My Mother’s Pillow
My father was still filling me in on details as I waded across the floor to my mother’s side of their bed and lowered myself onto the blue and green striped duvet. At sixteen, I knew better than to plug my ears with my fingers. He’d roar if I did, vocal cords bug-eyed in his throat. So I sank my face into my mother’s pillow, surrounding it with my arms.
She’d been declared dead of cardiac arrest four weeks earlier. From the pillow, I could still catch the faint scent of VO5 shampoo – and her.
The announcement for which Dad had summoned me: He was expecting a guest tonight, Tracey, a twenty-something waitress he knew from the restaurant he and Mom used to go to for breakfast, just the two of them. There was something endearing about Tracey; she sucked her thumb after sex.
“Well?” he asked, arms folded across his chest. “Will you do it now, please?”
He scratched the tip of his nose and answered me kindly, as he did when addressing someone of slightly less than normal intelligence. “Find a friend’s house to stay at tonight?” he said. “Tracey’d be embarrassed if you were here when she is.”
Tracey couldn’t, at least, have been on my mother’s pillow yet; it would smell different if she had.
A few years ago, Leslie Greffenius began waking up at five in the morning in order to work on the novel she always wanted to write. She sold her business shortly thereafter; the sale enabled her to get up slightly later and write full-time. She is still working on the novel, and writing short stories besides. She is a regular contributor to beyondthemargins.com and The Review Review and her work has appeared in The Harvard Crimson and Iowa Law Review.