First appeared in The Houston Literary Review (no longer publishing)
I had dreams once. I was going to be a famous model. The day after high school graduation, I bought a bus ticket to New York City with the money I earned at Cubby’s Diner. The town folk wished me luck. Mom gave me a big hug. Dad said I was a fool.
I bought a paper at the first newsstand I came to and answered every modeling ad. Nobody commented on my big smile, my perfect teeth, or my short, spiky, blonde hair. Instead, they said I was too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, and that I needed surgery to make my boobs smaller. Smaller? The folks back home would’ve been outraged to hear such talk.
At the end of the week, I got a waitressing job in a bistro in the West Village. Like at Cubby’s, it didn’t pay much, the tips sucked, and I got my butt pinched or slapped at least five times every shift. Still, I earned enough to pay for my share of the flat I rented with Claire, another model-to-be I met at my first interview.
I wasted a year of my life before I realized I wasn’t going to be a model. I got back on the bus and headed home to West Virginia. Mom gave me a teary hug this time. Dad sat in front of the TV and mumbled a ‘knew you’d be back’ without missing a word of the news.
I sat in the tire swing in the back yard, facing away from the house, and cried every afternoon that first week. Saturday night I decided it was time to forget about modeling. I put on my little black dress and headed to Melvin’s for a drink. That’s when me and Richard got back together.
We’d dated our junior year until the night of the prom. He wanted me to have sex with him. I said no. This time, after two Bud Lights, when he asked if I wanted to have sex, I said sure. That was four babies ago.
I don’t regret having them. They make me complete. I don’t regret not being a model. It was just a dream. I don’t regret becoming the one person I said I never would be -- my mother. Most of all, I don’t regret that Richard’s nothing like my father.