovely fans. The floor of Nana’s living room was concrete, and the walls were hard. Sheet rock. Mint green. Once, when my Nana spun, spun, spun me around, we lost control, and she ended up putting her head through the wall. There was a lot of white dust that sprung up from that, and there was some time before Nana stirred herself awake.
The furnishings were minimal, being that there was only her and Papa Jim, plus all of the animals they had acquired. At that point, I believe, they had 20 cats and 10 dogs. Papa Jim worked by somewhere that often had abandoned animals. He’d always bring them home to Nana. She appreciated the new company always.
I was 4, nearly 5. My hair was wheat. My eyes, the ocean. In that moment, I was enjoying my Barbie collection, which was quite rare for me. Although Mama had passed down to me her Barbie collection, as well as bought me any special Barbie she felt would suit me, I grew much fonder towards my stuffed animals. I somehow preferred to use them for storytelling. Then again, I tended to prefer paperclips and pens over a Barbie for storytelling. Safe to say that when it came time to clean out my things before college, I donated them to Stacey’s twin siblings, who enjoy them now much more than I ever did.
I hear the front door open and close. Twice. Mama must have come home. I continue to play with my Barbie’s. Mama enters the room. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are all within the same room, separated only by levels. To get from the living room to the dining room/kitchen area, one must walk up some wooden, worn steps.
Mama is not alone. She brings with her a companion, a man. Ah yes. Mama had mentioned she was bringing home a friend. I knew better. I knew that he was a gentlemen caller seeking to win Mama’s heart. Mama would never say that outright, though. Mama’s divorce from Dad hadn’t occurred so long ago, and I’m sure she worried what effect this would all have on me. I, however, did not seem to mind. Unlike most children of divorce, I felt little to no anger about the whole thing. I of course did not understand why Mama and Dad broke it off, but I cared for their happiness, so I let it be as it should, and continued to play with my dolls as I should.
Mama talks to Nana some. I glance at the man.
Tall. Dark, slicked back hair. Rather plump, and dressed well – loafers, khakis, polo shirt.
He greets Nana. Some pleasantries.
Mama comes towards me. He stays back. Mama greets me pleasantly, asking about school and what story had I conjured up this time. She says she wants to meet someone. He comes forward. She tells me his name. She tells me he has travelled all the way from New York. New York, the star-studded city. She had meant the state itself, but I was caught up in what I had heard of the city. It seemed like a place of fantasy and myth, not a place a simple human might inhabit.
He approaches me. He talks to me like most adults do, cheery. I never really got why adults always did that with kids. I suppose they think we are a pound of flesh, barely understanding normal language, so the use of happy sounds will make us understand that it is time to be happy.
He hands me presents. I open them – my first Ken Doll, a Mulan Barbie, and a Titanic shirt, the first of my Titanic paraphernalia collection. I unfortunately lost it some years later in a YMCA locker room. I was joyous. This man had good taste. He might be worth keeping around after all.
Later on, we followed him to his hotel. It was by a Waffle House, and the highway. I pass it every time I go to see Nana, as Dad’s extended family live in Moss Bluff, a good 45 minutes away. Mama and him put on Anastasia for me to watch. I had never seen it before. I loved it. To this day, I still play the songs over and over again, belting out the words perfectly. If I am feeling ambitious, I pull the movie up on Netflix, attempting to quote all that I can.
I took a peak at Mama and him talking in the parking lot. He was smoking a cigar. He caught me. He caught me, and just smiled to himself.