“Tell me about your mother.”
My relationship with my mother is an interesting one in the fact that it doesn’t really exist. And for everything one would assume couldn’t be said about the estrangement, there’s actually more than I like to admit. People are always saying I look exactly like her, and I never know what to do with that because they say it as if our comparable appearance is enough to constitute a relationship, or worse, as if I should somehow feel privileged. I guess it’s supposed to be a compliment; what girl wouldn’t want to be compared to her beautiful mother? I however find that looking at my mother is a little like looking at a reflection that moves when you do not. Rather than having some deep rooted knowledge that allows us to know the other’s movements, there is an empty abyss leaving us completely disconnected. I realize that at some point I dwelled within her, everywhere she went and consuming every corner of her mind. Breathing her air and existing within her existence. But on that fateful day we were to separate she let go of me completely. A division that left a cavern somewhere in the center of my chest.
I prefer not to use all the ugly words that describe it for what it really was, (selfish abandonment, thoughtlessness, irresponsible, etc) and go with the, “Oh, she’s not really around anymore because that’s how I began to explain it to myself over the years. When asked about her whereabouts, I would simply give a casual shrug and nonchalantly say, “Oh, her? Yeah, she’s not really around anymore.” Because that was the truth, and if I could manage to croak it out without feeling my eyes well up and my chest constrict then I could make believe that I was winning at this cruel game in which my mother held all the pieces and I was simply moving aimlessly across the board.
She would always promise to come and see me, and there were times that she did. I can recall many trips to the mall to lure into a drunken illusion of love colored with pretty sweaters and shiny necklaces, the food court a feast fit for a princess, and the cluster of shopping bags fisted in my hands a boast of my mother’s affection for me. The best part always came later when I was complimented on my new things and I could proudly say that they had been gifts from my mother.
By the time she graduated to giving her excuses over the phone, I could barely hear her, the sound of my pulse nearly deafening in my own head. Still, I found it easier to accept through an earpiece because I could twist the phone cord around my fingers and the tight knots robbing my veins of proper circulation made all her words fall onto my numb fingers as opposed to my hot, hot heart.
I would sit very still with my hands folded perfectly in my lap, patiently listening to her miserable excuses, telling myself that it was only an accident, a cruel mix-up of fate, a simple miscommunication on my part, because she could never mean to hurt me. She would always apologize over and over again, kissing my cheeks and squeezing my hands, making it so hard to believe that she was the same woman who could let me down so many times. Funny, how she would sit at my feet trying to explain away her sins, and I would accept them all as if I were the mother, giving out second chances from a heart that could no longer afford them.