I Held Them Like This
Alexandra Ford

I was a model. I managed a flower shop. I trained parrots in a zoo. I was a chocolate maker. A candy striper. A horseback rider in the circus. I taught the rhumba on a cruise ship.
I went to dinner parties with my grandmother.
I went to dinner parties alone.
I ate off bone china. I drank wine out of crystal goblets.
I said, “Life’s too short for plastic cups.”
I married a mortician. I bought chickens from a man who plucked the feathers. I cooked them à la king. Cordon bleu. Fricassee. I filled our garden with hydrangeas. I killed them. Froze the chickens. I flooded the parlor with formaldehyde.
I took the poodles.
I moved to the city.
I was a cat groomer. A dog walker. An opera singer on the subway. I got my hair dresser’s license.
I worked in a movie theater. I danced the rhumba in the aisles. I ate leftover popcorn. I wore my grandmother’s fur. Her hat. I wore lipstick. I bleached my teeth. Crossed my legs. I dyed my hair. I made bouquets of stolen Sno-Caps.
I lived alone.
I sat on my stoop.
I sat on the bus. I talked to the driver, to an old woman, to a man with tasseled shoes. I talked to a schoolgirl. I talked to a boy with orange hair.
“I trained parrots in a zoo,” I said.
“I held them like this.”
I stretched my arms out like a dancer.
“Until they all flew away.”
“Such a rich life you’ve had,” the old woman said.
I saw my reflection in the window behind her.
Everything passed by straight through it.


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