I mean it as a joke, squeezing between the side of the refrigerators and the window screen so that my aunt washing dishes at the sink canít see me.

She takes care of me because my mother is back in the hospital where doctors hope to rid her of the invisible people she always talks to.

My aunt thinks Iím scared; but Iím not.

Yet when the screen pops open and I fall out, I scream Ė my auntís concerned voice calling after me like an echo as I fall down passed the porch, through the open slanted cellar door where my head bounces off each stone step like a marble.

I donít know how much time passes before I smell my auntís perform.

I still donít feel the pain.

When I see a face, it is not may auntís but rather my mothers, and I no longer smell perfume, only urine.

Iím three years old again and at a bus stop on our way to Canton.

I have to pee.

So my mother is shoving me through the menís room door and then camps outside to wait, me lost in a sea of dirty white tiles and strange men coming and going or squatting in the stalled that need a dime to open.

I go to the tall basins other men use to pee but each is too fall for me, so I look for a stall that doesnít have a pair of feet and rolled down pants under it, and when I find one, I crawl under the door, my penny nine cents too short to open the door.

My fingers and knees stick to the floor as I crawl, my hands stinking of other menís urine when I stand again. I do what I come to do and then crawl back then look for a sink to wash the stink from me, but these too are too high, and I stare up at the facets as if up the side of a mountain until a strong set of hands lifts me up, and holds me there, while I run soap and water over my hands, a patient manís face reflected in the dirty mirror, he asking me if Iím here alone, and I tell him about my mother waiting outside, he nodding and letting me down when Iím done.

Outside, I still smell the urine.

But I donít see my mother. I see my aunt, leaning over me, her fingers feeling the back of my head where I struck each step, each finger coming back red.

I ask her where my mother is, and if the man I met was the father I never knew.

My aunt screams for my uncles to call and ambulance.

And then I cry.


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