When I was three, my mother left my father and me.
When I wasÂ five, my father told me he was driving to Denver to pick up my brother. I didn’t know I had a brother. IÂ knew I didn’t have a mother though.Â Â
My father drove from Canon City to Denver to a place called the Clown’s Den on Broadway Avenue. He didn’t know until he got there the place was a strip club. When he went in, my mother was performing on stage. When she was done, she asked my father if he wanted to ball. I guess that was seventies speak for fuck. My father said no, he just wanted to pick up his son. They walked three blocks to an apartment where my three-year-old brother was alone.Â
The first time I met my brother he held up two fingers and said “Peace.” He had a bowl haircut. His first night with us, my brother slept under the other twin bed in my bedroom. Then he stole my Pooh Bear. Later he won me over playing air guitar and singing, “King of the road king of the road king of the road.”
He wasÂ cute.
But he wasn’t a wealth of information regarding our mother.
“Was she pretty?”
“I don’t know, yeah, pretty.”
“Was she nice?”
“I don’t know, yeah, nice.”
“What did she like to do?”
“I don’t know, sing.”
“I like to sing.”
“She gave me peanut butter.”
“I like peanut butter.”
“I got peanut butter for breakfast.”
“I also got peanut butter for lunch and dinner.”
“I like macaroni and cheese for dinner. And IÂ alsoÂ like spinach.”
Pretty soon we weren’t talking about our mother anymore, and we didn’t speak of her again until I decided to find her when I was twenty-one years old. When I told my brother I’d found her he said, “I don’t want to talk to her.” And he never did.
I don’t know why I had to find her. See her, hear her, smell her, hold her even once.Â I was shy about hugging her though.Â You wait for somethingÂ your whole life. Then here she was.Â The mother is our Genesis.Â The mystery to me wasÂ in there,Â her body.Â I held her. Soon as I did,Â I was scared.Â My motherÂ lacked maternal instincts. Our entire relationship was comprisedÂ of her coming and going.Â She’d change her phone number, slip away. Resurface. Nothing to hold onto.Â A ghost.
My best friend, Judy,Â told me a story one time aboutÂ howÂ her dead mother came to see herÂ when she was alone during a storm. JudyÂ felt scared about being alone; it was the first timeÂ she’d been alone withoutÂ her husband, andÂ her mother’s ghostÂ walked across the room and got into bed with herÂ and then spooned her until she fell asleep.
Judy and I work together. NotÂ long ago, sheÂ went on vacation;Â I didn’t see herÂ seven days. SoonÂ as she came back and I hugged her, I broke into tears. Unexpected.Â I’d just received news about my mother. About how and where she was. Something about the warmth of Judy in my arms, the body. Here she was.
The woman who gave birth to me lies on a slab, is on ice in Salt Lake City. Her body remains unclaimed.Â She’s been dead 59 days.
Her Mormon family has abandoned her dead. They didn’t agree with her lifestyle, whatever that was, and so they’re leaving her to the coroner to decide.Â
I can’t bring myself to speak to my mother’s family. For one thing,Â they’re strangers. And for another,Â they wouldn’t agree with my lifestyle either. So here we are, my dead mother and me, something in common. Â Her family doesn’t like us. We don’t trust God.
Forgive me Father, for I’ve sinned. ButÂ you’veÂ no idea about the body. Fifteen minutes in a strip club, fifteen minutes in a delivery room. That’s the body.Â You cock.
What happens to the body once you’re dead?Â Who looks after you? Is that personÂ gentle? Who cares?Â That’s the thing: the dead don’t care.Â Memorial services, funerals, these things are for those of usÂ who’re left behind. I always knew I’d end up taking care of the one person who didn’t take care of me.Â You bitch.
I hadn’t spoken to my mother in nine years. Someone I didn’t knowÂ let me she was dead. They won’t release the body to someone who’s not family. My mother’s friends are contacting me on Facebook. They want me to give the body to them.
My mother is never going to show upÂ a ghostÂ and comfort me the way Judy’s mother did. She isn’t going to advise me about what to do.
So I went numb then sad and then pissed before I wasÂ sad again.Â Nobody showedÂ me how to do this. Â Like when I was in graduate school, I started to self mutilate again.Â
Something about the blood.
I called my brother. HeÂ isn’t one for talkingÂ on the phone. He doesn’t like it. Truth be told, neither do I. But I called him and eventually broached the subject of our mother.Â I was the one who’d have to decide, after all.Â So IÂ babbled. “HerÂ friends should have her. They loved her. She loved them. I’ve got to let go of her,Â stop feeling bad about this.”Â
My mother’s friends wishÂ to take herÂ remains to aÂ place they mentioned to me on Facebook, a placeÂ significant to them, something I know nothing about.Â Between them.
And what isÂ there betweenÂ my mother and me,Â other than the blood I mean?