‘Mary Jane,’ by Jessica Anya Blau: An Excerpt

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Mrs. Cone showed me around the house. I wanted to stop at every turn and examine the things that were stacked and heaped in places they didn’t belong: books teetering on a burner on the stove, a coffee cup on a shoebox in the entrance hall, a copper Buddha on the radiator, a pink blow-up pool raft in the center of the living room. I had just turned fourteen, it was 1975, and my ideas about homes, furniture, and cleanliness ran straight into me like an umbilical cord from my mother. As Mrs. Cone used her bare foot (toenails painted a glittering red) to kick aside a stack of sweaters on the steps, I felt a jolt of wonder. Did people really live like this? I suppose I knew that they did somewhere in the world. But I never expected to find a home like this in our neighborhood, Roland Park, which my mother claimed was the finest neighborhood in Baltimore.

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