by Angela Kempe
Melissa stood on the lawn of the city garden as the bluesy sound of the rock band welled up through the park in a lazy summer haze. People were lounging in short folding lawn chairs, sipping cheap $7 beer out of plastic cups as the hot sun burned the delicate skin of their pale cheeks. Melissa wanted to stay and listen, but her kids were tugging at her arms. The heat had gotten to them and their patience for the fair had already run out.
“Do you want to play on the playground?” she asked.
Her daughter looked interested, but sweat was beading up on her hairline and she looked more like she needed a nap. Melissa wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Her eight-year-old son, Jerry, would do it for her.
“Let’s go!” he said, tugging at his mother’s arm. “It’s too hot!”
It was decided between the children. Her kids began pulling at her arms incessantly, leaning into their weight with all forty-some pounds of their little bodies.
Melissa stood looking longingly at the band. She remembered her dream of being a musician that had faded long ago. She felt the fat of motherhood gathering sticky sweat between her legs, reminding her that she’d never be a superstar. Melissa pressed her feet into the ground, turned away from her children, and leaned on her own weight to counter their effects.
At that moment, their small hands melted into heavy shackles and the heat formed a rippling wall between herself and her beloved. She turned towards the stage again, and suddenly she was standing in front of a mic with thousands of eager faces looking back at her. She could still feel her children pulling, straining to bring her back from this new dimension she was lost in.
She could hear the band wailing. The drummer smiled at her and nodded for her to make her entrance. His sticks played a crisp four-four. The bass was repeating that soulful melody just for her. Melissa searched for some memory of the lyrics. She took a breath. Maybe something would come to her. Maybe she could still find the song deep inside. Then, she remembered.
“Summertime…” she sang.
The mic echoed over the crowd. Her children jerked at her and her body crossed briefly back into reality. She tried to stretch her neck forward. She could still see the crowd.
“…And the living is easy.”
Her children’s sweaty hands locked themselves on her wrists. They pulled her back. She stared at them defeated. The stage was gone. All was gone, but she was beyond crying.
“Good voice,” called out someone from the crowd.
Melissa looked over at a man sitting on a lawn chair. He took another sip of beer. His face had turned red from sitting for hours in the sun. He looked at her through his sunglasses.
“Wrong song though,” he criticized and he finished off his beer.