the fifth child of six


one of those places we come from: south of the mason-dixon line, everything’s bigger in ____.
my aunt Carlene*, 400 pounds and mounting,  the result of polycystic ovarian syndrome (no health insurance, how could anyone have known?). hormones so altered that she grew a fine hair all over her body and a beard (waxed). didn’t know she was pregnant for months (too late), gave birth to a little boy a few months later. worked at Luby’s Cafeteria in ____ for 17 years (fired now, who knows for what?). they kept trying to promote her but she refused to work anything above cashier (must be genetic, i’ve done this). they bought her a little glass paperweight for her 15th anniversary. my mother says: i resent her because her child’s things are nicer than mine, and she’s on food stamps! as if it’s some kind of sin, to ask for what you need, and get it. to never have married (whatever for?), except common law. to work at Walmart (now, she does.). to shop there (what other choice?).
she was the only person from my mother’s family to get my mother anything more than a card with a scrawled signature for her 50th birthday: slice of cake from a nice bakery, probably more than $5. know she had to go out of her way for that.
my mother said once that she had a beautiful singing voice. i wonder what it’s like now?
as a child, one of my worst fears was getting fat. saying this aloud to my peers at 10 years old, i imagined the thunderous hams of her arms, their power to invoke ridicule and shame. but now, whenever i hear someone say her name i think, “beautiful”.

*name(s) changed


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