Author: Cheri Paris Edwards
•4:47 AM
Goodnight, Aunt Tom

Aunt Tom's couch reigned majestic.
It's kingdom a small, square living room.
It's vinyl skin stuck to my legs when I
sat on it. “Don’t touch me!” the slick cushions
seemed to warn and I didn’t want to.

Mama says, “My mother and your Aunt Ida
and Aunt Tom were good with money. They
bought homes with money they earned
cleaning houses for white folks.” I knew
where Aunt Tom worked. I went along
a time or two. I remember long, bumpy
rides on the city bus to places where
houses loomed large. Deep green lawns
rolled out long, like lush carpeting for
walking on without shoes. I can't recall
the “Miss whoever or other” the work was
done for, but once there was a toy poodle
who yapped at my feet.

It was dark when we returned to
Aunt Tom's house on the corner of
Paris Avenue in Indianapolis, Indiana
with the tiny bathroom in the basement
and the small side tables crowded with
colored ceramic figurines and the
gold brocade couch covered in plastic.
“Don’t touch,” her house warned.
And, I didn’t, even when I wanted to.

Later, I grew saggy-lidded, watching
the orange tip ebb and glow like a
familiar nighttime lullaby. Nicotine dark
fingertips pressed the filter-less butt
into a glass ashtray. With a smooth rustle
she slid between white sheets stretched
taut on the twin bed next to mine.
“Good night, Cher-Cher,” she’d whisper.
I don’t remember that she touched me.

©Cheri Paris Edwards 2007