Bite Down, Hard

Jillian Koopman

You meet your parents at a restaurant one night for dinner. They've driven up to your college on their way to your aunt's, a christening or something, a baptism. You don't remember. It's late, 8:30 already, and you're starving. You merely smell the alcohol and you're drunk. You're so fucking lightweight it's sickening.

Your father looks darling. He wears his hair bald in the middle now, or for the past forty years. You sometimes forget important details like this. You remember when he had the mustache, or when he didn't have the mustache. You forget, even, this detail sometimes, it's so natural to you it's like whether or not he has two eyes. But you look tonight to make sure—and yes, it's there, simple as math. Black and straight and ordinary as those two little equal sign lines.

Your mother gets more beautiful each time you see her. Older too, and somehow she still manages to pull this off. You feel ugly next to her and you're the twenty-one year old, you're the one with the tight thighs, while she is in her mid-fifties. But she is all sorts of other beauty you won't credit yourself with, can't credit yourself with, like bossing around tons of people who still love you or being able to replace parts of yourself with the lives of your children. But still, she wears her earrings, she is beautiful.

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