My Collection

by Jennifer Lewis

        I bought my first wig when Mo was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and I went to the Lemmon Wig Shop and I was very impressed with the selection and quality. They looked like real human hair! They were a tad more expensive than what I had budgeted for, but they were sooo pretty. I was a little nervous when we walked in, but the people behind the counter were very helpful. In addition to wigs, Lemmon had tons of beauty supplies: press-on nails, fake eyelashes and some cheap jewelry. So I said, “Mo, What the heck? Let’s get dolled up.”         Tom had been dead for only a month when I found Jonathan in my walk-in closet. I heard a wig rustling off one of the six Styrofoam heads. Was he trying it on? My knees trembled and my heart galloped thinking of him finding my collection: a waist length platinum job, a short red number with bangs, curly brown locks, a Dolly Parton, A Crystal Gail and Britney’s pink alter ego. Instead of walking backwards out the door like I had intended, I shouted, “Haven’t you taken enough?”         I almost expected my son to come out with Virginia on his head, my long platinum beauty that flipped up at the bottom, because that’s just the kind of relationship we had. We were able to joke about the gravest things, but he walked out empty-headed. He looked stunned, pale. His blue eyes glazed over. Couldn’t even look at me. His own mother who had bailed him out of jail—twice. Usually he had something clever to say, but he just put his hands in his pockets and walked right past me. I was not going to let him make me feel bad one bit. I’m a grown woman. He doesn’t know how lonely I was all those years with Tom. I did the right thing for Jonathan by marrying him, but we were practically roommates from the start.         What does he know? I could have had those wigs when Tom was still alive. Why was he on my side of the house anyway? Can’t a fifty-six-year-old woman have some privacy? Hadn’t I suffered enough? Two dead husbands and a troubled son. Most women my age have grandchildren. I’ve never put any pressure on him.         I know it must have been hard, losing his father in the middle of the night. The police knocking on the door and before I even fully opened my eyes, they said there had been an accident. I heard the words: car, tree, under-the-influence and a woman passenger. Then it couldn’t be my husband! I remember saying that. The police officer asked, Is his name Michael Porter? Yes, I said. I’m Cynthia Porter. Then they gave me his license and as I wrapped my fingers around it, they told me that he had died on impact and that the passenger in the car survived without a scratch. I remember crying. I suppose I was screaming. Now that I’m thinking about it, you could’ve called me hysterical. I guess I should have composed myself. A six-year-old boy shouldn’t have seen his mother in that state. He shouldn’t have figured out what had happened like that.         Larry told me he saw Jonathan in the storage room the other day. What are the chances, my lover (that word still makes me feel so strange) and my son in the same meeting! Larry is a senior accountant for the largest firms in Dallas and Whole Foods is one of his biggest clients. Well, Jonathan has managed to work there for about three whole weeks and Larry said he saw him in the all staff meetings. Could recognize him from the pictures, said that he could tell right away that he was mine, even though the boy is the spitting image of his father. No Native American blood passed through him. He may have gotten my cheekbones and my almond shape eyes, but that blue—the depth of the ocean—is all Michael. He tans like me though. In the summer, we are the same shade.         When Larry comes over in the middle of the night, I don’t think Jonathan can hear us. I moved my bedroom to the other side of the house next to the pool. I had to. We couldn’t afford going to hotels anymore. Even the cheap ones add up. Plus, neither of us liked checking in at the front desk. Dallas is big, but it’s a small town. I’ve gotten a little vocal these days. I don’t know what has gotten into me. I’ve never really understood sex before, just went through the motions while making my grocery list. It must be those wigs. They make me want to scream. The silky hair that hangs down my back and covers my breasts. Even the short ones that tuck under my ear, they make me feel so giddy. I finally know what this body is for. It’s like I finally know what everyone has been talking about for all these years. I don’t even mind being older. With my wig on, I’m just pretty hair.         Right after Jonathan saw my collection, the beer cans started piling up in the garage. It’s not like he wasn’t drinking after his second DWI, but he didn’t touch a drop in front of Tom or I. He waited until we were asleep. It was the principle. At least I knew he was drinking less. Then they started piling up by the case. I never said anything because he knew my secret and he was holding down a job. It’s not like he ever had to pay rent, he just made enough to buy booze and maybe take Maria out now and again. But that didn’t last long, she out grew him. Like they all do. I don’t know why my son refuses to grow up. Sometimes I think his good looks work against him. I keep waiting for him to show signs of aging. Maybe it would humble him a little if he knew his own mortality. Except for a slight receding hairline, he looks just like he did when he was twenty: square jaw, chiseled features, tall, thin and those blue eyes always glazed over. Looks like he’s been just stung by a bee.         Just like the time when he was playing in the backyard by the Black-Eyed Susans. He used to pick those daisy-like things up and run in circles. The golden flowers matched his straw hair. I saw the Yellow Jacket flying around his head and instead of crashing onto his bronzed shoulder, it landed in the dark center of the flower. He had reached for butterflies before, orange and red ones, now he grabbed for the yellow and black stripes. I watched it all from the poolside chair, saw the pain travel from the web between his thumb and index finger, all the way up his tan little arm, to his clutched jaw, and just when he was about to wail, he looked at me and his eyes just filled with tears. It was the same look he gave me as I hugged the police officer that night. He just held on to it. Never let it go. He’s missing now. I have no idea why he would have taken off so abruptly. It’s been a little over a week. I bet he got fired. My lost sensitive boy. Sometimes I wonder what I could have done differently. And all I can come up with is that I did the best I could. If Mo was still with us, I would call her. She would know what to do. Right after the accident, she drove Jonathan to school on the days I couldn’t get up. I know she’s watching over him right now. Telling him to do the right thing and go back home to his mama. I don’t want to burden Larry with all this. He has his own kids and a handicap wife. All I can do is sit here and smoke until either the police come knocking again or he walks through that door. Speaking of doors, I locked the closet door. None of that matters anymore. Silly wigs. Making me feel joy— like a girl again.