At my father’s I slept in Chinese silk pajamas and at my mother’s I alternated between two of her old baggy shirts. One was a loose brown shirt, nearly knee-length, with a doodle of a happy woman on it and the words above her reading “Man cannot live on chocolate alone,” and below, “but woman can.” The chocolate shirt was easily my favorite because it justified eating chocolate. Not that I needed much of an excuse; my mother encouraged splitting half a bar of dark chocolate with almonds after dinner and on more than one occasion she would look away as I made myself a chocolate milkshake with breakfast. “It has milk and calcium in it,” I’d say, scooping more ice cream into the blender. The second shirt had an illustration of a duck wearing green tweed and smoking a cigarette with the phrase “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” spelled in smoke. The shirt itself and the image of the smoking duck is what returns to me like a sober guardian angel when I am restless or unable to sleep. Get your bloody act together, the duck says to me in a highfalutin British accent, blowing a cloud of smoke in my face as I stuff a third bonbon in my mouth. You don’t need chocolate or a man. So what do I need? Then the duck, in my under or overslept mind, transforms into my mother, smoking her fifteenth cigarette of the day, placing before me a breaded piece of poultry, asking “Do you want me to cut into little pieces?” And as she does I try to spell my name in ketchup on the side of my plate but at the end it just looks like a stick figure of a fat man, blubby, bloody, both happy and alone.
(leon de smet) (edward burra)