I lugged my feet up the three concrete steps leading to our ever-open front door. South Florida heat and no air-conditioning means there’s never a closed window or door in the house. Before I’d even stepped across the threshold, the backpack that had been weighing down my right shoulder for the last mile thudded onto the chair inside.
“Don’t leave that there, it belongs in your room,” my mom directed without looking up from her painting. It was a mango in a bowl being held by a woman with dark blue circles under her eyes. I turned to my brother who had come in after me and pointed to her canvas. He just shook his head and turned down the hallway towards his room. These paintings, the ones with the woman with the dark eye circles, were in nearly every room of the house. There was one of her at the beach propped up behind the kitchen sink. There was one of just her face hanging above my mom’s dresser where a mirror used to be. There was one of her picking leaves from a tree sitting on the floor behind the couch; it was mostly hidden with just the woman’s hand reaching up into the branches peeking out. Mom has been meaning to put that one up she says. By my count, this new project was number seven.
“You know you’re painting yourself, right?” I would say she pretended not to notice me talking to her but really, I think she hadn’t noticed. I grabbed my backpack by the strap and pulled it from the chair, letting it thump to the floor. My arm hung down, dragging the bag as I began down the short hall to my bedroom. The fabric bottom got stuck on a nail poking out from the baseboard so I tugged for a moment, trying to free it. It wouldn’t come loose. I let go of the strap and continued on, leaving the sack full of notebooks, papers, and my biology text where it lay.