Never Cursed – Isabella Israel
November 20, 2021
When my mother cooked for me she really felt like my mother so I relished each chicken dripping and each salted salad and all of the garlic, so much garlic, spicy raw hunks adorning slippery angel hair, and there was her girlish giggle over soggy ham sandwiches when she’d sign me out of school for “girl’s lunch” or our lips smacking in the dark over fried chicken and boxed devils food cake when neither of us could sleep.
My mother and her mother were blonde Texan beauty queens who worked hard to maintain their sprite-like tummies, toned but never muscular, thin but never too thin, and it was early on I decided my mother made a deal with the Devil in which he blessed her with perennial charm and beauty in exchange for a daughter addicted to Popeye’s by age 7, a deal she signed in bacon grease.
Once my mother ate nothing but beans and salsa on sprouted bread to slim down for a role and at “girl’s lunch” she would only nibble off my plate, but she always insisted I ordered more, added butter, an extra scoop, larger fries, because she loved to watch me eat (as if it would make her full) and I loved her watching me eat (as if it would make me full) and she was proud of me when I ate and I was proud of her for being proud of me.
And when she died I begged for signs that she was still around and the silence was deafening other than the sounds of my crunches and slurps, but today I am delirious on the fourth day of a crash diet and I see her in every calorie I count, in the digital blue numbers that taunt me from the scale, in the dry kale crackers and the garlic-less soup. I see her every time my mouth waters, every time my belly growls, in the skinny, buzzy little hummingbird outside my window. I say “if that’s you Mommy, choose the next song.” The hummingbird chooses “Love in this Club” by Usher. Either she’s fucking with me or she’s blasted off, past the cotton candy clouds and gouda moon where nothing hurts, where she waits for me in the next life ready to make it all up to me with a bottle of Yellowtail chardonnay and a Salisbury steak Lean Cuisine.
Drew is Australian so I can’t tell if he’s actually hot or just Australian. Shrimp are prawns, Drew says. Terminator is the greatest film ever made, Drew says. I’m cheeky, Drew says. I’m cheeky Drew says when I gnaw his chin hairs off with my front teeth like a beaver. I’m cheeky Drew says at the Camarillo outlet stores after he buys me a Coach wallet and I thank him with a hand job through the Grapevine on the drive home. This is the extent to which I can understand what Drew says. This is the extent to which I need to.
Drew is visiting from Sydney where he works for the corporate office of the pizza parlor where I am gainfully employed as a “pizza artist.” I am relentlessly lazy. I am relentlessly late. I dip my finger in the pesto and I lick. Drew catches me. Drew doesn’t care. Drew buys me a tube top.
Drew and I are always eating at Katsuya Hollywood. When Drew touches me I feel like an expensive cut of salmon belly. You just haven’t seen LA until you’ve seen Drew chug a watermelon Four Loko and slow dance with the guy dressed as Edward Scissorhands on Hollywood and Vine. Drew breathes through his mouth which is red and drippy like a sharks and I think we should go home now but first we need a picture at Mike Meyers’s star on the Walk of Fame. Then Daniel Radcliffe’s. Then Jamie Lee Curtis’s. Drew loves the movie Face/Off. I say “hey, my mom was in Face/Off!” but Drew cannot hear me, he’s stampeding the Jell-O shot girls for a blue raspberry. They huddle together for safety, eyelashes trembling in the Santa Ana’s. Most girls are afraid of Drew.
Back at the Burbank Marriott, I slip Drew out of his khaki shorts and he orders chicken tenders from room service and calls me “cheeky sprite” as I tuck him in. As all of the families on our floor dream of CitiWalk and the Venice canals and the Griffith Observatory, the echos of Drew tittering in his sleep and me crunching chicken tenders in the moonlight dance through the halls of the Burbank Marriott. Hollywood legend says they still do.