Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My neighbor Lucinda

"Can you shave my legs for me?"

Lucinda was six or seven months pregnant.  The hairs on her legs looked fully grown, about a half-inch long, longer than most women ever want to display.  My roommate and I were harboring her while her boyfriend cooled off in their apartment and occasionally out back, the red dot of his cigarette fading in and out.

"I can't reach them," she said.

She was nineteen.  She had a round face and large brown eyes.  She had once left us a note asking us to knock on their door when the cable guy came by.  The note had had both K's in knock, but not the C.

I got a fresh razor, a towel, and some shaving cream from the bathroom and a bowl of water from the kitchen.  She lay on the faded area rug that spanned our living room, her pants rolled up to her knees.  At first I forgot how shaving worked.  Then I started applying shaving cream thinking of her legs as my own.

Lucinda's boyfriend had charged our door after she ran down the stairs looking for help.  I cracked the door open and saw his face loose with anger.  He put his manners on when he saw me.  I told him Lucinda would be staying with us for a while.  He went away.

Now she lay on her back talking to me.  There was some trouble with the baby.  She was too stressed out, she said; the baby wasn't growing like it should.  And she wanted her GED.  They were living on welfare.  Her boyfriend's learning disability had rendered him illiterate.

"I can help you with your GED," I said.

"Just the bottom of them," she said.  "Just shave the bottom.  You don't have to go above my knees."

The next day, Lucinda went upstairs to get her stuff and came back down with a bulging trash bag.  She guided me down long Iowa roads, farther out into nowhere, until we arrived at her boyfriend's aunt's house.  The living room was riddled with Americana.  Bald eagles were a favorite.  Our goodbye was a wave.

She called me a few days later asking me to bring her back.  She gave me a time I was supposed to be there.  I overslept.  When I got to the house, the aunt didn't recognize me.  She told me Lucinda had left hours ago.

I remember making a U-turn on the way back, and then another, and stopping the car on the shoulder.  But I don't remember why.

Lucinda and her boyfriend moved out of the building shortly after she got back.  My roommate finished her degree and left, and I moved into another apartment for my final year of college.

It was a year later, as I was graduating, that I saw Lucinda and her boyfriend walking into the Wal-Mart as I was getting into my car.  Lucinda lagged behind her boyfriend, wearing a jacket I remembered.  Her boyfriend had his saggy pants and his baseball cap.  And there was no baby in their hands.

 = = =


Lucinda's name has been changed


  1. It's amazing how some people in our lives can come in with such an interesting story and leave such an impression.

  2. Uh. Like a hit to the gut. How sad.

  3. Powerful and Well written. I especially like how you tell this story without judgment.


  4. Oh, how very sad. It's really hard for me to understand people who won't work to get out of their circumstances. What a sad life.

    I liked your attention to detail to help me see who Lucinda was, especially the part of her note not having the "c" in knock.

  5. What a sad glimpse into the dysfunctional relationship of your neighbor. I'm sure you often wonder what happened to them. I like how you structured this with the leg shaving at the beginning.

  6. Oh, I wonder what happened! I feel for Lucinda. I hope she's happy.

  7. Your telling of this is really lovely and filled with those poignant details that make people invest and want to read more. This killed me. Beautiful and dark and real. It says so much about you that you did these small (but large) things for her, like shaving her legs. I love this.

  8. Oh man, what a big question mark. What a sad, beautiful memory!