NYC 1984

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Her name was Tawni. I saw the Polaroids she'd sent Dad. She was a plump Farrah Fawcett lookalike with golden, feathered hair, and a disingenuous toothy smile. Fresh-faced at twenty-six, her enormous breasts hung heavy as cantaloupes. I'd  seen the return address on the envelopes when I got the mail after school. She dotted the "i" of her name with a heart and put a pink lip print on the back flap. Ick.

Tawni waitressed at a diner in Tucson. I envisioned it being just as tacky as Mel's Diner on Alice. I wondered if Tawni wore a Pepto Bismal pink uniform and told her boss to "kiss her grits" like Flo. I was willing to wager Tawni was as rattle- brained as Vera. Other than her jugs, I couldn't imagine why my father was interested in her. She looked nothing like his "type," which ran to tall, willowy, intellectual women... like my mother, who passed away when I was a toddler. 

It had been six months since Dad met Tawni through a lonely hearts personal ad. Their weekly correspondce gave me tingle of wariness low in my gut; a foreboding.

I was thirteen-years-old that summer, all freckles and legs. When I wasn't  shooting hoops with the guys at the park or playing Pac Man at the arcade, my nose was in a book. Usually it was a really trashy romance novel, my guilty pleasure, and one of the few "girly" things about me.

"Gah!" I battled against my tangle of red curls in the bathroom of the tiny apartment I shared with my father in the city. I tried to Dep away the frizzies, but it was hopeless. Accepting defeat with a growl of frustration, I pulled my hair back in a band and acknowledged my bad mood wasn't only the result of a bad hair day.

Dad was taking a two week vacation to fly out to Arizona and meet her. I was pissed. He'd promised me a trip to Disney since Epcot opened, but I had a feeling that wasn't gonna happen anytime soon.

"Come on, Pumpkin, you used to love going to visit Grandma Laura," Dad coaxed over a sundae at Freddy's, just down the street from our eighth floor walk up. I could tell he was really trying to butter me up when he didn't limit me to two toppings like usual.

I shot him a pointed look. "Dad."

"Sorry, sorry. I forgot." Dad put his hand up in surrender. "Tye. Two months out of this concrete jungle will be good for you."

"Why can't I stay by myself for the two weeks you're gone? I'm old enough. I stay at home while you're working all time." 

Dad chuckled, scraping the last of his ice cream from the bottom of the parfait glass. "No way, Jose. Two weeks is too long for you to be on your own. You haven't seen your grandma for over a year. You always complain how hot New York is in July and August anyway."

"What about Stinky? He'll think I abandoned him," I protested, referring to the stray cat we rescued when I was five.

"Stinky will be fine. Mrs. Potter said I can bring him next door while I'm away. Now, no more arguments. Give your old dad a break, will ya, kid?"

I sighed. Little did I know my experiences that summer would haunt me the rest of my days.

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