April 25th, 2020

Words by Margaret O'Connell · Art by Maya Perry

A single mother, her infatuation with her daughter's ex-piano teacher, and the desire to be touched

One day your daughter tells you she quit piano lessons. She says she doesn’t like piano, and she’s no good at it. She says it’s not worth the money. You feel like you just got locked out of your house. 

The man who taught your daughter piano has a weird, stuttery laugh and a soft, asymmetrical physique like a melting popsicle. He’s the kind of man who makes you wish you smoked. If you had a gullet it would blaze red for him. 

At work you’re used to passing time by imagining yourself nosing around his body like a dog sniffing the ground for a place to shit. You like to wonder if he gets pimples on his back. You want to know what his breath tastes like in the morning. You feel foolish for wanting to be in the space between the floor and his foot. 

Your daughter’s at the stage in her life where she doesn’t want to touch you. You understand, but all you want is to play with someone’s hair. Sometimes you heat wet paper towels in the microwave and put them on your neck. You ask the neighbors for butter even when you don’t need any. 

At night you’re used to sitting by the kitchen window and eating cherries from a plastic bowl, spitting the pits into the neighbors’ yard. You like wondering if the piano teacher notices your shoes. You always notice his: brown oxfords with purple striped socks. 

That night, when your daughter goes to bed, you run the shower and sit on your hands until they go numb. You place them on your knees until the feeling comes back. You walk to the fridge to get cherries, but all that’s inside is rows upon rows of butter. 

Margaret O'Connell lives in Illinois next to a Kentucky coffeetree. She tweets @margo_go_go_.

Maya Perry is an artist/musician living and working in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Her work revolves around her sensitivity to the psychology of trauma and post-trauma as the foundation of her artistic practice. Her main focus is drawing, experimental animation and installation.