The Edge of
My mother likes
driving in the rain. Last year, when she was preparing me for my road
test, we only went out on gray days. Days the sky hung so low it looked
like we might drive right into it. Days that made morning feel like
late afternoon. Days like today.
But today I am
not in the driverís seat, and Iím not with my mother. Sheís at home,
probably singing to her ficuses and steaming bright yellow squash
until the kitchen smells like a vegetarian restaurant. Going about
her usual routine without noticing Iíve been gone all morning. She
always sings to the plants around lunchtime. A habit she picked up
from her father. He used to run a burlesque theatre on the Lower East
Side before retiring to Las Vegas. Now he teaches part time at the
clown college out there. My grandfather is a clown.
It comes in handy,
though. Before my grandmother died - breast cancer, but we werenít
allowed to say it like that. We called it the edge. Anyway, after
Grandma got the edge, my grandfather painted roses on her face every
day for six months and wrote little skits for us to perform in her
hospital room at Sister Mary Immaculate. He took out his ukulele and
made up songs about getting his fingers inside the habits of the nuns
who changed Grandmaís IV tubes. This is how it goes in my family.
We can talk more easily about sex with nuns than about the edge.
I was trying
to explain this to Raj on the way into the clinic. Raj is my boyfriend
and driver today. Smart as a whip, my grandmother would have called
him. Sheíd have liked him even though heís not Jewish. Heís going
to Harvard next year. Iím not sure what Iím doing yet. My grades are
kind of pathetic, but I play a killer oboe. In my wildest fantasies
I form an all-girl oboe band. We wear sexy dresses with slits up the
side, sunglasses, and always tell the press weíre bisexual so everyone
wants to have sex with us. Not that Iím going to be having sex with
anyone but Raj, but if I were Iíd know how to get it. Iíd use my oboe.
Everybody wants to have sex with musicians. Iím telling you, you should
have seen some of those nuns in Grandmaís hospital room when Grandpa
picked up his ukulele.
I seduced Raj
with my oboe, playing him Beach Boys songs. This was before he grew
his hair to his shoulders, and I made him dye it blond, which is amazing
for a guy from Bombay. He looks sort of like Jesus, if Jesus wore
puka beads and called everyone dude. He, Raj not Jesus, was waiting
for me when it was all over, giant white teeth shining against his
beautiful brown skin. In one hand he held a box of lemon Girl Scout
cookies, in the other a silver balloon that said ďHappy Birthday Hilda.Ē
It was the only one they had in the store, he told me, since my name
isnít Hilda, itís Amy. Iím named after my motherís best friend who
was one of the original Rockettes. She died a week before I was born.
A freak accident. In the middle of teaching ballet class she tripped
over a pair of tights and cracked her head against the mirror. You
canít make this up, right? Iím telling you, if I had a whole week,
a month even, I couldnít explain why my mother still keeps Amyís ballet
slippers zip-locked in plastic at the bottom of her closet, although
itís easier to see how I got her name. My mother told me Jews always
name babies after the newly dead. It has something to do with the
old soul being re-born into the new body, which sounds more like Hinduism
Raj must have
had the box of cookies and balloon hidden in the back of his fatherís
Jeep since the whole thing took less than an hour. When the doctor
turned on the machine my throat swelled up. I couldnít breathe. Then
I felt the scraping. My stomach bucked in cramps as bad as any period
I can remember. The entire time I kept my jaw clenched and listened
to my grandfatherís ukulele. I made up a song about Doctor Luden.
The words went like this: Dr. Luden wears green hospital pants/But
he ainít wearing any underpants. Before long, I was sipping grape
juice from a paper cup as I stepped into my jeans.
The worst part
is I canít have sex for a few weeks and I love having sex with Raj,
especially those final moments before he loses it and he canít stop
shouting, ďIím riding you, baby, Iím riding you!Ē Itís a total rush,
like Iím controlling his words through his dick. But I cannot, I will
not, think about his dick. Not for a few weeks, but whenever you try
and not think about something itís always worse.
was nearing the end, the edge of the edge, when she was nothing but
plastic tubes and red dots on the respirator, my grandfather used
to tell me not to think about the pink elephant. Every time I said,
ďPink elephant? There is no such thing as a pink elephant.Ē But when
I closed my eyes I saw packs of them dancing around the white hospital
Itís not pink
elephants I see as Raj turns down my block. He sees it, too. In the
driveway, my mother, my father, and my sister Sophie huddle together,
their faces stern and sorrowful. That little bitch Sophie must have
been listening to Raj and me on the telephone and told them everything.
Iíd like to boot her off a Park Avenue terrace. That was how the singer
she was named for bought it after being canned from a Sondheim musical
- all the alcohol had ruined her award-winning soprano.
But thatís not
important right now. Not with my entire family standing in the driveway,
looking like theyíre ready to pounce. Raj turns on the radio, and
I swear what comes out is Brian Wilson singing, Wouldnít it be
nice if we were older? Wouldnít it be nice? He, Raj not Brian
Wilson, is so corny sometimes, but maybe it would be nice if we were
older and he wasnít going off to Harvard and we hadnít just crossed
three different counties so I could get rid of his baby.
Above us the
thunder cracks, pushing the sky a few inches lower. I canít help but
wonder what old soul chose to be re-born into our babyís body. I look
over at Raj tapping his palms against the steering wheel. He turns
to me, his eyes hanging low as the clouds. I want to throw my arms
around him, only my family is now planted in the middle of the street
as if they were trying to construct a human wall.
Raj flashes me
a sly smile, his sex smile, but I know heís not thinking sex. No,
I know exactly what heís thinking. ďKick it, dude!Ē I say, and he
guns his fatherís Jeep in reverse, skids into a turn, and then floors
it. In the rearview mirror, I see my mother, my father, and my sister
Sophie scramble towards the car, and Brian Wilson is eclipsed by my
grandfatherís ukulele. Heís singing a song about Raj and me as we
drive off into my motherís kind of sky.