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Iris thought about her mother while she prepared another pot of coffee for the next client and put on a gospel record. She had fuzzy memories of their time together when she a child. She could recall snatches of things. Some of them seemed more made up than others. She remembered Rosalee’s long fingers holding cigarettes tipped with red lipstick, her mother’s pinched beautiful face, and all of the men.
Iris’ mother was also in the business. She serviced way more men than Iris did. Iris thought of them as a blur of big hands, stomping boots, and the acrid sweet smell of a cigar put out and placed in a shirt pocket. The men flowed in and out of their dilapidated apartment as though they were actually connected in a flesh chain. Iris never heard her mother when the men would visit, except the very bad times when she would hear her mother would say “No, I said no, I can’t do that in front of my daughter.” Those were the times when it would be loud, rough, and the man would leave angrily. Rosalee would come out some time later, scrubbed from the shower so intently that her skin would glow bright red from the need to feel clean. In those moments she would look at Iris as though she hated her and Iris would will herself to be as small as possible, shrinking herself into her meager collection of broken toys. Iris would practice freezing her body and pretend that she was a toy; hair of yarn, body of plastic, eyes of glass. Her mother would smoke then, drink then, and Iris might or might not get fed that day.