This is an excerpt from Parker's forthcoming collection, Looking Good and Having a Good Time, from Metatron.
In July of 2014, I went on vacation with my mother. We were everywhere together: in the rental house, on the boardwalk, in each other’s hair, in the bathroom. I took a bite of a croissant one morning and nipped her thumb.
We stayed in a house by the water with one bedroom and a view of the beach. The floor of our bedroom tilted inward. It tilted further inward every day, I could have sworn. No matter how many times we got up in the night to push our beds apart, they would be touching by morning. God forbid I dropped my hairbrush and it rolled so deep into the floor-crevice that it may as well have been lost at sea.
On the first night, we went walking on Main Street or the equivalent. We passed a big parked truck full of men. They whooped and hollered at us through the windows. They were hoping we were two girls who were looking for a good time and that we were hopefully not mother and daughter, unless we were into that. The man in the driver’s seat whistled and my mother said, “Now, now,” with her hand. We kept on walking and I swayed my hips a little because I was looking for a good time and I was having one.
In the back seat, like a glimmering star, you caught my eye.
We passed a drunk man wearing a very stylish wig and we laughed until our voices went hoarse. He was sitting on a cloth grocery bag, which he probably could have sold for just under a nickel if it didn’t have a man’s ass in it.
We walked to a cafe that was open “22 Hours!” It was small inside and we were made to look at each other, eating fat white bagels with jam. A man was playing covers of Johnny Cash songs in the corner, or Johnny Cash was playing his own songs, but I would not have bet money on the latter. The music was making me act very serious, like we were in a weighty movie scene. I wished my mother would play along, but she was talking and talking.
I put too much cream in my coffee and my mouth felt like it was lined with cheap carpeting or like I had taken a mouthful of cheap face powder. Whatever was going on behind my teeth had come at a discounted price for sure.
In the morning, we went on a boat tour around the shore. I took a photo of my mother on the rail and I got the willies when she smiled for the camera. I had never seen her smile like that, like my camera was a male suitor.
A woman in a big floral dress asked if I would take her photo too. I took one too close and cut off the top of her head, which she could have used to try on different paper hats. I moved back to fit her height into the frame, and there you were again! Your hair and shoulders protruded from behind her head.
You arched your back and dove into the water like the setting sun.
I showed the woman the photos I had taken. In the closeup she looked crazy with her eyes touching the top of the frame and her teeth big and white. In the second one, with you jutting out of her head, she looked like she didn’t matter much at all.
“Thank you,” she said, and dipped her finger in her cup and sucked the rum off of it.
Back in the hotel room, I ate expensive mini-bar chips while my mother read a very intrusive celebrity magazine. I felt jealous of how she sat with her painted toenails and her blow-dried hair. I probably could not sit like that.
I finished unpacking my suitcase and sorted its contents on the coffee table: small toothpaste, foldable toothbrush, Burt’s Bees Hand Salve, a photo of my parents wearing carved pumpkins on their heads.
I had stolen the photo from my mother’s vanity when I went home for Christmas. They were standing outside of their apartment in Toronto in 1986. If you looked closely at the window and squinted a bit, you could see my mother’s law textbooks and Thick as a Brick on the record player and my mother buying a lot of cocaine and my father kissing a high school girl.
“What’s that?” said my mother, and pointed to the photo.
I crumpled it up and stuffed it into my mouth.
She said, “What’s that? What’s that?”
I gave her a puffy grin and spit dribbled down my chin.
“Oh, don’t,” she said.
I went into the bathroom and stuck out my tongue at the mirror.
We were on a strip of beach by the rental house when I found a small item that looked alot like you.
“What the heck is that?” my mother said. “It looks like my yoga teacher.”
She had it all wrong. She must never have seen her yoga teacher in her life. The contouring and the depth of that ridge with all the dirt and wet sand in it! It looked exactly like you! I put you in the front pocket of my purse.
“Ouch,” said my mother. She pulled a small piece of glass out of the bottom of her foot and threw it into the ocean. “Ouch.”
I was in the kitchen baking banana nut loaf while my mother soaked her foot in epsom salts. I lined up the ingredients on the counter. Once I got thinking about it, it was hard to ignore the fact that the 4 x 8” loaf pan looked a lot like you. In fact, the three overripe bananas looked like you, and the cup of room temperature butter looked like you, and the beaten egg looked like you, and the teaspoon of vanilla extract looked like you, and the teaspoon of baking soda looked like you and the pinch of salt looked like you, and the handful of chopped walnuts looked like you. You were looking 350° PIPING HOT!
My mother’s foot started to get puffy where she had pricked it with that glass on the beach. I went with her to the clinic in case we found out she was dead. I could barely find a seat in the waiting room with you taking up so much space. I was basically wearing blinders with so much of you in my peripherals.
The doctor came out and said my mother’s name. A young boy was spitting teeth into a piggy bank.
I went into the room with my mother while the doctor cleaned her foot with a small white pad.
I asked him if he had any idea why my hair grows so quickly.
He said: “Genetics.”
I asked him why I’m afraid of mirrors most of the time.
He said he didn’t know.
I asked him why my thoughts race at night, even when I avoid caffeine after 2 p.m.
He said: “Anxiety, probably.”
I asked if he had anything that would help me focus long enough to listen to TED talks.
He said: “Yes, probably.”
I asked why I spent so much time humming and smiling at strangers and sighing. He said: “You’re in love, I’d say.” Love! Why didn’t I think of that. My mother said: “Ouch!”
“What did you do in 1973,” I said. “I left home,” she said.
“I married my first husband.” “1962.”
“My father brought home a whore.” “1983. Who was the whore.”
On the last day of our vacation my mother and I went and sat by the water. We had run out of things to say and I was full to the brim with love, so we mostly sat and picked up objects and put them back down.
“A whore. In 1983 I met your father.”
“My mother died.” She pointed at a formation of rocks. “I think that’s the Canadian Shield. Down the shore.”
“Please,” I said.
My mother thought every formation of rocks was the Canadian Shield. She thought our dining room table was the Canadian Shield. She thought her fur coat was the Canadian Shield. Once she passed a reflective store window and upon seeing herself, she exclaimed, “Ah! The Canadian Shield!”
At the airport, I kept smelling my hands and my luggage to remember being on vacation. My mother went to get her car from underground and I exited the airport wearing Love wrapped around me and belted at the waist (Love was an Urban Outfitters culturally-appropriating kimono). My mother pulled up, crying proud and astonished tears. I sprinkled handfuls of love on the heads of a row of bowing children. An emaciated old man crouched at my feet and I rubbed some love into his temples and on the backs of his hands. I saved a bit of it under my tongue for selfish luck.
A group of radical believers said: “Blasphemy!
My mother said: “Oh!” (She was still crying.) The children said: “Rejoice! Rejoice!”
The old man said: “I am healed!”
A news reporter touched my lips with her microphone.
My mother dropped me off at my apartment at 10:18 p.m. on Saturday. I turned all of the lights on in my apartment and brought my laptop into the kitchen. I made a pot of President’s Choice boxed macaroni and cheese and watched Young Teen First Time Anal Sexy Brunette while I ate.
I uploaded photos from our trip to Flickr and emailed a link to my father and my friend Rose.
Young Teen First Time Anal Sexy Brunette said: “Oh fuck oh my god.”
I watered all of the plants in my apartment even though most of them had wilted while I was gone.
Young Teen First Time Anal Sexy Brunette said: “Oh oh oh oh Oh oh oh oh.”
I brought my laptop into my room and got into bed and shopped for books on Amazon. I opened another tab and looked at handmade rings on Etsy for Rose’s birthday. I thought of you, very far away, diving into the water.