My mother taught housewives how to bake, and then she died. She made angel food cake so light it disappeared in my hands, pineapple upside-down cake syrup dripping down the legs of the table where I’d hide out of sight and watch legs, legs and the motion of slim calves, ever-reducing calves. A rainbow of nude hues. Stockinged legs of powder and pearl, porcelain and parchment. Little heels, too. Little feet in little heels.
I wanted those heels. I lapped at the syrup.
My mother’s kitchen was a monument to the all-American apple pie, black and white checkerboard floors, appliances buzzing hot and loud. And all those ankles, little birds. Eaglets in training. Flying, flour-covered hands fastening the straps of their Mary Janes and leaving white dust on the ground for me to gather and stuff in my nostrils. Flour, sugar, salt. I devoured them.
It was 1955 and the town was Augusta and the women went by other names. Heloise was Helen, Giulia was Julia, and my mother was Margaret, or Marge, but never Margaux. She had moved to New England from New Brunswick a decade prior. She married a man from Maine, an Irish man named Aiden that she had met in a record store in Quebec. He had reached for a Jimmie Rodgers record and she had reached for him, reached and clung hard and flew away.
Margaux became Marge and forgot her French fast and with a purpose as she rolled out dough and filled molds with strawberries and gelatin. There were still twinges: sip was seep, water was watair. She whacked me in the ear when I imitated her. She didn’t know. How could she? She thought I was making fun of her, but I was in the process of becoming her. All I ever wanted were those smooth, pale ankles.
On her deathbed, my mother became Margaux for a brief moment of delirium, re-learned her French in death knells of hushed prayers. She never taught me the language so I don’t know what her last words were. As she died, she became herself again, and became a stranger to us. I looked at my father. It was clear that neither of us had ever really known her at all.
From then on, I tried to know her. She had the slimmest ankles of all. I put on her stockings, broke her kitten-heeled shoes with my teetering weight. I baked angel food cake, dense and dark as the nightclubs where I looked for her. In my twenties I went to college and picked up a crude, unwieldy French, not in class but in the basements of The Roxy and The Anvil where French was whispered into ears and into the grout of the bathroom floors where I was bent over, an upside-down cake with my hands on the ground, syrup flowing thick-heavy down the back of my legs. The year was 1972 and the city was New York and I was in the process of becoming.
Je m’appelle Margaux, I said. I danced on the tables at Julius in the Village.
Je m’appelle Margaux, I said to a rainbow of nude hues as I pulled my stockings back on.
Flying, ecstasy-covered hands fastening themselves to their lovers and leaving white dust on each other’s lips. Confectioners’ sugar, the floor covered in powder and sweat. I devoured them, my open palms full of sweet, sweet apple pie.
Lior Torenberg is a young Israeli-American writer living and working in New York City, eager to get her work out in the world. Her writing centers around women’s personal and psychological growth with an emphasis on sexuality and family dynamics. She has had pieces published in Boston College’s student literary journal, “Stylus”, and received the 1st Place Prize in Bridges Together’s intergenerational story competition.