Tall red flowers overflow from a thin bottleneck in front of Ebelyn’s slick right hand pouring devilish red wine down her throat. I can’t stop watching it happen even though we all know how it ends.
When I first met her, she was buried in clothes, her head in a book. I knew then that whatever my father had told me about my mother was wrong. I mean, of course I knew it was wrong growing up but now I knew for sure.
Ebelyn made me believe the true things, which was hard to do. I was raised to believe in shovels and the gritty part of soil that was no good for planting. My father used to mix it in with our dog’s food. It disgusted Wolly and a few times he got seriously ill, bouts of tireless puking, but my father didn’t care. He would watch him eat from the front porch, bourbon in hand. I convinced myself that his soft smile was a belief that the Earth was good for Wolly, that my father really thought he enjoyed it, but deep down I knew of his trickery against us, present in every single subtlety.
She was reading an archived 1960’s New Yorker. I can’t say this made any difference to me then but now it does. When I walked past, I brushed the table to get her attention, but she didn’t look up. What does it mean that she knew I was there, that I wanted her to see me, but she didn’t look up?
Tonight she wears a lingerie dress. Maybe it’s the tights and her steel toed cowboy boots or the way she holds herself that makes it otherwise. She was always talking about balance, how one thing could cancel out the other and then you’re left with feeling alright again.
That first day in the library, I sat down next to her. I’ll give my father this, he’s a fearless mother fucker and it sticks with me. Why not feed the dog some soil? So, I sat down and I asked her name. I called her Ebbie so she knew where I was coming from. She didn’t break a smile but said, “My little sister calls me that, it’s the first word she learned,” and I thought I had her. She told me how she wished for her sister for Christmas and how her sister can’t have babies because her uterus is small and how she would have her babies for her, hands down, no questions asked, but she thinks she’ll adopt because her sister has a real "disciplined spirit."
“It’s not worth wasting your time, I’m an open book,” she had said. But what this meant was that I would learn to love differently.
Tonight she is as she always is: a crooning menace, intoxicated. It never took much. And I still want her but, for now it’s good that she’s no one’s. I can tell you how she spends her days and it’s not sad or happy, it’s just what it is. Us not being together plays a part in that but, it doesn’t stop her.
She wakes up before nine. She’ll go outside to smell the air, tap her hips twice to make sure she’s there, and then go in to make toast. She’ll keep trying to kick coffee but won’t. She’ll make a pour over, let it sit and go outside to test the air again. Walk inside to smell how the coffee has infected the house, take her toast (one part sweet, one part savory), and go into the garden. She eats and watches the squirrels, wonders where the neighborhood cat is even though she hates cats, maybe reads. She goes back inside and drinks her coffee now that it’s cool. She’ll clean the bathroom mirror and brush her teeth. Stand there. This part I don’t get. Then she'll go to work. I’ll walk past some times and see her there underneath the barrels of light and tall ceilings.
The strap to her dress falls off of her shoulder. She lets it go and refocuses her eyes on the tall red flowers in front of her. I walk up behind her and pull it over two freckles. She reaches a hand back to meet mine and mentions toward the flowers with her head. She looks down at her ringed hand and takes a sip of wine... frustrated by how animated her movements have become, how pursed her lips when she drinks.