Maggie couldn’t tolerate her son’s behavior. Can’t do it. Not anymore. She parked her Lexus in the driveway and saw that he was home. It was the middle of the day. Noonish. She grabbed her purse but everything spilled out. A collection of things she had to gather up. Shoved them back in. She formed a plan in her head to not react no matter what she might see. What could be so bad? Him lying on the couch flipping through channels? Her thirty-year-old son? It’s just a number. Just an age. Stay calm. Say nothing.
She walked into the kitchen. A mess strewn about. Neither breakfast nor lunch. Quesadillas with salsa. The microwave door left open with the light on. Dishes everywhere. She could see him trying to make up his mind. The part of his mind that she could see. His favorite food from junior high school . The one she made him before baseball practice.
She felt trapped, bound up in a life without escape. No preparation for this turn. No course of action. She started to put the tortillas away. She seethed. This is my adult son. Adult son! Who uses that in a good way?
“Hey!” She yelled into the air. “Next time wipe up your damn mess!”
“Chill out mom,” a voice shot back. Matter of fact. As in, this is the point of it all. To not react. No matter what. To all of life’s events. To just chill. Just see all things, good or bad, without any hierarchy. All on the same field. The same plane. Judging them neither good, nor bad, neither approvingly or disapprovingly. A walking mediation all day long. Everything. All of it.
She thought about answering back. Give him a piece of her mind. But he’d never understand her mind. Her disappointment. She thought about storming into the room where the voice came from. The one filled with sports memorabilia. Signed autographs from World Series winners. Kirk Gibson and Kirby Puckett. She designed the room for him when her husband left so he’d have a special place. Feel special. It was dim with lots of red in it. Throw pillows for maximum comfort. Lazy boy chairs, and HD TV’s. A mini refrigerator.
She called her sister. She was out of her mind. She hung up. She called again but dropped her cell phone on the counter top. She picked it up and thought twice about speaking to the voice on the other end. She stared at the phone. Staring at its flat screen. The voice that said Hello… Hello…Maggie, are you there?
She knew her sister would listen but give the same old advice. Kick him out! Now! Take care of yourself! Her sister would be full of words. Words and more words. A bunch of words. Full or directional changes and shifting perspectives. Words full of action steps. Concrete and decisive. Maggie would like some of the words, but they would be full of the same type of advice. The same exasperation. I told you so. Didn’t I? I told you this would happen. Your worthless no-good son takes after his worthless no-good father. Do something!
The words would make Maggie feel ashamed and upset and fill her with self-recrimination and rage and leave her with a sense of dread. The words would leave her feeling trapped in another type of endless loop.
So Maggie walked out to the back yard. To the swing set. The one that had never been taken down. She sat on a swing. Knees together. Feet apart. Letting everything dangle as she stared at the phone. Maggie? I know you’re there.
She could always call someone else. But who? There was a woman she met at knitting. She wouldn’t call her a friend. The beginnings of a friendship, yes. She could call her. She could tell her all about her life. Her situation, but that would require a lot of backstory. Lots of words, and the words would land awkwardly because she didn’t really know this woman from her knitting group well enough to make her an instant confidant.
She rocked back and forth and lit a cigarette. She didn’t smoke. She wasn’t a smoker per se, just the occasional one now and again. The odd one. She hung up on her sister but could still hear her voice in her head with all of those words.
Then her son came outside. Probably surprised by his mom’s lack of a response to his previous command. To chill out.
Taking your advice, son.
He approached her, slowly, in his baggy shorts. In his no shirt. He didn’t say anything. He just walked out cautiously. Spaghetti western style.
They stared at each other. Maggie and her son. But without words. None at all. He didn’t know what to say, did he? Maggie stared into his eyes. He stared back. Instead of reaching for his gun he reached for her cigarette. He grabbed the cigarette from her mouth. He took a drag and said, “these things will kill you, mom.”
Maggie didn’t answer back. Her son looked lost. Lost for words. Was it possible that he saw things from her point of view? She felt that this was happening. She wanted to say something. To explain herself. Her feelings, but she but didn’t want to trample the moment with words. Her son put the cigarette back into Maggie’s mouth. Between her lips. He sat in the swing next to her. They gently rocked back and forth in unison.
Time passed. And in each passing moment Maggie felt better. She wasn’t sure why.
She kept swaying gently and she sensed that her son felt better too, but she didn’t know why either.
She just didn’t care to talk about it.
Sean lives and writes in Ojai CA.
(Next story: On the Wings of a Cormorant by LaRue Cook)
(Previous stories: Stealing, Freely & Burgers and Pies by M.J. Iuppa)
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