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a l l

t h e

b e a u t i f u l

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s u s a n

l a n d

Instantly, we bond. The paperwork goes seamlessly and for years I’m the beloved mascot in an international scientific community where everyone looks special, but no one has wonderful curls like my mother’s. She lands a job that brings us to D.C. I’m four. In a suburb with good schools, we find a little house within walking distance to a store called the Giant. The name makes me nervous. Our first night in our new home we go grocery shopping, and I ride inside the body of a shopping cart. As my mother is explaining about staples for our pantry, a man with a bike helmet and a backpack joins our conversation. I think the helmet makes him a superhero. I assume he’s killed the giant. Jeff the Giant Killer. Then my mother lets him touch her hair. He pulls a curl straight and lets it spring back in place. He sings, “Ping.” I love the sound their laughs make together. The superhero, a music critic, takes us with him to concerts and operas where everyone makes a fuss over me. But he never becomes a staple in our home, and one day a man who wants a regular family changes everything. My mother gets to be a bride. I get to be a flower girl. The new man gets to adopt me. He and my mother make a baby boy and I become a devoted big sister. My little brother grows awesome curls like Mom’s. “Something’s messed up about the way you tell that story,” Glen said . “You spend too much time talking about hair.” I’d left out a few things, but I changed the subject and told him that Danielle used to have a weird lazy eye. 18

Then Jeff Levine—the actual guy, not a memory— jumped in and out of my peripheral vision. Grayer. Heftier. He reached over and tapped me on the right shoulder while standing on my left so that I turned one way and had to turn the other way—an old routine that used to be funny and was now annoying. Glen laughed without missing a note. Also annoying. Jeff said, “My favorite opera date.” Bracing myself against the piano, I let him kiss me on the cheek. “You were such a wonderful listener, such a wonderful child.” “If you say so.” He’d given me wonderful lessons in what to listen for. Before every curtain went up, Jeff would give me a primer on which harmonic change or melodic reprise would tear my little heart out. But I couldn’t tell him that now. And I couldn’t ask if he took his wife to the opera, if she liked it more than my mom had, or as much as I had. I sank down on the piano bench, which seemed safer than ranting: I missed you. I hate you. You took the pictures at my bat mitzvah and then you disappeared. We pretended to listen to Glen’s ragtime. I’d last seen Jeff when I’d tracked him down at the Kennedy Center after the matinee of La Traviata he was supposed to have taken me to for my fourteenth birthday. My mother had no idea that I’d bought a ticket on my own, taken the Metro on my own, become a stalker. I’d lost myself in the performance, letting time stop for the arias. I believed in the love of the rich playboy and the lovely, consumptive

Profile for Katya Cummins

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

Profile for nichelit