Saturday, January 05, 2013
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Tara Roberts gave me this prompt: "Like it never even happened." I gave Melissa this prompt: "So much of how we live consists of making meaning out of a bewildering jumble of images, of attempting to move as seamlessly as we can from one stage of life to the next." -Nick Hornby
"Do you want to stay in the car?," my mother said. Ever since I had told her, her features had been covered with this mask. No matter what she said or did, I could see the disappointment etched there, as clear as the nose she had passed on to me alongside my pasty features and large thighs. She denied it, tried to pass it off as no big deal, but the more I looked at her, the more I saw it. Something had happened, I had incurred a debt I could never pay back.
"Sure," I said. She turned the key long enough to roll down the passenger side window and then got out. The air was warm, slightly humid but with a gentle breeze. It felt pleasant, the reality of the outside air flooding in to replace the artificial cool of the air conditioning. I was actually chilly as we drove, but I didn't feel entitled to complain.
She disappeared from beside the window without another word. I could hear her shoes tap as she walked, echoing weirdly as she got farther from me. It was nice to finally be alone. Mom had picked me up in school, and since then she had been disturbingly close, hovering like I was a toddler again.
I understood why- she had always given me my space, understanding that I need privacy at times, which I appreciated. Since I had told her, there was none of that. She would open my door when I had closed it, quiz me about every phone call, and insist I account for every moment. I wasn't sure I would trust me, either, but it was stifling. It felt like I couldn't breathe without her there, silent, judging, watching.
I saw a girl and a guy walking by in front of the car. She was long and shapely, tossing long black hair away from her face as she laughed. He had tattoos on his shoulder and looked rough and a little mean. I could catch fragments of what they were saying, but I couldn't pick up the words. They seemed happy with each other, walking close enough that they seemed to be a couple. Or they wanted to be.
I watched her listen as he mumbled something only she could hear, and then she laughed again, too loud this time. I knew that laugh. It was a love me laugh, a pay attention to me laugh, a don't you think I'm so charming laugh. It was a laugh of want, a flirtatious laugh. "No," I wanted to yell to her. "Don't listen to him! It's all lies!"
I didn't know that. i didn't know him, and I didn't know her. He could be a sweet, gentle guy despite the scowl. He could be her cousin from out of town, or her brother's best friend. As many books as I read, as many things as I tried to understand, I had to remind myself that I didn't know everything. My experience wasn't universal, even though it felt that way to me.
My phone buzzed, and I took it out of my purse and looked at it. It was him. I stared at his name, the four simple letters. I didn't put a picture there, even though my phone lets you do that. The more I looked at him, the less I wanted to say no. And right now, although it's far too late to do any good, I'm going to learn to start saying no. His face was kind, thin and soft with a tiny cleft in his chin, and his eyes entranced me. I was pleased that he wanted to call, to check on me, but the thought of actually talking to him revolted me slightly.
He was sweet, but when I told him, it was like he was paralyzed. He seemed to have no feelings at all, just saying "OK," and "I agree", and "whatever you want". Which you would think would be fine, except you wanted some feeling. Some emotion, some fire, some energy of some sort that seemed appropriate for the event. Something had happened, and now it was over, and I felt strongly that it should be commemorated with something important. But nobody talked about it. But he, even he, the only other person who could possibly understand, he didn't give me that. He just kept saying, "OK."
It wasn't OK. I was glad he wasn't opposing me on this. But it wasn't OK.
My mother got back into the car, handing me a paper bag, stapled at the top.
"All the instructions are inside. Do you remember what the doctor said?"
"Yes," I said softly.
"Good," my mother said, sliding her bare foot out of her shoe and onto the brake pedal as she started the engine. "Are you in any pain?"
"Some," I said. It wasn't that bad, just sort of a gnawing discomfort. I knew to expect it, and it certainly wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't anything I had never experienced before. "Not that bad."
"OK," she said. "Pretty soon this will all be over, honey, and it will be like it never happened."
No, I thought. No it won't.