Amy Souza and Pippa Possible

Pippa Possible
Inspiration piece

Plain Sight
By Amy Souza

After my father died, my mother stopped opening mail. Cards, bills, magazines, junk—all of it sat untouched for months until one day the pile disappeared. I don’t know if she read any of it.

Last year, I found myself doing the same. I couldn’t bear to look at anything the postman delivered and only paid bills when collectors called. Meanwhile, the man next door kept working on his truck. He trimmed trees and smoked a pipe, acting as if the world hadn’t stopped.

Months earlier, when I still opened mail, the man’s elderly mother fell off her porch on the way to an already-full recycling bin, a bag of bottles breaking around her. When I ran over to help, a wall of old-beer smell rushed me back to childhood and so I attended to my neighbor as half me/half young me. The sour smell almost did me in.

We seemed surrounded by too many empties for one frail elder, but I knew better. I knew secrets. I’d never seen the woman drink anything, and I knew that meant nothing. Her knees were skinned and bleeding as she crawled in her bathrobe back up the cement stairs. I hunted jaggy glass thrown across the patio; she sat on the top step and plucked slivers from the bottoms of her feet. I should have called a doctor, but she insisted no.

The woman’s son was out at sea with no way to reach him and she wouldn’t let me help her get back inside the house. Everything about her reeked of beer, and my brain flipped to an image it sometimes displayed: My father at the ballpark pouring two liter-sized cups of liquid down his throat, like an impossible cartoon, because he thought I was still at the concession and couldn’t see him. I turned away then and never said a word but his hunger and desperation etched into me, still there thirty years later.

While I time-traveled, my neighbor returned to her house and clicked the door lock into place, reinstating proper distance between us. I knew enough not to knock or try to check on her. Instead I walked home to find a garbage bag for broken glass, tucked still-whole bottles into her bin for late-night seekers. I had no idea what awaited me in just a few months’ time, that I’d soon stop opening mail.

Now the woman is gone, moved into a home.

Her son calls her Maureen. Never mom.


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