On the porch, the radio plays old tunes. Sometimes our heads bob. I’m on the top step. Below me, Bianca sits behind my little sister, Tia, braiding her hair. She combs out Tia’s rough hair with an orange comb, applies grease. Bianca doesn’t have rough hair, no. She has good hair. Tia doesn’t care much for Bianca because of that. It’s a girl thing, I guess.
My mama used to do Tia’s hair. She was gentler with that orange comb. She’d even cut my hair when it got too long. Boys shouldn’t have long hair, she’d say. But I loved it when she’d cut it. We’d talk about life, me becoming a man, and sometimes about my father. Her gentle hands would glide the clippers through my hair, trimming it to her liking. I would feel like a new me afterwards. But now my hair’s the longest it’s ever been. It gets longer by the day, it seems.
It’s hot out, even hotter with this long hair. Inside’s no better. The Mississippi sun tans us, sweat beads dot our black skin. I hold a cup of lemonade to my forehead, then take a swallow, ice cubes kiss my lips. It’s more sugar than lemon—Bianca’s doing. I watch her jerk Tia’s head with that orange comb again, smearing more grease. The comb works through the hair. The sweet, greasy fragrance sweeps across my nose. (more…)
As usual, Dad collected her after breakfast on Sunday and drove her to Dunstable downs. The hillside was already full of families.
“You first, Tracy.”
She held the bobbin of string while her father retreated with the kite. Then he threw it skyward. “It’s new!” she said, watching the dragon soar.
“Yes, I made it this week.” When she pulled harder, the kite spiralled and fell. “It needs a longer tail,” he said, “Oh well, let’s have an ice cream.” They sat on the grass, licking 99s. While he studied the other kites, which to her were heavy and drab, she watched the gliders taking off below. Winched up, they climbed steeply until they were higher than she was. She watched the cable fall away, as if in slow-motion. The ice cream finished, she stretched out on the grass and looked up at the kites against the bright blue sky. Without warning a glider filled her vision, flying very low and fast. She would always remember the wide wings, the silent surprise. (more…)
Pants and shirt pressed, tie tucked between the third and fourth buttons, he pedaled into the March wind. Once around the town Square, he dodged traffic and cut down a side street that would dump him onto the main quad in plenty of time to turn in the work he’d spent the weekend compiling before his 2 PM Calculus I lecture. His advisor had warned him not to go down the rabbit hole of Rajnipal’s Third Theorem, but after two years of proofs and equations, he was about to come out the other end. He’d be famous—reasonably so. Not cover of Time famous, but well-known enough to snag one of the ever-dwindling number of tenure track jobs on offer at flagship institutions.
Just as he squeezed the handbrake in preparation for the turn onto University Avenue, a car door swung open before him, followed by the chatter of a cell-phone-holding coed. “Can you believe she wants me to pay for the dress myself? I mean—oh my God, something hit me!” (more…)
I saw her walking toward the Ponte Vecchio again late in the afternoon. Not even her eyes could tell where, so warm and lustrous, but always cast down as if the earth speaking, and her father watching, always watching, though not directly, as if a master guiding a horse from behind that, with the tap of a switch or the flick of an eyebrow or some low whistle in his throat, could make her turn or pirouette. She only had to hear the wind to move closer or more distant from everything around. He could direct her ever so subtly in a new direction like some magician probing a dark secret.
This passionless movement of the earth below her feet and the father’s power to move it and to watch his daughter move with it over the Arno, back and forth, was like some frothy wave of light. Her long brown hair twisted over her shoulder made me wonder. She looked like some melancholic angel fallen to earth, though no words passed between us, only this languid, distant walk, a product of her father’s training, his mind, his thoughts. Here he was with daughter pausing to his reckoning, her face consuming my heart like some wild inextinguishable flame night and day on the streets of Florence. (more…)