'City2' by Emmanuela Copal de León
City 2, Emmanuela Copal de León, 1999.


little boy lost
by Samantha Coerbell

there was a finger resting in Geenie's hand. not gross like dismembered. tiny Louie's finger. his hand was in hers. Geenie spotted him before he realised he was lost. Louie had stepped out of P.S. 84 to wait for a mommy who would not show in time.

Geenie was 24. a sculptor and Xerox copier by profession. Geenie was a talentless hack with nubby fingers. on the subway, people took her for a transvestite. there was little proof they were wrong. Geenie was excessive. neck too thick, adam's apple bulging and 5 o'clock shadow on her chin.

she spent Friday nights at 2B, an artists' space, trying to prove she was more than herself. her fingers trying to press clay into art. once, someone encouraged her creative side, long ago, so she kept at this. they were wrong. her art was a fluke. she was a Xeroxer of high order. Living in N.Y. with 2 roommates, Geenie would work regular hours until she tired of the sliding green light. then she tried to find something else else to do. someone else to be. but there was nothing. no one. waiting was silent desolation. except, despair is a noisy bird. each sound crowded her. Tania, her roommate to the right had a boyfriend who slammed her head against the wall with athletic vigour. the tomtom rhythm reminded Geenie of the without in her life. Tony, the live-in to the left, lived in a tireless hum. he and his lovers didn't do that "sex" stuff. they smoked, slurped, snorted and slipped into an abyss of numbness. Geenie totalled-to-the-tee. her body, an abandoned temple.

Geenie had been forgotten. forsaken by her gods, she struck out one afternoon to find something to do. someone to be. she sought to be absorbed. lil Louie sat atop the top step of the stairs before the school. his mommy was late. still. again. maybe this time mommy wouldn't come at all, he prayed. yes, she was the only mommy he'd had. but she didn't work. Louie was 7. a big boy. he knew mommies couldn't just be traded in like defective Nintendo cartridges. that was too bad. BCW didn't give refunds. he had called with no decent response so he had to sit, waiting on his unfortunate excuse of a mother.

it's not clear who spotted whom. Geenie might have flipped and thought to nap this kid. seeing a chance to be someone's everything. or maybe Louie saw into this woman's lonely scarf and tugged, hoping she would turn over her everything to be for him. they each saw in the other a need and an answer.

looking, as strangers do at one another, their eyes met and deflected. feigning familiarity, on cue they forged an agreement. Geenie stopped. turned to Louie. Louie picked up his lunchbox. stood. Geenie called, "let's go, little...Antoine." she could not guess at his name. Louie did not care about his name. only the call to him. he stepped, "coming, mother." mother. motheresque-being Geenie wanted to be. Louie thought she was a mommy straight out of the Village E. bohemian mama. barbecued tofu. sprouts au gratin. kale shakes and, when truly hard up, McDonald's. she did not have more. only time to give freely of dedication. Louie tired of envying other boys and their mothers. (he must have found fathers irrelevant. no one in his class had one of those at home.) now Geenie would be his mother. not play at it, like birth mother. with commitment that warranted gold watch at 25 year mark. Geenie called little Antoine and Antoine, née Louie, came.

"mommy," he said. and Geenie smiled. "You called me, mommy." Geenie lost herself in the name, turned titled, turned vocation. an avocation. love riddled his little voice, "mommy," "yes, Antoine..." "do you love me?" this was the test. instantly she saw years of wonder open. those teeth will fall soon. she thought. his hair needs cutting and in a few more months it will need to cut again. his nails. there are sizes he will need and abandon and this i have got to see. there is only one answer or he will scream, as he should have from the first. i will teach him not to talk to strangers.

Geenie pulls on a mommy demeanour, "Yes, Antoine. I love you. I will always love you." née Louie's voice shifted into a slow purr, an escaping hiss and this is what she records as his first words in his picture album. "i love you, too, mommy." never mind they were so articulate. they are new to her.

no one remembers Geenie's pregnancy or raising this, what's-his-name, Antoine. well, maybe they have ignored her too long. it does not matter anymore. Geenie is interesting now. now is all that matters. Antoine is her lovely little boy. such a nice boy. they next day Geenie carries Antoine to school. Louie's mother has not asked where he was last night. she does not ever ask. Louie's teacher stops calling him Louie. she starts calling him Antoine and doesn't even know why. there is a mysterious fire that destroys all of his birth and school records. go figure.

Antoine takes several years to grow up. Geenie has found a purpose, she takes a moment. it is odd, but they took a second and looked into each other's eyes to find what they needed in one another.

everything they needed for themselves.


Text © 1999 by Samantha Coerbell

Original Graphic, "City2," © 1999 by Emmanuela Copal de León

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