Saturday, June 16, 2012

Small Offerings

Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood hides his species behind grandma’s clothes, she hides any hint of her femininity behind her hoodie, Dickies work pants, and shaved head. She stands like the manliest of them, legs a good width apart to make room for something phantom in between.

She looks at me as if I am some kind of gourmet delicacy, usually encased behind glass. But here I am, close, and she wants a bite. A taste test. She'd like to spear my body with a toothpick.

She flirts with me like a boy will with a girl in grade school, finding reasons to give me a noogie, or yanking my hair hard. Either she’s hovering around me or I’ll look up, and find her staring me down from across the room.

"Do you need something, Deanna?" I'll ask, because I work at her home, and tending to her needs is part of my job. She’s a client at the Halfway House where I am staff.

"No, nooo… I’m about to make some spaghetti…You want some?" she asks.

"Yes," I say, though I’m not hungry. I only agree because she gets so offended if I reject her small offerings. She’ll either ask me over and over again until I give in, or storm off like it’s not the thing I’ve rejected, but her.

She’s a real know it all type, and loves to hear herself talk. Despite her verbosity, she’s never taught me a thing. The dialogue is often desperate as she’ll use anything to move mouth.

Like when we are watching TV downstairs, and she’ll rehash for me what we have just seen on the screen, as if she’s certain I didn’t quite comprehend it, and here she is, thankfully, and generously, just in the nick of time, with the Law and Order for Dummies cliff notes.

"See, Stabler is really stressed out because he sees this shit everyday, Bo. He’s at his breaking point because he sees this sick shit everyday...."

"See, that’s why Olivia works at SVU, Bo. Her daddy was a rapist. He raped her mom. That’s why she works at SVU, Bo. This sick shit, it’s in her blood..."

"Spaghetti’s done, Bo. Here, I’ll get you a plate."

She’s up, moving about the kitchen, getting me utensils, deciding that I want a pinch of garlic, and two pinches of salt, that I like my ice-t without any ice, babying me with the small details of a meal that I don’t want, a meal that I just accepted as an act of appeasement.

I don’t move from the living room couch, assuming that I’ll just pretend to eat as we watch TV.

Instead, she puts our plates down on the dining room table, in two chairs right next to each other.

"Sit here Bo, otherwise you gonna be leaning over yourself. Getting sauce all over your pretty shirt."

I get up. As I’m adjusting myself in the chair, she picks up a napkin, opens it, and quickly stuffs it down the top of my shirt.

"There you go, Bo,” she says, with a final pat of my napkin bib, now perfectly aligned with my shirt’s neckline. “It’s gonna get messy…."

© Fiona Helmsley