Originally published by Cafe Lit (September, 2014)
Apart at the Seams
Maria, my poppet,
I knew about your papa’s death. Every life falls apart someday. Ain’t nothing gonna bring him back from that. Keep this doll I made of him to remind you.
My papa was a doll maker. Maybe I told you this. I learned my craft from him. When he was a child, boys found them in his school bag and teased him. My papa told me them children was always playing tricks. Dunking his head in toilets, stuffing firecrackers down papa’s shirt. You know what them boys called my papa? Sissy. They come talking that trash all for them dolls he make. One time my papa came back from showering and his clothes was gone from the locker room. Wasn’t nobody around so he walked naked till he found a teacher. Every child laughed at him. Like he was a joke. But my papa wasn’t no joke and there came a time when them boys couldn’t laugh no more.
Your papa didn’t like me none. I never told you what he did one time, but I tell you now. Remember that day he sent for me to play dominoes in City Park? You was happy he wanted to make a truce. But there wasn’t no truce, poppet. There wasn’t no game. There was three men waiting. Them beat me blue and red. Broke my bones. Wasn’t no car hit me. I lied. For that I’m sorry.
Did you know this about your papa? Do you see him different now?
You need to remember the good times, poppet. Before all these bad. Recall that day we met on Bourbon Street, them days when I played in the Hot Sauce Jazz Club band. You was dancing, wearing that blue dress and them white deck shoes. You sang and danced and saw me there, and I know you saw yourself reflected in my eyes, caged there like a bird and happy. And when that song was done I said come see me play at Mardi Gras. Remember that day. Our first kiss. Your lips burning red (ain’t no one never burned me like you). And remember your promise by the Mississippi, when we was listening to the Natchez steam calliope whistling like drunk Blues musicians. How you promised you gonna love me always. How we made vows. Till death us do part, you said. The spirit Papa Legba heard us and blessed us. Bound us.
So don’t you worry none, poppet. Loneliness won’t never claim you. Come back home and don’t you mourn your papa long.
I made us a doll. Two dolls joined as one. A man, a woman. Her hair brown like yours and his hair black like mine. Them dolls hands is stitched together, holding each other always.
Now imagine I get scissors and snip. The thread that binds them hands falls loose. What good is one without the other? Together they form a shape – the letter M – your and my initial, poppet. Ain’t no coincidence. We was meant to be. So imagine I separate them. Snip. The stitches cut. Them dolls let go they hands.
And if I keep on cutting – cutting the doll with the brown hair – cutting along the thread holding its sides, its arms, its legs, its head together. Imagine this.
Say you won’t never leave me. Till death us do part, poppet. Remember.