Sunday, June 4, 2006

At the "Gulf"

The gas station was the sexiest—most real—place in town. Puttering up to the “Gulf” gas sign perched above the bayou, Mamma checked her blonde hair in the rear view mirror, dabbed at her lipstick and finally exhaled. The delicate little wrists dropped into her lap (palms facing skyward) and her head— full of recipes, dry-cleaning stubs and “to-do” lists— tilted back, relaxing into the black, pleather head rest.

The air was thick with humidity but, finally, light with worry.

Mamma liked being served—she was quite good at it. Even at age 6, I enjoyed watching the men tend to her, put her at ease, buzz around the car to fill up the tank, wash the windshield, dip into the special cooler and offer us 6 ½ oz bottled Cokes. Peppery and alive—everything tasted and felt better on those afternoons. My favorite attendant at the full-service station was the owner’s son, with eyes as calm and blue as the gulf water just beyond the bayou. I learned how a man could make you feel. I learned about chivalry. I learned that a woman really could do everything on her own, but why would she want to?

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