My mother hates my best friend’s mother with a wicked vitriolic obsession, so our play dates always end with my dad picking me up in the station wagon, honking the horn and waving his hand at the woman who brought genital herpes into our family. Thanks Mrs. Wilson, I say. Mom never lets me invite her--my friend: Heather, to our house--and she never actually says genital herpes, but one night I crawled down the staircase like a spider and that’s what she was singing to Dad while drinking Bloody Mary’s at midnight.
“Herpes, herpes, herpes, mi casa es su casa Fernanda Wilson.”
As it turns out Mom had to have the gynecologist freeze those lesions off of her vagina. She never told me this, but when I was home from school on a snow day playing Tetris I read the clinical laboratory tests and put the pieces together. I’m eleven: so I’m smart enough to figure it out. Mom thinks she’s being discrete when she drinks Cabernet Sauvignon at dinner and brings up the issue with Dad, often interrupting me in mid-sentence after I start talking about Heather and fifth grade.
“That third world witch has cast her spell upon this family for sure.”
Dad’s expression says that he cheated on Mom one Easter when I was seven. I also read this in Mom’s diary that snow day. There was a golden hair dyed like Mom used to have folded over the front page between the withered wine-stained cover and the upper right-hand corner dated 9/7/04. I carefully removed the hair and held it in my hand, reading my Mom’s innermost secrets: Moved into new neighborhood today. Already met nice people. Suzie has a new friend in second grade named Heather. Never met her, though she talks about her every day.
I read the first quarter of the diary, lying on Mom’s bed for hours holding my bladder and the hair growing greasy in my hand in the sweat that rose from the candidness of Mom’s honesty. 4/26/09: Kyle finally admitted he fucked her today. Going to the doctor tomorrow to make sure he didn’t bring me any diseases. Son of a bitch. Guess my vibrator will need more batteries soon.
I nearly pissed myself and put that hair back into place just perfect as a car pulled into the driveway through the slush puddles, crunching against the frozen snow like footsteps in a forest you’ve never known the depth of until you’ve read your mother’s diary. She hates the woman because of the warts. She can feel the woman when she feels the warts. No lasers or cryogenic process can take away the visceral viral sensations of the hated presence of Heather’s mother. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Now I have it. I think of it all the time when I’m in Heather’s kitchen watching her mother bake chocolate chip cookies with butterscotch sprinkles.
I don’t know much about sex or symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, though I’m a smart girl whose only fault is my desire to make loud farts like boys and not say, “Excuse me.” After class I ask my sex-ed lesbian gym teacher about transferring genital warts to children.
“It’s possible but only if the mother has the warts before the child is born, apparently the child must be exposed to the virus. You should talk to your mother about this Suzie.”
All I know about sex is that one night at a super bowl party at Mark Weiner’s house while playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark, me and Sam Johnson kept hiding in the same spot--in the back of this enormous walk-in closet, hugging, his erection growing, warming against my cashmere sweater, pumping blood in the darkness. We did this at least a dozen times, sweating into my sweater; I had seldom felt better in my life. But Sam Johnson moved to a different state that spring and I never saw him again.
Mom bought a new diary after the spine fell off the other one. She’s older now with back problems and genital warts have become nothing more than a sore she will never forget. Next snow day, I’m going to go read her new diary. Her thoughts never go away, blotting the pages with red ink, I think she’ll have the urge to write forever. Spilling ink like blood, it’s become a part of her, a sickness; she’ll have it for the rest of her life, like herpes.