Your life is going to change – how many times was that prediction offered in one form or another during my wife’s pregnancy? Mothers often spoke with a bliss-touched smile; fathers, with a smirk that was both sardonic and conspiratorial, and a distinct, cross-gendered handful uttered the words with an unblinking intensity that rattled me more than any of the bloody videos we watched in our childbirth classes.
Larger-than-life beauty shops may occupy the Hollywood set, but in South Philadelphia , it’s all about getting real. And there’s no better place to get real than in the beauty shop mirror.
It was Friday afternoon. We had been throwing around the Frisbee, but the collars of our Oxford-cloth shirts were already sweat-soaked, and we were tired of feeling out of shape. We lay on the back of Jon’s Toyota Corolla in our cheap aviators as the sun slowly started to go down on another day in Northern Virginia.It was September of my senior year and I tasted real freedom. I was seventeen and for the first time in my adult life I was almost content.
My size defines me. My circle of friends consists of the New Yorker, the Chemist, the Chesty One, the Red Head….and me, the Little One. For a long time I searched for a bigger, better way to describe myself. When I least expected it, I found the answer. Ironically, size had EVERYTHING to do with it.
Harry is home now. He slipped in on a perfect spring afternoon while hundreds of thin yellow ribbons fluttered like tinsel on the Japanese maple. He didn’t want any fuss, so he and his family spent the rest of the day quietly at home.
He is twenty years old and he has killed since I saw him last. On Christmas morning, he returned Iraqi fire to save his own life and continue with the job he was sent to do.
I first see the cat on my way out to the Super Fresh to pick up Portobello mushrooms. He’s lying on the other side of our one-way street, a single lane narrow enough to be an alley really, a place where he never would have lain normally, smart stray that he was. I didn’t look for long, only enough to confirm that his body had been crushed, though not which part, to acknowledge the red pool spreading slowly beneath him, the flies already buzzing inside the mouth that the car wheel had forced open.