Uncle Trip says he goes by the lunar calendar. He plants bulbs at night, and they take a long time to bloom. He will give me a nickel if I kiss the inside part of his palm. He says stay gold, girl, stay gold. What are you going to do with that nickel? It's not as much as the tooth fairy gives, but he's so excited about it. You can flatten it on the tracks he says. But wait, no, that's pennies.
Little girls know the secrets of the moon, he tells me. There's a man up there, did you know that?
The man in the moon is just a symbol, I tell him. From Victorian storybooks.
You know a lot, he says. What is a symbol?
I can't tell you, I explain. But I know it when I see it.
I used to think Uncle Trip was a teenager, but he isn't, he just lives at home with my grandparents. He has a pet tarantula, and he let me hold it once. He put it on the back of my neck. It felt like long, tiny fingers tickling. I was nervous but also excited, like the way I felt when we flew to Florida and the plane took off, and I felt a bump in the sky.
Uncle Trip has hazel eyes, exactly my color of hazel. He has hair like a doll's, like plastic hair that's been brushed so often it frizzes out. He built me a dollhouse out of shoeboxes. I really am not interested in dolls, but the house was interesting. He used Pez candies for tiles, and he put in little tiny stickers that were pictures of our family on the walls. It was very intricate. He made it for me but I'm not supposed to bring it home. It stays for visits. He asked wouldn't I like to live in that shoebox house, if nobody could find us, and we would not ever have to worry about food or feelings because we could be dolls. Dolls have a sort of immortality. We could be dolls with souls, he said.
He says, stay gold. Little girls know the secrets, little girls like things for their beauty. Like you, you like a music box because it is lovely, because you dream of being a ballerina.
Not anymore, I explain. I'm going to be a journalist or a country western singer, or a nun.
Don't give in to vanity, he says. Girls turn thirteen now and then they smell like a ladies bathroom. All pink and bloody, and artificial. They stink and then they cover up the stink.
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