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Helen Keller

BY JARED NEWMAN
 

Yale University, '19
2015 Adroit Prize for Prose: Editors List

 

           What was crazy was that, in all those years of my Aunt Tricia just showing up one night with some Paul or Lyle she’d found, she never got murdered. Mom would pinch her by the elbow, and say, this is the last time, Trish. It’s dangerous. They’re strangers. But Trish, who was already slumped on the living room pullout with her guy and her sleeping bag, just muttered, yeah yeah yeah, I love you too, sis. Two or three times a year, she’d show up like this. Buzzing our doorbell at what must have been eleven o’clock at night. We always knew it was her. Like clockwork, the doorbell would ring and my mother would say, I swear to god I hope she doesn’t have a guest.

           Of course, she always did. A friend from her degree program in actuarial science. The guy who’d given her a ride to a Grateful Dead concert. The guy who’d given her a ride back from a Grateful Dead concert. Same guy, different slime – just wait until she ends up in a gutter, Mom would say, because I can’t anymore.  

            The first I remember was Jefferson. He had thick, leather belt and a ponytail—what an awful ponytail. Mind you, I was like ten years old at the time, and I still remember how gross that ponytail was. We met at a Young Libertarians rally, Tricia said. Who ever knew why she got involved in those sorts of things?

           Then, there was Jason the First, who I think might have been the one that brought his pet snake. But somehow I remember the snake coming later.

           Immediately after Jason the First came Jason the Second. I liked him. Jason the Second sat me down and showed me his arm and back tattoos, Celtic designs that meant bravery. Blue loop de loops all over his shoulders and what not. Where’d you get them, I asked. You don’t get tattoos, I was told, they grow beneath the skin, and when they’re ready, you’ll know.

           Harold — now she shouldn’t have even brought him home. He was a reinsurance agent. Or a bank teller. Something dumb. Aunt Tricia was way out of Harold’s league.

           Oh, and you can’t forget Max Wirkus who went to Park Middle School with her. They had seen each other in Market Basket and he turned around and said, Tricia Harrison?, and she replied, Maxy? How funny was it, I remember being asked, how crazy that after all these years they could rekindle their sixth grade romance? Just like TV. Max mumbled something about Trish’s ass development, which we all agreed was noticeable since the sixth grade. Trish laughed. No – actually – she giggled. Covered her fat, creased lips with her hand. Soon enough they went at it, and I caught them, and I saw it, for the first time ever, and I didn’t leave, because who ever leaves?

           Anyway, I got older. I got older and they kept coming. Yearly or twice a year, it didn’t matter. Just reminded me that time was passing, becuase otherwise I couldn’t really notice it pass at all. People enter and leave your life, Mom used to say. And — (I waited for the but, but there was never a but) — it was just that simple. People enter and leave your life. What a sad fuck Mom was.

           In tenth grade, there was Don Donovan, who you have to remember because of the name. Bought her a nonrefundable ticket to Paris and he almost went with her, but then he found out that Trish had the clap.

           Eleventh grade Fall there was Ronald with the black hair. Eleventh grade Spring was Axle. He came back. More than once.  After Axle, Owen. After Owen, Cory, who told hilarious Helen Keller jokes at dinner.

           Tricia never really liked any of them and none of them really liked her, so how about that.

           This one had a small penis. That one psychoanalyzed her too much. Don Donovan wore too much cologne. Cory wasn’t compassionate, didn’t articulate his emotions physically. (In my Senior Year, she began reading. How To Find Your Mate. Love: A User’s Guide. All that junk.)

           And then one day, after college, living in Mom’s basement apartment while I was figuring stuff out, I started noticing it too. Laird, who worked at Home Depot, made too much noise when he ate. Caity — well you know why that ended. Abdul did heroin. Johnny did coke. She couldn’t stay with Ray Mudgett because he was clingy. And I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was Geoff who smelled like poop.

           Pretty soon, Mom kicked Trish out once and for all. Said it was for her safety. You’re gonna get killed, Trish, she said. You don’t know these guys!

           So Trish left. And I left too, and who knows what happened to my mom? One October, I got up, and just left. Couldn’t take it anymore. Couldn’t stand her whining and moaning. Poor me, oh, poor me. Some people just don’t get the world, do they?

           I don’t know, maybe I was doing the wrong thing leaving Mom all by herself.

           Paul said, “You need to be an independent, thinking person.”

           Lyle said, “It is okay to put your priorities, your health, and your happiness above those of your mother. She is not your burden.”

           Don Donovan said, “We are not placed on Earth to appease our moms. We are here to enjoy. To live. To experience. How are you going to do all that if she is pulling you down?”

           And I said, “But I care about her so much. I can’t just leave her. She’d be helpless.”
Axle said, “Who says you can’t leave her?”

           Owen said, “Are you going to sacrifice the rest of your life so that you can pretend like you’re comforting your mother? For all you know she could be depressed or anxious, something biochemical that you can’t control. The minute you try to save her, you lose yourself.”

           Ronald with the black hair and Jefferson agreed with Owen.

           I paused and thought of my poor, aging mother. Her hot flashes. The midnight shrieks of abysmal pain. I don’t know, it felt like a jerk move to just leave her there.

           Max Wirkus said, “You don’t really have a choice.”

           And Cory just told another Helen Keller joke.

 

 

Jared Newman will soon graduate as a David G. Wood Fellow from Phillips Academy Andover, and will matriculate in the fall to Yale University. His fiction has been published in The Courant, has received three Gold Keys in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation as a Finalist in Short Story. He has studied at the Iowa Young Writers' Studio.