In the days when it was rare to push buttons for things, there was a woman who drank herself to death even though once she had been in a film with Peter Lawford. She was an eccentric all though the years: she wore lipstick to bed and lived in fear of food borne illnesses. She sang Italian arias to her African Violets. She had a daughter who she named Jane, because it was plain enough to be embellished with talent-and all women with talent had plain names, according to her-but the daughter, upon her mother’s death, hoarded her talents with her memories in cardboard shoeboxes under her bed. She collected hotel soaps and postcards because this was what she thought her mother meant by being famous, in spite of the wide-eyed silver myths peering out from frames along their walls.
Jane grew up and moved to the city, where she met a man at the Wash & Fold. This man worked in television and did not do laundry; he was picking up from the service women in the back. He took her to exotic restaurants and spoke of places with long, creamy names: Indonesia, Morocco, the Seychelles. He was tall and wore shoes constantly, stepping out of them like vacant footprints at the side of the bed and settling them like a small pier at the edge of the shower. He asked Jane about her mother frequently, posing that she would be happier if she relived her childhood in her mind. Jane went into therapy, where she had to wear a sweater because the office was too cold. When she had a baby they named her Miranda, after her mother, and moved to the suburbs. They bought a Buick with a lighted vanity mirror on the sun visor.
Once, when Miranda was still very young, a dog ran her down as she walked home from school and she scraped her head on the pavement when she fell. She didn’t cry, but blotted her fingers against her bloody forehead as if it could erase the injury. She did this until the blood dripped down her arm and left spots on her dress. She let the dog come over and lick her cheek.
A woman approached. She pulled a little boy with a corona of chocolate around his lips in a red wagon full of rocks. She gave Miranda a band-aid and asked where she lived. The boy offered her a chocolate-covered graham cracker. He unloaded his rocks and sat with her in the wagon as his mother pulled them home.
Miranda grew up and moved to the city, just as her mother had done. She wanted to be an actress so she took pictures of herself to auditions and stood in line with other people with pictures of themselves. Mostly, they made small talk about traffic and frozen yogurt. She dreamed of acting in a movie with Brad Pitt and decided that when she was famous she would have boxes of Teuscher chocolates delivered to her every day.
In springtime when her eyes began to tear and her throat turned thick she met a man in the drugstore by the allergy medications. She liked his soft hands and his second home perched on the sand over the ocean.
She married him because they were having a baby.
Sometimes when she was alone, her crying baby finally asleep, she would stand at the window and water her little pots of African Violets and feel sad that she had missed her chance to be in a movie like her grandmother. She wished that her mother would understand the things she wanted. And, occasionally, she would remember the dog and the little boy with the red wagon. She would touch the scar on her forehead that had to be covered with makeup for auditions and wonder what had happened to the boy. She would wonder if he, too, had moved to this city, and if he also stood at the window sometimes and thought about the day he met the little girl with a scraped forehead. She wondered if he remembered that he had removed his rocks one by one and kissed her on the cheek with his chocolate lips as if it would make her feel better. Perhaps, even, when he replayed the scene in his mind, she could be just as she once was, a small damsel in distress, wheeled away offscreen to a presumed happy ending with the boy she loved.