Pervy Ricky must’ve been in his forties,
always leaned close when he talked to me.
I was seventeen, maybe, & knew better
than to be left alone with him. While the rest
of the congregation was doing meet & greet,
he’d tell me about his sex life: about how
there were women who wanted to do it with him,
but he didn’t do it, because he was staying pure
for the right one to come along.
Ricky played drums in the praise team.
He wore gold chains & Hawaiian shirts
with his hair slicked back. Every Sunday he sat
next to a different woman, all beautiful but pained—
like porcelain dolls in a display window for too long.
Ricky always talked with a wide clown laugh
& made the jokes men in mixers do, barbing his arms
around their shoulders. I tried to walk away unnoticed
whenever I saw him like that.
Today, I got an email that Ricky is dead.
He had a heart attack three weeks ago
& never woke up. I shivered with the idea
of sleep lasting so long. There is a memorial
service at church for him tomorrow. How
will he be remembered? Somebody must miss him.
Dad asked how old he was. Fifty? Older?
Mom said, He was younger than us.
& we got quiet then.
Two weeks before the wedding,
my mother polishes my shoes
& cleans the bedroom floors.
She buys me new bras & dresses.
She packs bins with old drawings,
trophies, Pokémon toys & kitsch
family heirlooms, the way wives
filled their pharaoh’s tombs
with everything they might need
in the afterlife. She brushes my hair
for me, trims my eyebrows
& upper lip hair, as if I am a corpse
being prepared for viewing. As if
this is the last time she’ll be able
to touch my forehead, part my hair
or tell me I look like Audrey Hepburn
when I keep myself maintained.
Her own mother died not long after
I was born. She fingers the mole
on her neck when she tells me this again.
I hope I live a long and healthy life,
she says, loading my inheritance
into the car, making sure I know
the names of all the family members
living in those boxes.