Rebirth

July 21, 2008

“I’m sick of my life. I want to get rid of it.”

This is what my mother said to me as I walked through the living room where she sat and into the kitchen to refill my empty water bottle.

Dutifully, but not before getting the water (I knew this might take a while and I was already thirsty), I went and took a seat on the new camel-colored leather couch next to her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“He burned the ribs.”

This referring to a fight she had with my father two hours earlier in which she presented a rack of baby-back ribs for him to grill, he had lost track of time checking baseball scores online upstairs while they cooked outside, and finally had come in defeated, holding a platter brimming with charred, utterly inconsumable meat. Her main contention, or what I derived it to be through her shouting, was that the ribs, bought through the home shopping channel, naturally, were very expensive and he had ruined them all. I could hear his unvoiced response: “Maybe if you bought food at the grocery store like everyone else these ribs would be cheap and you wouldn’t be going crazy right now over my little mistake.”

But he had said nothing but, “I’m sorry.” At times I thought my dad was a coward for not standing up to my mom, for expressing a logical, reasonable defense, but then I recalled the times he did. Those times had resulted, in no particular order, in a shattered hallway mirror, a broken television screen, a burning of a treasured college jersey and a near-murderous push down the stairs of husband by wife. And those are just the incidents that have happened since I moved back into my parents’ home two months ago.

“He can’t do anything right,” my mom said. “I hate him and I hate my life. I should have never married him.”

After the fight at dinner, my mom left the table, leaving me and my dad to eat the side dishes, rice pilaf and boiled corn on the cob, alone. At the time I hadn’t realized there was alcohol in her glass, but now I could smell vanilla vodka somewhere on her, not on her breath, maybe escaping from her pores, not wanting anything more to do with her, as if they realized how draining she was to be around.

“Yeah.” I didn’t say much to my mom when she talked to me. I imagined myself less of a daughter than a therapist. A therapist who just listened, hesitant to offer advice. A therapist who was a little bit afraid of the client.

“I just don’t know how I got here, you know?” she said. “Everything was fine and then it changed just like that.”

This was not true. Things had never been fine. My earliest memories are not of piñatas or plastic toy ponies or camping trips, but of my mother yelling at my father, my mother sobbing in the bathroom, my mother getting mad at me when my father wasn’t enough to satisfy her anger.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“I love you,” she said. “I know you love me.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I love you.”

But you make it hard, I thought, unbearably hard.

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