My mom smelled like meat. The stereo playing next to me in the kitchen was up too loud to hear her open the front door, but I could tell she was home from the smell. It was the pungent odor of having handled cow livers and chicken carcasses all day long. If you stayed around it long enough the acrid scent of it would linger with you forever. My mother had reached that limit and beyond. There were blood stains under her yellowed fingernails and a massive scar on the back of her left hand from getting too friendly with a hook machine. Her eyes had the same ivy color no contact lenses could replicate as me, but hers had a perpetually frenzied look only accomplished by spending your days with the dead. Or almost dead. Even when she slept her eyes were pinched together and a line formed between her brows. Her troubles laid etched on her face for anyone to see, yet I was the only one who bothered to look. I never felt an ounce of shame over my mother’s profession. She still had the acceptance letters to Brown, Penn, Dartmouth, and Yale hidden beneath empty parliament packs in her dresser. She could have done anything, and she chose what she chose. It was never her dream to sit behind a desk and watch the world through a corporate fog. She wanted to be a part of everyone’s life and experience everything firsthand. When I was eight she told me that the meat packing plant didn’t smell nearly as bad as big business/ The next week we took a field trip to a bank. I thought the building smelled like pine sol and peppermint. I told her so and she laughed. Told me to wait a few years. Now, when I go to cask my check, I wrinkle my nose and smile at the memory. She was right, I’d take the meat any day.
December 7, 2009