• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 10

The Blue Room

With this nailbrush, I scrub. He complains, of course, but he lets me do it, lets me push the coarse bristles under his nails. I love to rake the gunk. Every day after we get home from school, I call him into the bathroom with a little sing-song lilt and he stands there in the doorway of the blue room with his arms crossed at his chest. His eyes are asking me what do I want but they are just faking it. He knows what I want: the nailbrush is already in my hand, and the faucet is already turned on. I'll rake and soak, rake and soak, then scrub, scrub, scrub.

He sits down on the edge of the tub and we begin. I work quickly. I am capable. We have to hurry because my mom is on her way home, and she has already warned me about this. Hers is a zero tolerance policy and she's had enough of my fixation with cleanliness. Those are her words. She doesn't understand my need to clean everything.

In my assessment, she doesn't understand my needs, plural. My needs, period.

Did I tell you that this is my cousin I am cleaning? That I am in love with him? His mother – my mom’s sister – abandoned him for some loser in Ojai, and he has come to live with us. He is twelve years old and always dirty. I feel bad he has no mother. I want to be a sort of mother to him. A mama. A sexy mama. I am fourteen. This is not so unbelievable.

Think about it. Go there. Rake the dirt, the sludge, the grit. Draw it out. Make it disappear.

The fingernail is now pale and defenseless. It’s a clean so pure I could bite it.