by Mae Remme
A boy on the bus half-packed with my third-grade class told me if you stand in a dark room and say Bloody Mary three times in a mirror she will appear and kill you. I held my best friend’s hand and pulled her off at my stop. We were never going to separate again—not with this monster, Bloody Mary, waiting to be beckoned from every mirror. Crying, I told my mother the terrible gist, and begged her not to prove me wrong, but she did. She stood, braver than Christ, in front of the dim mirror and repeated: Bloody Mary.
My mother always drank them in the air. I could not have conjured up a more disgusting concoction as a kid on a plane. The worst was when they’d come garnished with asparagus. Or those beans. Those pickled beans. Though, once in a while, she’d give me her Spanish olives, which I loved, and eventually I came to tolerate, even crave, those damn beans.
The morning my mother told me her sister was in the emergency room my mind wandered. It could have been anything. She was living in a motel room with my cousin, her only daughter, in St. Pete, Florida. I hadn’t seen them in years. A man followed her from a bar. He’d been breaking into places all around the area. There wasn’t much for him to take but the side table’s Bible bookmarked with my cousin’s photo. Someone from another room called it in—a ruckus. The detective said when he entered the crime scene he expected to find a dead body. Instead, he found my aunt wrapped in a white sheet in the bathtub. Hypothermia had slowed the blood flow, keeping her alive. My cousin was out that night. Later, she told me she was thankful she went to the hospital first, before returning to the motel, because when she went back to the room there was blood everywhere, soaked into the bed, streaked across the floor where her mother’s limp, raped limbs had been dragged to the bathroom and folded into the tub. Blood on the ceiling and only her to clean it up. Once at the hospital, she scrubbed caked scabs from her mother’s scalp, iced bruises from the inside out and talked of reconstructive surgery.
My aunt’s name is Mary. She told me if God was trying to teach her a lesson the only thing he taught her was that she was hard to kill. That if he was trying to call her home, he’d have to wait because there was still too much misery to celebrate in this world. What I didn’t say was that God was in his own dark bathroom, staring bulge-eyed in the mirror.