Goodbye Stranger

“We are going over to Donna’s house tonight. She rented videos and she’s going to order pizza for you two.” My Mom yelled as she came down the hall with a laundry basket full of clean clothes. Her Dr scholls shoes clomped as she walked. I always wondered how ladies could walk in the wooden sandals but my Mom did it with grace and she never complained.

Donna was a nice lady with deep set dark brown eyes that were almost black. Her eyelids were sunk in. You could see all of her facial bones. Her black feathered hair draped over her ears and covered part of her cheeks. I got nervous each time she struck her personalized Zippo to light her Viceroy cigarette. It was like a waiting game to see if Donna’s hair was going to go up in flames. My brother and I always watched. Thankfully, Donna had a technique. She would swoosh her hair elegantly to the right as the three inch flame came out of the small torch. The silver lighter would hit the metal kitchen table with a cling like the sound of a church bell. But Donna wasn’t a church going lady and that was just fine with me. I was only seven but I envied Donna’s lavender eyeshadow and dangling earrings. She usually wore white tops but I thought she should wear black to match her hair. And besides, I thought she was an undercover witch posing as pharmacy technician.

My brother and I bundled up. It was a typical October night in West Roxbury Massachusetts. We could see our breath which meant that we were going to write on the inside of the windows of Mom’s blue Chevette. We’d draw smiley faces and hearts with our pointer fingers. Mom never complained but every so often she’d hand us a bottle of Windex and paper towels and we would clean our art only to start over the next time we got in the car and it fogged up.
“Mom, I draw better than Mike.” I said as I looked at my brother and laughed.
“Be nice Sherry. He’s two years younger than you.” She said as she glanced in the rear view mirror. I stuck my tongue out at my brother and he punched me it return. I pulled off his stocking cap and he pulled my hair.
“Mom, please turn up the radio!” I begged.

Looks like it’s over, you knew I couldn’t stay
She’s coming home today
We had a good thing, I’ll miss your sweet love
Why must you look at me that way?
It’s over
Sad eyes, turn the other way
I don’t wanna see you cry
Sad eyes, you knew there’d come a day
When we would have to say, “goodbye”

As I stared out the window at the tall buildings in the city, I sang those words with all my might. I imagined I had Donna’s feathered hair and a Viceroy in one hand and a microphone in the other. My parents had divorced two years prior but I held no anger or sadness. I was glad they separated. I had more opportunities to meet people and see different places because Dad lived in the country and Mom had moved to the city. And just like Robert John, the artist sang, “you knew there’d come a day
When we would have to say, goodbye.” People split up. People divorced and people died. I had that down in my notes by seven and none of it scared me.

“Pizza and VHS tapes for you two rugrats!” Donna shrieked as she opened the storm door. She welcomed us with open arms. She gave us red lipstick kisses on the forehead and lifted us off the floor. We ran to the kitchen for paper plates, pizza and Tupperware cups full of Coca Cola. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was in the video player. I hopped into the recliner and my brother onto the love seat. I pulled the gold chain on the lamp to darken the room.
“That’s no good for your eyes kiddo’s!” Donna said as she popped her head through the beaded curtain that separated the kitchen from the living room.
“Donna, we like it like this! It’s like being at the movies!” I insisted. We got our way and watched our movie as we inhaled pepperoni pizza, Nonpareils and Whoppers malted milk balls. Each time the movie would get quiet, I could hear my Mom and Donna laughing. My Mom was happy therefore I was content. I wished that we could stay forever in the moment but before we knew it, the Grandfather clock struck twelve. It was late. My brother had fallen asleep with his head on the arm rest of the orange and brown floral couch. He had chocolate at both corners of his mouth. He’d have to brush his teeth good. Mom wouldn’t allow us to skip a night of cleaning our pearly whites. That was a rule.

“Give me a hug Sherry.” Donna said. My Mom stood in the kitchen with my brother draped over one shoulder and her Candies purse on the other. The Chevette was outside warming up. I made my way to Donna in my pink coat and white hat with the fake rabbit fur trim. She smiled and blinked her eyes. One of her fake eye lashes had parted from her lid. It was flapping around and it reminded me of a carton I watched where a man’s wig came flying off. I didn’t want to see Donna’s eyelash peel completely off. It would’ve given me a nightmare right after watching a movie about Santa Claus. I focused on Donna’s feathered hair and not her eye.
“Sherry, listen to me. I’m going to move soon and I won’t see you kids anymore. I’ll stay in touch with your Mom and she promised she’d mail me school pictures. I’ll call when I can but long distance is expensive so the calls will be short. I want you to remember something. Look into my eyes.” She demanded. I look at her wandering eyelash and then directly into her pupils.
“Kid, you are special. Life is not going to be easy but I see potential in you. Be a good girl, listen to your parents and grow up to be a productive woman.”
“I want to feather my hair and wear purple eyeshadow just like you Donna.”
“You can do anything you want to do. Go out and be a free bird Sherry.”


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