On her mother’s beauty:

“She was graced with bright red hair, a golden tone of red I’ve seen only a handful of times. As a child, I never tugged on the wrong coat sleeve in the grocery store, I never wandered away and got lost; I just kept that bright red hair in sight. Now, on those rare occasions when I see a woman with that hair, my mouth goes dry. I stare and keep on staring, and my hands feel empty, and I hope she doesn’t notice.”

On her mother’s job hand-stitching shoes:

“As the years passed, Mom’s work at the Shop would remain our steadiest constant, the only thing we could really count on besides each other. All through my childhood, the smell of the Shop marked her return home at the end of the day, a sharp smell of leather and glue and dust buried in her hair and in the dye-smudged medical tape wrapped protectively around her fingers. I’d hug her when she came in – the clock reset, the day renewed – and the smell would drift around to envelop me.”

On her father:

“Tom Perry had the thickest, shiniest black hair Crystal had ever seen. He was a little older – eighteen to her fifteen – with a wide, open face and small eyes that crinkled at the corners. He had friendly round cheeks and the muscular shoulders of a man who reaches under car hoods all day. She could smell motor oil on him, just faintly, a sweet, inviting smell, the smell of a man who took care of things, who could fix what was broken. He looked only at her when he spoke, nothing else competing for his attention.”

On her mother’s heartbreak:

“Once, a boyfriend left Mom suddenly, on the Fourth of July. He woke up at our place, went home to pick up some things before meeting her at a friend’s barbeque, and never showed up. A couple of weeks later, we drove to his house. I sat in the car while she went inside. After about a half an hour, she returned, throwing herself into the seat, her right hand wrapped in a paper towel. It had little flowers printed on it and blood was soaking through, a dark, fast-spreading bloom. Many years later, I learned that she had slammed her fist into a window in a rage and broken through. But if I saw her explode that day, I don’t remember. Instead I remember her mouth in a taut line, and her left hand palm-flat on the steering wheel, carving a smooth arc as she backed us up the steep driveway and onto the road in one perfect, sweeping motion.”

On the search for her mother’s killer:

“The police told me it was very important that I not share the details of what I had witnessed with anyone but them and other officials, because there were things that only the killer and I could know. We had to ensure that if someone other than me revealed any of that information, it would be incriminating. So the killer and I were bound by the dark connection that only the police could see. I didn’t discuss the events of that night with anyone in the family, and no one asked me questions. I couldn’t figure out if they were trying to avoid upsetting me or if they couldn’t handle hearing my answers.”

On finding a photo of the murder scene:

“My hand turns it over before I can stop. I watch this hand move of its own accord, and as the photo flips, I think, I can take it. It will be fine. But it’s the worst one, a horrifying picture of my mother’s body. A close-up. And I am instantly angry at myself. I am tired of this impulse to wound myself so that I can prove that I’ll heal.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: