Sometimes I try to remember the apartment I used to live in.
It was on the second floor.
I walk through it in my mind,
holding onto the layout because somehow
it seems important that I never forget.
At the top of the concrete stairs is a big door
with a metal knocker on the front
that I used to clack against the door
over and over
until Momma said I had to stop.
Inside is the living room, with the two sofas
and the squashed brown pillows
that Momma taught me how to fluff.
There is the box TV where I watched
Beauty and the Best every day for months,
wearing my pink Power Rangers costume.
And over here is the door to the patio,
where Momma helped me and Ellie make corn husk dolls.
They looked so pretty, wrapped in her arms,
with their closed eyes and their corn husk dresses.
Turn left into the dining room,
with the round wooden table.
I used to hide under that table, and my knees
would get carpet burn from crawling in and out too fast.
The cat scratched me under there once.
He didn’t like when I pet his tummy,
but it was so soft.
Turn left again into the kitchen.
It’s a narrow strip of a room
with a wallpaper that Momma hated:
a cream background with fruits on it.
In the kitchen is the pantry,
where I used to sneak in
and grab a handful of the Hershey’s kisses.
I would hide them in my pocket
and eat them all day long.
I always thought I was clever,
but I think Momma knew.
Run back to the living room and straight through.
At the end of the hallway, turn left.
Momma and Daddy’s room.
There is the Big Bed, right in the middle.
On Saturday mornings me and Evan
would climb out of our beds,
help Timothy out of his crib, and all
together crawl under the blankets with Momma and Daddy.
One time, Momma mumbled, mostly asleep,
that I couldn’t get in her bed
until the clock said five zero zero.
I remember the red flashing numbers read: 4:13.
I stood there, beside the bed, sometimes spinning in circles,
sometimes watching through the window
as the sky’s midnight blue went away.
I waited until the clock said five zero one.
I didn’t want her to think I was impatient.
Back through the hallway and into our bedroom,
the room I know best.
Against one wall is the crib.
That’s where me and Aubrey crawled under
when Daddy burned the popcorn
at my first ever sleepover.
We were in our princess dresses, but when smoke
started filling the house and Momma told us to duck beneath it,
we became firefighters.
To the left of the door are the bunk beds.
I always got the top because
I’m the oldest and Evan might fall out.
One night, I was reading about Felicity, an American Girl.
She was reunited with her lost pony, Penny, and suddenly
the words on the page were making me cry.
Daddy walked in to turn off the lights and he saw my tears.
I was embarrassed
but he did not laugh at me.
He kissed my forehead and told me it was okay.
And another day, he climbed up onto the top bunk and sat with me.
Our backs were leaned against the wall.
My arm was stretched up, and my fingers were tracing the bumpy
texture of the ceiling. I did that when I needed
something to do with my hands.
He told me about his Momma.
The grandma I had never met.
I had never seen him cry before, but now, as
he took off his glasses to wipe away tears,
I was scared,
because I thought nothing could be bad enough to make Daddy cry.