Becoming Her Own Shadow
Here’s Fina in the middle of the night, sitting on the edge of her bed and thinking about her mother’s last days. The monologue is from Too Quiet in Brooklyn, her first mystery.
Mom never worked again, except for fits and starts. I watched her become her own shadow and there was nothing I could do.
I was young then, barely sixteen. I worked after school while she sat at home and combed her records, searched, wrote furious letters to the Eagle, tapped into our second mortgage. She’d wait up for me. It would be close to midnight when I got home, tired from cleaning somebody’s shitty bathroom, but I’d listen as she read the letter she’d written to this newspaper, that magazine. She’d go on and on about how she had it all figured out, who was doing what to whom. By the desk light slashing her face, I watched her address the envelope. She’d lick the stamp and say, “Walk with me to the post office,” and we’d head out together on Joralemon across Court and up to the big gray building, squat and silent. For a few days, she’d feel better. She’d wait for her letter to appear. Or she’d type her resume, slick herself up, and subway to Manhattan.
Once she got a job as an office manager somewhere in Manhattan, on Canal Street I think she said, selling artists’ supplies, but that didn’t last. She was consumed with Heights Federal, talked about it day and night. She’d lay out this theory, that conjecture, walk into banks and ask to speak with a loan officer. She knew who was behind the fraud, she’d tell him two minutes after she introduced herself, as he straightened his pile of paperwork. She overheard a conversation in the hallway, she’d say. “I never signed off on the loans,” she’d tell him, me or anyone who’d listen. She had the numbers and could prove it, she’d say. Toward the end, she claimed that all she wanted was her job back, any job, at any bank. And then one morning when she didn’t come home, I went out and found her. But you know that part.
The moon was low and shone in on Denny’s gorgeous face and light brown hair, and I stared at him, not an ounce of fat. How I loved to run my hands over his body and kiss him in the hollow of his neck. I’m such a shit. But I prayed to the saints of whatever to cut out my tongue if I ever said a mean word to him again. Never again. Because he was my giving tree. I pictured myself as some old broken broad sitting on the stump he’d become because he’d given me all he had.