Coney Island, Brooklyn. 2017.
I pull onto Daddy’s block. The stocky frame houses stack next to one another like planks on the Boardwalk. It’s late fall so there is ample street parking, unlike the summer months when cars crush into each other like Colt 45 cans. A distant car horn buzzes angrily on the ave. Roxy barks from behind the ground level window that overlooks the street. Daddy stands in his front yard behind the tall guard gate, eyeing me as I line my car up against the stretch of curb in front of his house.
He pulls one last drag before flicking his stogie to the cement, heading in my direction.
Mornings are the same in our busy one bathroom apartment. I lean onto the sink. My left palm anchors against its cool as I tiptoe, hoisting high enough to see my six-year-old reflection in the mirror. Gripping a small pink toothbrush, I studiously scrub the bubblegum-tasting paste side-to-side, across my top front teeth and the gap that’s smacked between them. Scccrppp scccrppp scccrppp.
Mama sits on the toilet, chin pressed into palms and wearing her mangy tee — the one with the stretched neckline and peeling bumblebee yellow lettering that reads, Bedford Lanes Couples League. Mama’s hair is a wild bed of compressed coils that spring like flowers newly freed from the heel of a hiker’s boot. She sings a jazzy tune just loud enough to discern. Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose…
Behind the shower’s thick glass door, Daddy lathers himself in Old Spice soap, sending vanilla and cinnamon scents misting about. The running water is the Boooom-pap-Boom-pap. Boooom-pap-pap-Boom-pap beneath his ritualistic chant.
Daddy says our names like Saturday reruns of What’s Happening and Good Times — on repeat. “Niki” he says with his normal talking voice. “Paaam” he sings with just a tad more baritone as Mama’s name swings through his mouth like bebop for just an extra beat. Then he spits “Niki” again. Boom-pap. The rhythm is always the same every shower he takes. No matter. Scccrppp scccrppp scccrppp. We keep to our morning routine. For the Bible says, but it still is news. As if…