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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Join me in welcoming Cynthia Polutanovich to my blog as she shares an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir,
Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a Loveless, Trailer Park Nomad
month after my father was out of the hospital, at the end of my fifth
grade year, he told us that he was moving to Baltimore, 3 ½ hours away.
Then he was gone. After that, I saw him about four times a year. I was
angry, but also smothered in guilt for being mad at a sick man. Even as a
child, how can you be angry with your parents when they’re sick?
doctors thought he might have leukemia, and once he moved, he began a
course of chemotherapy. A couple months after he left, Lena and I went
to visit him. Our mother took us to the Greyhound station in Salisbury.
picked us up at the bus station in downtown Baltimore. It was only the
second time I’ d ever been there, and to me it was the big city. I
remember steam swirling up out of grates in the sidewalk. I don’t know
if there was any steam, but that’s how I remember it. Like a music video
where the hopeful girl hops on the bus with a guitar and goes to the
big city where she will struggle, and guys with sideburns and over-large
glasses will try to get her to be in porn movies, and she will spend
the night on park benches, and no one will believe her at first, but
she’s a star. Of course, in my case, I was just there to see my dad who
had left me, and I would probably not be departing with any sort of
star-making contract, though I always reserved room for hope.
we pulled up to the new house, it wasn’t as big as the one he’d gotten
in the divorce, but it was like a stamp of normalcy in building form. A
new split level with carpet. But it didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t mine.
No one at school ever wanted to know where my father lived. It didn’t
count, especially when it was so far away. When we went in, Lisa told us
to go downstairs because that’s where my dad was sleeping so he could
be by the bathroom. His bed was in the middle of the floor, and he was
sitting on the edge of it. He said, “Hey, Cynth,” and braced himself to
stand up. Weak from the radiation, wobbling like a toddler, he stood and
reached out his arms. I told myself to smile and go hug him, but my
legs were like two girders, doing a great job of holding me up, but too
heavy to move. His skin looked like someone had sprinkled it with a fine
layer of powdered sugar. His head had only a couple wispy tufts of
hair. I remember thinking he looked like the monster from The Goonies. Looking at him, my brain became hysterical. Why didn’t he just shave off the tufts? It made him look so frail. What was he trying to do to me? He
was still standing with his arms out, though they had lowered a little
as he continued to wobble and wait. I ran up the stairs to my new
bedroom and shoved my face into the pillow. I had never wanted to leave a
place that badly in my life. It was his thin face, his long toes
sticking out of his pajama bottoms. They made me love him in a way I
knew I wasn’t allowed to.
came down after about ten minutes. When I got to the bottom of the
stairway, he shimmied a little and landed on the bed. I went over and
hugged him, and then he took us to his new keyboard where he haltingly
played “Misty” and “Moon River,” two of his favorite songs. Soon, the
three of us were singing together. After that, we watched a movie and
ate spaghetti. I went to bed that night under a thin blue hotel-style
comforter, the kind that inexplicably is covered on the bottom with some
white fiber that looks like a spider web and feels like an emery board.
The house smelled like a new car.
* You can get her new memoir, Corpses Rarely Wander: How I Became a
Loveless, Trailer Park Nomad at Kindle for $4.99 and as a print book (5%
of the proceeds will be donated to Habitat for Humanity) at: https://www.createspace.com/4289356