Purple lights twinkle over the murky water in the bayou, and the frogs chirp and croak past the knobby trees, and I think back to my brown mother and her long black hair, and the freckles that kissed her grenadine cheeks, and the way she held a beer in one hand and her fried alligator in the other. I think about much my daddy loved her, loved her smoky singing in the kitchen about cowboys and their sweethearts and how she’d look at him, sitting in the hammock, while he prepped the boat for catching crawdads and just smile and smile, and show off that big gap in her teeth, big enough to swallow a grown man’s heart whole.
I remember the deep red light of where she worked and the gauzy robes of the women she knew there, who smelled like skin and old smoke breath and perfume, who never would’ve known the taste of regret had my momma seasoned their food with it and given them the recipe. Women who gave me kisses on the cheeks and carried me on their shoulders to show me how special I was while my momma worked and worked and spent her sweat in that kitchen cooking for men and these ladies, to see their money and their smiles but never me.
Most of all I remember the saxophone and the neon lights as she hugged me years later, swaying in an ocean of slow-dancing bodies, and put her palm to the back of my head to comfort me in her breast. Her sweet honey tears traced lines between those freckles and she cried and cried with her eyes squeezed shut and she mourned the daughter of ten years that she’d never known through me. I felt them fall on my knappy head and drank in the moment, in the music and grease in the air and the gauzy whores in the rec room, the stories my daddy told me about my momma over and over again repeating themselves in front me, and the tears of an oblivious mother who didn’t recognize her own child.
I think back to the dirt road she ran down so fast her heels hit her back, and how my daddy said she kicked and cried and wailed when the doctor put me on her chest and said “Congratulations, you’re a mother,” and how she kept my name from me. I think back and remember all those things and my eyes are drier than they used to be, drying still, and I look up at the stars and the light bouncing off the water and the big dish of the moon, and I think now that I never had a momma, but these crickets and my rickety porch are just as good as any.