I really didn’t know I was such a bad person. Really, I didn’t.
I have been keeping more to myself than I used to. It started two years ago Christmas when I was telling one of my mother’s friends about my novel I’m writing for my thesis (she asked). My mother was getting more and more testy. She doesn’t like the attention pulled away from her, I think, especially when it’s her house. That’s what I think, at least. And she wasn’t approving of the plot. Mind you, it was sounding extremely convoluted and strange. But I had just explained it to my novel writing class, and after having come through an entire semester with them, they were really excited for me. I was really excited for me. I felt I was making huge progress. Things were looking up.
But as I’m telling the plot in my mom’s living room, I’m becoming more and more conscious of her eyes on me. Her throat, the sounds coming out of it. Squeezed sounds. Small sounds. Dampening sounds. The sighs, the dismissive cut of her eyes. We both do that. Neither one of us knows how to fix our faces. My pops doesn’t, either. All the no comes right to the surface.
“Well,” grumphasses Moms, “I hope I’m never expected to buy any of your books.”
I tried to save it. I always try to save it. I’m the baby of the family; it’s my job to save it now. Now that everything’s gone to shit and everyone else has stopped trying and no one’s in the same place at the same time and everything’s pointed at me: it’s Seer’s fault now. It’s so easy for the baby to feel persecuted, and it’s so easy to blame the baby. Spilled milk and all that.
“You’ll never be expected to buy a goddamned thing,” I said. But I didn’t say it cheerful enough. There wasn’t enough laughter. Too much vinegar. And I was ashamed of myself–for being a bad writer, a bad daughter, a bad person. Look what you did.
I don’t think she remembers saying this. I don’t think she remembers any of this. My brother had a bad habit of coming over and acting like family but wanting to be waited on like a guest. Mom wants to talk like family but be talked to like a guest. And she writes people tickets for minor infractions but has no idea how big the trailer she’s towing is. She’ll swing wide and knock out telephone poles and fire hydrants and then tell you she is hurt you didn’t say something the way she wanted to hear it.
When I won the little poetry contest, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to show them to her. I’m not a masochist. I’m never showing her anything ever again. I’m writing everything under a pseudonym at this point and never telling her if I get published. It’s out of self-protection. After she said the thing about the novel? That little, tiny thing and who cares and blowing it into a huge whatever? Pole-vaulting over that mouse turd? (Yes, she had said something negative about one of the most important facets of my life right now. But it was a fairly small thing about just one thing that lives in one of those facets.) I got into a self-hatred thing and didn’t touch it for four or five months. I’m still doubting it now. I’m too sensitive still. Sometimes it doesn’t get me. But I never know when someone or something will infect me. When you hit me under one of my scales it’ll get swollen and tender for months, years. And I don’t need that bullshit. I have enough to deal with.
I am going up to see her tomorrow to run an errand for her. She’s quite capable of doing it herself. It’s hard for her right now because she’s in pain but people do more than that all the time. But I’m doing it as a peace-offering. I’m not staying longer than I have to, though (see: masochist, not a). She wants me to stay for dinner and: no.
I am really not looking forward to the upcoming surgery. It’s only a week. Only a week. The last time I nearly lost myself. I am scared. But I can do this.
I don’t know when I became this bad a person to her. Or she to me. Why do you hate me now? Why can you never be kind? I think she thinks these things, also. She thinks that I’m the asshole here.
It seems so sudden sometimes, the change in people. The car door slams and they turn and a new face, who is this? Who is this mother of mine? How do I treat you now? How do I let the stones you throw hit me, cover my face and still walk towards you?