Sometimes

The kitchen appliances were turquoise. At least all the big ones were, the fridge, the stove and the dishwasher front. We had a lot of turquoise in our house. Turquoise and avocado green. And orange. The sofa in the den was orange. As were the drapes. Well, the drapes were more burnt orange. But still.

The avocado green was reserved for the front room. The room we were not allowed in except on holidays. The expensive rug, the curtain tie backs, the velvet fringe on the window treatments and drapes were all avocado. Also the cover of the 1st edition BOBBSEY TWINS AT CEDAR CAMP book that was on display behind the glass in the breakfront. I hate avocado green.

The floor in the kitchen was formica. Jackson Pollack speckled formica in slate and black and white and grey. It made finding cockroach egg sacs maddening. Maybe that’s what sent Mama over the edge. At least that was the kind of thing she mumbled when she had us all down on hands and knees searching them out. “I hate myself for choosing these floors,” she’d say while she cried but pretended not to. She let the clear snot run from her nose without wiping it, as though it was only the wiping gesture that would giveaway her tears. It was the snot.

Baby cockroaches themselves are kind of cute. Like little black teardrops with oversized antenna snooping around where they don’t belong. I’d find them on the counters, not down on the speckled floor like their parents. The white tiles made them easy to spot. I never let on when I saw one of them though. Never. Too worried hysteria might ensue. We’d be called to safari on the floor to hunt those eggs. Flashlights. Whisk brooms. Cans of Raid. Many a morning I went to school with the fumes of that spray still clinging to my hair. But I never killed the newly hatched. I let them bump into walls or the toaster or slip under the rim of the MixMaster trying to figure out their path. They were like puppies or little brothers or blind men.

The big ones, the ones that flew directly toward your face at twilight, the ones that scattered across scrubbed clean floors when you flicked on the light at night to get a glass of water or sneak a spoonful of Nestles’ Quik, those cockroaches? The mothers? I didn’t hesitate to stomp on them. Stomp the mothers and hear them squish, and then wait. Wait for the little possum playing suckers to lift one of their feelers, stretch a leg, shake it off and start to limp toward the safety of floorboards. I’d wait. Wait for movement. And then stomp on that mother again. If I heard her pop, saw her guts drip out like the cream filling of an eclair, then and only then did I go on with the business of my chocolate sneaking or thirst quenching.

I was supposed to hate the same things my mom hated. Barbara Streisand, or asparagus or carnival rides. I remember the smell of ammonia she made us use to scrape the old wax off the kitchen floors. I remember being certain that I had been switched at birth in the Army hospital and that my real parents, the ones who looked like me or belonged with me, the ones who saw the world as I did and had frizzy blond hair and a gap between their front teeth and who never took to their beds or drove away in the middle of the night promising suicide, I remember daydreaming about how happy we were all gonna be when they finally found me.

But none of that matters now. It’s just something I watch play out in the back of my mind, like an old dream or a Turner Classic Movie.

I remember catching dragonflies by the tail and how they would curl completely inside themselves to bite me when I held them. Sometimes their tails were turquoise. Sometimes orange and sometimes they were avocado green.

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