I remember her long fingers tapping gently on an illustration of Little Red Riding Hood.   We lay in my bed.  My ten year old head rested on her shoulder.  The sound of her voice was a certain kind of mellow.  Far away like voices through a closed door.  The smell of day old rose perfume and warm salty skin.   I tried hard to keep my eyes open.  I watched her long finger softly tap each page.  Her voice not monotone but somehow not committing to any one pitch.  Instead each syllable seeming to hang like a clean white t-shirt on a line.   Gently swaying…softly lulling.   The mood…like that kind of barely damp that warms up quickly.  Her words thick like heavy like cream.  

I miss her.  But she is here.  

Now her hands are on her hips.  She is frying onions in our kitchen on Sleepy View Lane.  I can hear her humming “Good Morning Starshine” while I do my third grade math problems at the kitchen table.  Her onion rings are the best things in the world.  Stringed then dipped in eggs and dredged in flour.  More fry then onion is what is left.  The salt clings to every hot, oiled morsel. I look down at the dark oil circle that I have just dripped on my new jeans.  Then my thought quickly skips to the long, blue stuffed animal snake that hangs on the ceiling of the toy store up the street.  Today I will cash in the change I have been stealing from the glass bowl on my dads dresser and It will be mine.  

I wish she would leave.  

In the lobby of a new Hampton Inn.  A group of soccer parents gather at night.   “Why do you still let your mom effect you?”  I talk about her when I am drunk.  It is a women with clean brunette hair.  A black sweater and well fitting jeans, “Why do you still let her bother you?”  It felt like a cold, wet sting. I recoil into my shell.  Curled up tightly in the dark.  Shame.  Another thing about adulthood I didn’t understand.  A sign along the road I must have missed.  “Really.  Just let it go.”

I want my my mom back.

This morning I could smell her before I reach the bottom of the stairs.   I can hear her dogs barking frantically…locked in her car outside.  Today I wanted to be alone.   She is listening to music on her phone.  A French women warbles an old show tune.  The sound of her voice sticks and coats the air.  I turn the corner and I see her at the kitchen table.  She has set her self up.  Made herself comfortable.  Always the same dirty way.  A mesh blue Walmart bag full of new white towels.  A green backpack full of small bottles of essential oils and boxes of detox patches.   She is wearing a Christmas sweater and a snow hat.  “Oh hi Julie,” “How was your weekend?”  “Do you mind if I take a shower?’ 

For one second I am glad she is here.

Now we are at the Holiday Spa in Springfield Mall.  We have time to kill in between when I get out of middle school and my older sister’s high school basketball practice.  The Holiday Spa was offering a two for one special and my mom says we needed to stay in shape.  I feel cool walking through the locker room that smells like chlorine and shampoo.  We are usually alone but on this day two women are standing in one of the isles of small blue lockers.  The one facing us has huge, long boobs.  I look away when she catches me staring.  We don’t change. The clothes we wore to walk around the mall are good enough.  We like to do the circuit training.  It is just us going from one station to the next guided by a women’s monotone voice coming from a speaker.  I start with a leg curl.  My mom takes a deep breath and raises her arms to grip a bar above her.  I see her staring back at herself from the mirror and I notice how beautiful she is.  

It is not her that I hate.  It is not the Schitzophrenia.  It is myself.  I hate myself.  

She is out of the shower now.  There is a growing pile of bandage wrappers on the table.  Her feet must hurt and she is wrapping them in large square detox patches that look like giant bandaids.  There is a mug of tea.  Thick like dirt.  I want her to leave.  “I just am going to finish my lunch.” 

“Okay,” I say…”of course.”  

I go to work on my computer.  

Now I am laying in bed with my mom and she is crying.  Low painful moans.  Deep. Like something that would come from the dry lips just before a trapped animal’s last breath.   I touch her back gently.  Without putting my arms around her I move my small body closer to hers.  The warm, yeasty smell of beer is thick.  Soft cigarette ash on her skin.  Something about the baby that she lost.  Deep and low.  I want to swallow her pain whole.  To smoother it.  To cut off the air to it’s lungs.  She is shaking now so I wrap my arms around her waist.  I can tell she doesn’t know I am there. We are both alone.

“Please clean up your mess mom.“ 

“I am leaving soon so get ready to go okay?” 

 I watch the words hang in the air.  They divide like unruly children and run circles around me.  My soul rearing back hard frothing at the jowls.  I feel the darkness creep up my forearms and settle like a tumor in my chest.  She stands up to gather some of her clothes.  I can see her pants have gotten too big.  I remember my grandfather’s casket.  It struck me that someone so large in my mind’s eye fit in a box that seemed so small. 

 I am ashamed. 

Now I am in the hospital after having my first child.  It is a baby girl.  My mom sits across from me…backlit by a large window.  “Just look at her”. “She has a Compton nose”.   I watch the fresh, new soul look into my mother’s eyes.  I long to see her the way she does.  

It’s  8:00 pm.   I can feel my heart beat out of my chest.  I don’t dare imagine why she is not answering her phone.   I dread the time I have to try and fall asleep imagining my mom freezing cold mumbling out loud to her dogs on a bed of dirty rags.

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