Did you see that? That was the third nurse to go by. They’re rubbernecking, OK? They’re not used to seeing me with family. I get more visitors than most, but they’re all a certain type, you know. Well, maybe you don’t. You’re a sweet girl, I can tell. You don’t have that look. My girls are—how can I put it? Well, so. I’m sure you’ve heard all about blue movies. You know, they’re the kind for adults…very European…not movies for nice girls.
But you already know: I was never a nice girl. I was in a blue movie once. I went by a different name then, but don’t look me up. Or my movie. You may think I’m out of touch, but I’m no fool. I know about the Google. I know all about it. And a blue movie isn’t the kind of thing you want your folks to see, not that you’d recognize me. I was pretty luscious back then. I can say that now. I modeled myself on the Sophia Loren type when everyone else was blonde.
So I was a little revolutionary, and so was my movie. It was about a housewife who was carrying on with the Fuller Brush Man while her husband was at work. One day, he came home early to find the housewife (who is me) making love with the Fuller Brush Man, right there on the couch! I know you would expect the husband to be furious, maybe even furious enough to kill the Fuller Brush Man. But this is where the twist came in. The husband found the scene exciting! The girls tell me it’s called a fetish now: cuckolding. What kind of man, I ask you. Not my Tony. Anyway, the husband watches for a while, then joins in. The girls tell me this is one of the earliest blue movies with two men and one woman. Usually, it is the other way around, because men are scared to touch each other for fear of being exposed as secret homosexuals. I hope that you know what a homosexual is. Sometimes they’re called “fairies.” Maybe they call them something else nowadays.
Anyway, I’m better known for my modeling work. I used to pose for dirty decks of cards, the occasional magazine. Now I’m a bit of a celebrity for certain types of girls. It was maybe two, three years ago they started showing up for autographs. Always on a Sunday, that’s the best day to visit. We get lots of visitors after church, people doing their duty and so on and so forth. Groups of middle school kids who can hardly stand to look at us, talking too loud like they think we’re from some other country. Snotty-nosed Boy Scouts, come in to earn the old people patch.
My visitors, though, they’re a sight. All these girls with their high heels and leopard print and red lipstick and big hair. Some of them wear those old bullet bras! It took me a while to figure out they wanted to look like me. What threw me most was the tattoos. A snake on the arm, a butterfly on the bosom, Jesus Christ on a shoulder. One of them had a tattoo of me, right over her hoo-ha! I didn’t believe her until she pulled down her pants. She didn’t have any hair down there either. Old Ernie Miller saw her, too, and you know what she did? She turned to him and did a shimmy. Here’s something you might not know: men always have that same old drive, even at death’s door. Poor Ernie, it’s a wonder he survived.
Lots of girls come to see me from that peep show up in San Francisco. The two from the union almost broke my heart. Pretty things, both of them, and smart. I don’t know why those girls danced, when they could go out and be doctors or presidents or what have you. They wanted to interview me for their newsletter, about sex positive and female empowerment. They wanted us to come from the same kind of family, you know. Survivors. The one had a father who drank, so there was that, but they were both so angry at their mothers. Maybe they wanted me for a mother. They hugged me when they left, and the one stands up and says, “Miss Carberry, you smell like bleach.”
Bleach! Can you imagine. Well, they do what they can to keep us healthy here. Those girls, though, none of them looked what you’d call healthy. You could count the ribs on most of them. The one with the tattoo of me? Her hips were like doorknobs. And she wanted to talk about the same as the rest.
When you get old, you start to notice things, like for instance how people just aren’t original. They all say the same things, over and over, like a code. It’s worse around here, of course. I’ll sit and watch the girl put cookies from a package out and the people come up and say, “Fresh from the oven, right?” “You bake those yourself?” “Fresh from the oven, huh?” “Did you bake these yourself?” It’s a wonder that girl doesn’t slap someone. The last time she put some out, I said, “Shitty cookies, huh?” She patted me on my arm and told me I was a dear old thing. “Dear old thing.” That one’s right up there with “Bless your heart.”
Let me tell you, it’s refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t ask the same old questions. You maybe want to know the thing my girls are afraid to ask me. Why I did that blue movie in the first place. I guess they don’t ask because they already know. It’s the same reason they do it: the money. Everybody’s got to make a living.
I wanted to be a maid in one of those fancy resorts in Palm Springs where all the stars stay, but I had to save up to get out of Van Nuys. Then I found a flyer on the boulevard. When I called, the man asked for my measurements and he said he could pay me $50 to take my clothes off for the camera. He gave me a nice address and I showed up the next day, and the next, and the next.
When my father found out—I’ll let you guess how—he kicked me out. So I shacked up with the photographer for a while, but not that way. He was a fairy, you know. He even introduced me to Tony, who was in the business too. Look, I’m not trying to justify anything here. I don’t regret it, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.
The only thing that matters is my Marie. I can see how that might be hard to believe, but you can’t blame someone who was called to God for not talking to the likes of me. When she was eighteen years old, she came and told me and Tony that we had to shake off Satan and walk to the feet of the Lord like little children. Tony said, “Couldn’t we just drive?” That was when she ran off to Angola with the Salvation Army.
We hired a private investigator to keep tabs, and now his son sends reports, can you believe it? Please don’t tell her that. When Tony passed, it was a big deal in some circles. I sent her a note, but she didn’t come to the funeral. So I expect she won’t come to mine, which is the kind of morbid turn this place inspires in people, let me tell you. So it was grand of you to come. And maybe you’ll be there to send me off one day. See if you can’t get your mother to pray for me, won’t you. I miss her. I love my girls, but they’re not Marie.