EACH breast was like a slightly lopsided vanilla cupcake, with a cherry on top. My mother’s boyfriend (funny word for an old guy with yellow teeth and baggy corduroy pants) kept the calendar with Marilyn’s picture on it behind the folding door to his little galley kitchen. There was just one picture, with the months printed on sheets that you tore off a big pad stapled to the cardboard backing. It wasn’t exactly hidden, but it wasn’t exactly obvious either.
It was the first photograph of a nude woman that I had ever seen.
I was terrified that my friends would somehow find out my mother’s boyfriend had this calendar in his kitchen, although there was little opportunity for them to even cross his path, much less enter his apartment.
He was a tall, pear-shaped man who wore, in addition to the baggy olive-hued corduroys, a maroon beret that covered his slicked back longish hair. His soft, gray shoes I suspected were really bedroom slippers. He was supposed to be a writer but I never saw or heard him at a typewriter. His main claim to fame during his brief tenure as my mother’s man-about-town was his lamb kidney stew—which, fortunately, my mother did not force me to eat.
The visual decoration in my friends’ homes mostly consisted of mothers desperately holding onto their babies in the middle of war-torn cityscapes. Or etchings of steelworkers sweating as they tossed red-hot rivets to each other, or lovers gently kissing while lying in alpine meadows. Not, as in my home, Picasso reproductions torn out of Life magazine, or a Ruth Orkin photo of street kids playing cards carefully razored out of the catalog from The Family of Man—and certainly not a nude photograph of Miss Marilyn Monroe.
It was just that she seemed so young. Her skin was so white, like she was just newly hatched.
It was hardly skin at all.