My Argentine Aunt | Patricia Cronin

Last week she was Joan Crawford. She drew dark, archy eyebrows on her forehead and wore ghoulishly white face powder. Stained white silk gloves. I screamed when she walked into the kitchen.

Today she's sporting a ninety-nine cent royal blue turban on which she's stapled plastic fruit. Bananas, grapes, a gay sprig of cherries all bear a thin layer of dust. She sways to music only she can hear. Watching her nod and bob, keep pace with an erratic rhythm, I'm trying to guess the song.

It really hurts to look at her.

She's started coming over more often since Andrew moved out. Practically deported in my living room the moment his car pulled from the driveway. Now that she's finished off the plate of butter cookies, she's moving in on the almond biscotti. I'm thinking she never liked him as much as she said.

Today it took me twenty-five minutes to choose between chamomile and earl gray. Scalding water splashed on my thigh and the sleeve of my sweatshirt caught fire. But only for a second.

Her eyes widen as I bring in the tea. Cups and saucers rattle in my hands. Seems I'm always spilling something these days.

She pats the faded sofa cushion beside her. Across her teeth, cookie crumbs stick in crusty patterns. Her smile is a study in bas-relief.

"Nobody understands you better than your old auntie. Nobody."