by Gerry Gomez
“In Roman Mythology, Aurora, goddess of the dawn renews herself every morning and flies across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun.” – Wikipedia
Dull gray hair covered her ponderous block shaped head and upper lip. Those were the first peculiarities that dominated my awareness, not that I didn’t also notice the other hideous attributes that were tacked onto the front of that cubed cranium. Miniscule, cloudy eyes surrounded by rivulets of furrows that channeled into rivers of wrinkles then oceans of flesh that ebbed and flowed from her enormous mandible, lapping at the shores of the clavicle. Adrift in this sea of meat, a bulbous nose bobbed like a rudderless oil tanker. Her lifeboat mouth looked like it was sinking, and the red flare of her apoplectic lips could not save her.
There was more. The cube seemed to be anchored directly to massive, slumped shoulders— no neck required; and they, in turn, melded into her torso, the corpulent cylindrical core that seemed to ooze fat and flab into her stubby extremities. Most of this disarrangement was covered by an old, cotton muumuu tent; a daisy print on a yellow background, thin and faded. What was not covered was worse.
The armholes in the tent were not nearly big enough. They cut into her fat leaving inflamed red crescents, soothed only by her continual complaining and kneading. She would lift her arm to rub and there: a tangled, sweaty mass of long hair that she moved around as she stroked and adjusted. And then she would smell her fingers.
The tent was calf-length, or would have been if she were standing. But she was sitting on an old, creaky kitchen chair and her hem was pulled up above her knees. Her stumps were covered in thick, flesh colored nylons rolled to just below the knee and held in place with a knot. The intersecting mountain ranges that were her blue-green varicose veins could be seen through the nylons and were forested by swirling tufts of hair giving her legs the appearance of a topographical map. Her swollen feet were jammed into black, scuffed and suffering shoes that looked like they were several sizes too small.
The malevolence this physiognomy signified was only matched by three other things: the vile, bacterial laced sputum that was periodically retched up and deposited into the center of an already mucus saturated and filthy handkerchief that she pulled from her gray bra; the vicious, putrid, and cadaverine colitis shit gas that she emitted when she farted; and, her perverse and iniquitous hatred of others.
This vision was presented to me at the early dawn of my consciousness when I was five or six years old. My father took me for a visit, but not before he warned me to sit quietly and not interrupt their conversation. We walked in and I greeted her and took my place on the floor, a few feet from where she was sitting. She had no interest in me and quickly forget that I was there. My father poured himself a cup of coffee, pulled up a kitchen chair and sat facing her. They talked, complained mostly, about what life had handed them. Neither of them had the intelligence, insight or critical distance to reflect on their lives and take responsibility for their situation, make changes and move on. So, they were left with anger and bitterness that turned to vehement ridicule of any family member who wasn’t in the room. That was their amusement, their respite, and it seemed to give them something to bond around and relieved them, at least momentarily, from their worthless lives.
My father complained about my mother and there he found a kindred connection. She hated my mother. She thought that my mother was pretentious, not that she had that word in her vocabulary. She said that my mother thought “she was too good for the rest of the family” and that my mother’s obsession with keeping the house and kids clean was a sign of this. The conversation mostly revolved around my mother’s recent surgery, a hysterectomy. It had been months and my father was complaining about “not getting any.” I remember her response. She said that my father “wasn’t missing anything, anyway. It would be like fucking an empty shoe box.” Fucking an empty shoebox? My little brain tried to understand that, picture that even though I did not know what fucking was. I knew it was a bad word, so whatever it was must be bad. And with a shoebox. What did that mean? I filed that for later contemplation. She then went on a long, convoluted, malicious and malignant diatribe against my mother, much of which was beyond me not because of the level of discourse but rather because of her furious demeanor and the sheer insanity of it all.
And then it happened. She shifted in her exhausted chair, transferred the flyswatter she was clutching in her right hand to her left, paused, and then reached with the stubby fingers of her right hand along the side of her enormous hip and then further back to her monstrous buttock, lifted and discharged a thunderous explosion of putrescine gas that left me choking and nearly blind as my eyes, nose and throat were incinerated in this attack against humankind.
This is the earliest memory I have of my father’s mother, my grandmother. Her first name was Aurora. Never has anyone been so misnamed.
Gerry Gomez is a former contributor to Impact Visuals, a photojournalism cooperative committed to progressive political and social causes. His photo work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines including The Vietnam Investment Review, Vietnam Airlines Magazine, Birdlife International and Mature Outlook Magazine. He is currently a portrait and documentary photographer living in Santa Barbara, California, and taking writing courses at Santa Barbara City College.