Afterward, the audience folded its plush velvet chairs and pressed to the exits, but my mother didn't move. She sat in her chair, her eyes closed. She liked to be the last one to leave. She despised crowds, and their opinions as they left a performance, or worse, discussed the wait for the bathroom or where do you want to eat? It spoiled her mood. She was still in that other world, she would stay there as long as she possibly could, the parallel channels twining and tunneling through her cortex like coral.
"It's over," Barry said.
She raised her hand for him to be quiet. He looked at me and I shrugged. I was used to it. We waited until the last sound had faded from the auditorium. Finally she opened her eyes.
"So, you want to grab a bite to eat?" he asked her.
"I never eat," she said.
I was hungry, but once my mother took a position, she never wavered from it. We went home, where I ate tuna out of a can while she wrote a poem using the rhythms of the gamelan, about shadow puppets and the gods of chance.
© 1999 by Janet Fitch. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Little,Brown & Co.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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