My mother has a black eye, a bruise that extends past the frame of her fingers.
My father never touched Marilyn, never even raised his hand.
Why then did he hit my mother?
Maybe it wasn't him. After all, I never saw him hit her.
But if he did hit her, why?

Because he was younger and stronger back then? Maybe the
reason is simpler: if you swung at Marilyn, you would swing right through
her. She would fall into two parts, cloven. My mother, on the other hand,
looked as though she would swing back, put up a fight; maybe he thought
their marriage was a perpetual motion machine. But there is no such thing
as a perpetual motion machine. Energy is eventually lost in the air, love
cools, winds down.

As my mother packed in the bedroom, my father sat in the living room, rubbing
his teeth, reading the newspaper, batting the newspaper against the wall
repeatedly, as if killing something small and invisible. I could see nothing.
This was the first time she left.

She took her jewelry, her pillboxes, a few books and all her photos. She
took only small things: her alarm clock, her penknife, a chemise, lipstick,
a garnet and silver brooch he had bought her, a leather belt, all her scarves.
Everything else was strewn on the floor.
Early in the morning, she hailed a cab.

Left in her closets were boxes half-filled with shoes and dresses. On her
bed, she had laid out all her dresses. I made a nest out of her bathrobe
and velvet dresses. Here, I could still smell her skin, the warm powder
rising out of her neck. I could smell her hair in her hats. In one boater,
I could even smell the pears that she had put in them one afternoon. The
hatted pearness of her.

I built pyramids with her shoes, tents with her dresses and a couple of
chairs. Slowly, I drew everything of mine underneath the covers of her bed:
a lamp, a stool I used as a table, my toys, our books, two chairs that,
facing one another, formed a fortress. My father said nothing but moved
into the dayroom. So I slept in her bedroom in her large bed, lights blazing, head in the open.
During this time, I knew my parents were talking on the phone for brief
periods of time because my father locked me in my room whenever she called.

I wanted to talk to her too: I wanted to bang on the door, to scream or

When she came back ten days later, the first thing she did was dismantle
my fortress.

What are you hiding from? she asked. But that night and the next she slept
with me in my room. I loved watching her sleep. I wonder if all children watch over
their parents sleeping, defenceless, lifeless, lost to their bodies.

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