Such a simple request but one loaded with implication by the offer. The kindest offering ever handed to her. Maria saw no reason not to accept. Yet, every reason to say no hung foremost in her mind. To answer, she simply sat down at the kitchen table. The cold cut through her pajamas, but she did not shiver. She’d learned the pointlessness of freezing too long ago to act affected. Maria knew life too well. The glass, filled a few fingers, came to rest in front of her.
"Do you remember your Uncle? I think you do. You should. He spent enough fucking time here: drunk on the couch, ranting down the halls, giving more gifts than he could afford. I remember how, when he was a kid, he would climb trees. You might do the same if this city had any fucking oaks worth noticing."
Maria knew her uncle. Most people knew her uncle. He was closer to being an urban legend than a man. Who didn’t know about the time he shot the mayor for not shaking his hand?
"No one ever gave him a break. He had twitches. There’s no denying that. I saw him. Gave him a slap for it too. But only because I thought it would figure things out. Make him solid. Ya know. We do the same in this house. You‘ll understand."
Maria wondered about her uncle. She knew about him, though she never felt she knew him. Her family always made sure she kept her distance. Part of her felt it was because the two of them were so much alike, while another portion tried to believe it was because his problems were never meant to affect the family. Her father often mumbled about him when he drank. He often drank because of his brother. Though Mama sometimes whispered that Pop’s concerns were very different from what people assumed. Maria knew better than to listen to rumors. She saw the truth day by day.
"You ‘member the fourth ‘o’ june? He thought it was independence. We, he and me, sat up all night lighting fire crackers and downing bottles. Your old uncle knew how to bring out the best in me. I wish I‘da known how to bring the best in him. Gimme a kiss... Thank you. You’re a sweet heart. Never mind what your mother tells you."
There were days the sun wouldn’t shine, and the other kids at school would complain. Maria felt alone when they did. She never whined like them because she didn’t notice the difference.
"One day you‘ll get a better picture. The focusing isn‘t right with the lens. You know? You know. Tell me you love me. I want to know you do… Thanks for the little. Finish your drink."
Tomorrow was Maria’s eleventh birthday. It was also her uncle’s memorial service. She couldn’t say which she would remember more, although the sight of her uncle, a shotgun dividing his skull, seemed like it should take precedent. However, something in her said it wasn’t worth mucking up her life.
Maria finished her drink rather than consider the next portion.