I thought my job in life was to be in the service of quasi-famous people. Keep their house calm, quiet, keep my room clean, clear the way for my mother so she could walk through the house practicing her violin, too many scales and repeating of passages and not enough music for me. I wanted to be entertained, this tiny audience of one.
I thought affairs were a necessary extension of marriage, an extra wing in the boxy house. Why would you want everything from one person? That seemed a lot to expect and I did want everything.
I thought dreams were things that, if they happened, left you empty-handed. A car at its destination, but out of gas.
I thought orgasms lasted for two days, because my father, when he explained sex to me in his study, said sex was subliminal, religious, and so I thought there was a halo effect that you carried in your pants and in your heart that lasted for the man, too.
I thought if I prayed I could keep an umbrella over my family, and if I didn’t that’s when my father would hit a boy on his bike at an intersection and break the boy’s legs, and twist the front wheel of the red bike so that it looked like a surrealist warped O.
I thought my mother played the violin like an angel, but this was not music to be shared, and it wasn’t hers either. She didn’t play, she practiced, and the music was for some other reason, not me. I never heard the end of any piece, only the beginnings and the hard passages that were always in the middle.
I thought I could have any man I wanted if I put myself in front of him and then acted the opposite of desperate, and this worked for a long time until I got pregnant by accident and had a child and he made me into a family that lived in a boxy house with no wing for cheating, but there’s a yard with trees that hold hundreds of birds singing for other birds.
“I Thought” first appeared in McSweeny’s, 2004
FEATURED IMAGE: Nina Temple ‘Leaning Forward’ (2019), Ink on cold pressed watercolor paper, 37″ x 30″.
Private Collection of Lisa Brooking
Pia Z. Ehrhardt
Pia Z. Ehrhardt is the author of FAMOUS FATHERS & OTHER STORIES and NOW WE ARE SIXTY a recent monograph with her sister, Nina Z. Temple. Her fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Oxford American, Narrative Magazine and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her flash fictions have been widely anthologized. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship and the Narrative Prize. She lives with her husband in New Orleans, LA and Queens, NY.