Mother was always the face I would draw on angels. She was better than the stick thin models that animated pages. She taught me how to eat my eggs and mother always had a sense of wit, crafted from endless puns, that seemed to outshine Jim Carrey. Most of all, she was always there to walk us across the street and to cook ridiculous portions of food even when my siblings and I weren't hungry. But once I grew out of playing with Barbies, bread that "loafed" around wasn't as clever. And mother's small portions of food wasn't some kind of Nazi diet, but a plaguing affliction that exposed the concealed little voice that insisted her 98 pounds were much too fat-obese. More often than not, her anger spewed over and smothered her maternal instincts (however, that one can be chalked up to the many hollow bottles of cheap and demoralizing vodka). And mother's absence wasn't because she was getting groceries either. About three days a week, she left our little household to tend to "friends" who only seemed to feed her self-inflicted illnesses and gorge her with delusional ideas about how a mother should act or how a woman should look. Mother didn't know, nor did my siblings really, how crippled her self-image was becoming and how her internal decadence began to strangle not only her common sense but her daughter's mentality as well.
Late again. The fifteen minutes were probably nothing to her, but I could feel the wave of heat welling up in my face. The annoyance stuck to the walls of my mind, even after I watched her pull up to the parking lot.
In the car, frustration flooded the confinements of my mind and I unleashed a maelstrom of anger. But mother never really had a bolted down tongue either. No one was right. It was just senseless arguing. After we had finished exchanging insults and expelling our anger, silence fell upon us and permeated the car. We sat and soaked up the stillness.
All that penetrated the scene was the weak illumination of the car light that exposed the spider veins that so elegantly traced mother's boney fingers and her exhausted body. She had never really eaten much. Stupid boney woman. Even when I was a child she refrained from indulging in food with us and constantly made comments about her weight.
"Look at how fat my shadow is!"
"Mom, my shadow is the same size as yours. You're being ridiculous." I repeated the same tune every time my mother caught a glance of her silhouette or a faint tracing of her faithful shadow.
"Yes, but you're taller." What a delusional woman.
"Mom, for God's sake! You weigh less than your daughter! It's disgusting how skinny you are now!" After ten or so rehearsals, this sympathetic act loses most of its sympathy. I gradually learned to usually ignore her comments, but my sister was never tolerant enough to dismiss mother's false assumptions of her body. If my sister really got frustrated from the heat of mother's painted ignorance, then sometimes, our little household would resonate with the prominent tone that held an unyielding truth, "You need a damn psychiatrist!" Of course, sometimes the rigidness in her voice would relent, in half-hearted jokes, "She's crazy, Boogie" or "It's kinda' like arguing with a twelve year old", which was meant to alleviate my crying. But it never stifled the hiccups.
Then the hiccups mercilessly struck again and interrupted the oldies tune penetrating the veil of silence that enveloped the car. My mother took a quick glance at the sad little hiccupping creature in the passenger seat and then shoved her attention in another direction. And although her seeming cruelty fueled the embers that burned my tear ducts and inflated the baseball-sized lump in my throat, this had happened before.
"Mom where are you going?" My brother could see she was getting ready to leave again.
"I'm just going to hang with some friends."
"When will you be back?"
"Later." She never gave a specific time, and when she did, she was always late.
"Mom, can't you please stay home? Please? You never listen to us when we want you home, but I'm asking you this time. Please? I really want you home." I sat in silence, a mere spectator, still too young to appeal to my mother.
"I'll be back later."
"Mom, I'm asking you to stay home this time! Does it really mean so much to you to go out that you're okay with leaving me like this?!" His face began to twist now. It was sickening to watch my brother's lips coil into a mouth mangled with anguish and to hear the quiet sniffles develop into whimpers. His sniffles invaded the atmosphere my mother's silence had invited. Then the cry of the twisting metal doorknob ignored his petition, and the slam of the front door mocked his vulnerability. This was the first time she left us, knowing we wanted her to stay.
As I looked through the fogged windshield, I couldn't smother the anger that the memory had brought me. She had to have realized how much she hurt us when we would plead, "Mom can you please stay home tonight?" She had to have known that her weight was sickly, and she had to have known that she had become a diseased alcoholic when my siblings and I would present her half-empty bottles of vodka we had found stowed away. She wasn't oblivious.
My thoughts were governed by anger, but the hiccups resonated in the car, and I felt shame wash over me - over the creature that couldn't hold her tears for the sake of creating a hard mask in front of their opponent, in front of mother. But as I glanced towards mother, surprise struck me instead of embarrassment. Mother looked sad. The reflection off her glasses defended her eyes, but her mouth betrayed her, as it mimicked a lonely crescent moon, with arms beckoning to the south.
She was not a stupid or mean woman anymore. Mother was just a girl who didn't know how to repent without flushing or how to deal with chagrin that governed her conscience. Alcohol was an escape towards a blurry world free of insecurities, and her friends were just affirmations for her delusional ideas.
Mother was oblivious.
She was unaware that her own critical eye was corroding her self-respect and marring her mentality. But I wouldn't allow this derelict to collapse upon me or itself. It isn't easy to find where to mend an old pipe or where to patch the roof of a decaying house, but it could be renewed.
I could help mother. Help her recognize beauties she had obscured with insecurities. Mother needed a guardian, not a child who would fall apart with her or hiccup every time they were abandoned. This time, I will hold her small hand and teach her not how to eat her eggs and rice, but to embrace her imperfections as I guide her across the cross traffic of the street, through her insecurities and flaws, towards the side promising recovery and redemption.