So I’ve neglected this blog for two weeks. I wish, I really, really wish I could tell you it was because I’ve been furiously working on a new novel or that it was because I’ve been off having all sorts of romantic adventures that I will fill you in on. Sadly, neither one of those excuses presented as valid, interesting reasons is true. We started a new semester at school on Wednesday, February 6th and ever since then, I’ve been pretty much consumed by work. That coincided with a last-minute visit from my sister and her four kids, so I was swamped with family and work obligations. I haven’t written anything, haven’t been taking care of myself or my house. I’ve barely been reading. To be honest, I haven’t been doing anything to inspire my writing life or my Bohemian endeavors. I’ve been mediocre, limping through the daily rat race.
It sounds overdramatic, but that’s the only way I know to make things interesting.
Anyway, here’s a short story I wrote based on the following prompt:
“Mom, you’ve got to stop dragging me into the middle of things.”
The glass of chilled white wine was sweating in front of me. I hadn’t had a sip. I wanted to walk outside and have a cigarette, but I couldn’t leave Mom alone at the table. And she’s a smoker too, so I couldn’t go without her. She’d be pissed. I had to just sit there in nearly unbearable silence and take it.
“You’re not going to say anything?”
I blinked. “About what? About being a child of divorce at 31?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dramatic.”
I laughed even though nothing was funny. “I think taking me for lunch to tell me you and Dad are splitting up is dramatic.”
“What? You wanted me to tell you over the phone? Should I have texted you?” Mom rolled her eyes again and shifted away from me in her seat. She took a long swallow from her chilled glass.
I rubbed my eyes. “What do you want? For me to go to pieces? For me to ask why when I don’t want to know why?”
Mom still wouldn’t look at me. She wrapped her arms around herself and just sat there, breathing. I finally started drinking my wine. I took a long, slow, deliberate swallow so I wouldn’t have to say anything. I couldn’t think of anything to say anyway.
“I want you to talk to your sisters for me.”
I choked on my pinot grigio. “What?”
“Please. I can’t -”
“Mom, you’ve really gotta stop dragging me into the middle of things.”
“Yes, yes you are! That’s exactly what you’re doing! That’s what you’ve been doing my whole life!”
Mom looked like I’d slapped her. I was disappointed when she didn’t grab her face and turn away. She didn’t say anything, so I kept going. “When Cora was sleeping with Mr. Slattery, you told me to tell her that you knew and that she needed to stop because it was shameful to have a slut in the family.”
“I never said that,” she lied. Mom started blinking rapidly.
“Okay. When Timmy was hiding the empty vodka bottles in his closet and the maid found them, you sent her to me. I found the rehab, I packed his bags, but you dropped him off at the airport.”
Mom shook her head. “When I left my therapist’s office and I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so hard, I called you. I didn’t want to drive because I couldn’t see the road for all the tears in my eyes and I wanted to talk to you, to hear your voice, so I called you.” I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back in the chair, away from her. “What did you do?” She looked away, shook her head once, quickly. I asked my question again. “What did you do?”
The complete silence that followed let me know I had been talking too loud. The complete silence meant that conversation had stopped, forks had stopped moving, and that everyone was listening. I leaned closer to Mom and lowered my voice. “You didn’t answer. You never called me back.” I was speaking through a clenched jaw. I was gripping the edge of the table so hard my fingertips were white. “You need to call your daughters and you need to tell them. Your divorce from Dad has nothing to do with me.”
Mom cleared her throat. She reached up and delicately brushed the single strand of pearls hanging around her neck. “I just thought-”
“What if they ask me why, Mom? What if they have questions?”
Mom paled. She looked away from me. Her face turned red. “I guess I didn’t think at all.” She swallowed hard. “I’m sorry.”
It was the first time my mother had apologized to me for anything. Naturally, I felt inexplicably and incredibly guilty. “I’m sorry, Mom. I should-”
“No, no, you’re right,” she said.
I wasn’t sure what it meant that we rarely let each other finish our sentences.
Sheepishly, I stabbed at my salad with a fork. When I looked back up at my mother, she was crying silently.
It was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry. I watched the tears roll down her delicately powdered cheeks, leaving sparse but unmistakable inky black trails from the mascara she always applied in generous layers. Her hair was moussed, blow dried and then sprayed so it wouldn’t move, not even in a hurricane. She was wearing a smart looking pantsuit with a ribbed turtleneck, all in safe, neutral colors. And she was crying.
I didn’t say anything.