How You Are Like an Umbrella


fiction by Tracy Gonzalez


You try to keep together a family, but your house is always cold.  You buy space heaters and blankets.  Woolen socks.  You want to rub everyone’s arms, up and down up and down, as if they were sticks, as if they could start smoldering and smoking.  You want them to catch into some sort of flame.  You want a warmth for them the house isn’t giving.  Like how you thought it used to.

The loneliest most pitiful thing is the patio furniture, you think.  You remember buying it for your new deck, finished in the fall.  A great deal, your husband said, buying off-season.  Thoughts of hot summer barbecues with music playing and drinks sipped out of the tropically decorated oversized cups you got on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond; their sides painted with flamingos, palm trees, and sand.  You remember putting them away in the hall closet, next to the rainbow windsock you got at Walgreens alongside the melamine plate sets decorated with ladybugs and suns.  The whole closet a gift waiting to be opened.  You even bookmarked a webpage dedicated to making “16 Sexy Summer Sangrias” and talked your husband into buying one of those stand-up coolers, the ones where you didn’t even have to bend down to get a cold drink.  It had a bottle opener on the side and a metal pocket right below it to catch the caps.  You thought it was so fancy.  You thought, I can’t wait until summer.  I’m going to start my diet even earlier this year, you told him, excited.  Then he told you, don’t know why you ever stopped and you remember how you put the summer thoughts aside, went into your bathroom, wrapped up a bar of soap in a washcloth and made bruises come up on your skin.  Again.

It’s an exceptionally wet December now and all of your laundry loads are the blankets and socks.  The kids are tired of you always covering them, how you try to start their arms on fire.  They turn off the space heaters whenever you leave the room.  You keep trying to make them taste the sangrias you make and they keep reminding you they are only eight and nine.  Eventually they tell their father this and now you only are allowed supervised visits.  The judge didn’t care that you were only trying to keep them warm.

Now that there is nothing to break up the day, you spend mornings and afternoons on the couch sipping sangria out of the tropical cups, wide like mugs, that he let you keep along with the patio furniture that barely fits on the concrete slab that is supposedly a “backyard.”   You stare out at the table and chairs, so stoic, the umbrella collapsed and weather-battered stabbing the gray of the sky.  You think about unopened closets and wrap the blankets tighter around you.



Tracy Gonzalez