Melanie Brake

Beyond Twenties

The Taxi is Waiting by Dmitry Evtushenko

My husband slapped the bundle on the granite: a tax bill, a dental reminder, and The New Yorker—cartoon Trump on the cover, fat-lipped with a medical mask over his eyes. Rendering him blind. I know.

Generally, I pick up the mail. Sift through the mailbox spoils, shredding junk and tucking away credit statements for later. Sliding my New Yorker beneath the liberal stack of Highlights, Nat Geo Kids, and others resting in the basket in the corner.

I pick up the glossy from the stack on the counter. The stark white label in the bottom left corner clearly labeled with my name. Our home address. I roll it like it’s pornography. Tuck it out of sight—ask how was his day, was he busy, doesn’t the chicken smell delicious, are you hungry?

I’m practically hollow, I say.

Several weeks ago at the company event, our guest asked: Are you following the impeachment trial?

I caught the waiter’s eye and gestured with my glass, as if I were toasting something. There was only one quarter left in that second glass of noir, but I was sloppy and spilled a drop. Slow blot of red on the white tablecloth. I said to her: I follow the Times…

My husband, seated to my right, interrupted: You know that’s a liberal paper. Right? He and the woman and the other husband chuckled. Carried on.

When I was twenty-two, I waited tables, wore tight jeans rolled at the ankles, stainless zippo a rectangular bump in my back pocket and front pocket harboring a half-crushed pack of Camel lights. Three cigarettes, just enough for the ten-minute break out back before it was time to sling more sweet tea and sashay, smiling, out of reach of chapped hands, rough. Seizing every opportunity to graze my waist or hip. Like they owned me there in deep Texas oil country.

The place hired a new waitress. An old lady I hated. A petite woman with a large diamond ring and a Cadillac in the staff lot. Important stuff, I thought.

Why are you even here? I asked.

Turns out she was divorcing a wealthy man, running from her sprawling home.

I’ve got my own apartment now. This job. A diamond to pawn and a car to sell. She said.

When I was twenty-two, that hardly seemed enough. But now I am forty-six.


About the writer:
Originally from the Southern Tier of New York, Melanie Brake lives with her family in Central California where she spends three-quarters of the year cussing the extreme heat and dust while longing for the pine trees and rainstorms of her childhood. Melanie is a 2019 graduate of the Red Earth MFA program in Oklahoma City.

Image: The Taxi is Waiting by Dmitry Evtushenko (1975-). Oil on canvas. No size specified. 2017. By free license.