How To Talk To Your Mother
- You forget your old address.
- She cries at the door, she cries in the car, she cries when you step foot on campus. You cry too – two parts sad, one part relief. She drove like crazy and when you finally arrive, you throw up. In between lemonade and half-chewn corndogs – here, living proof that you exist.
- Hips and thighs appear, curved like silver spoons. You have your mother’s breasts. You google ‘orgasm’. You practice screaming. You plunder your mother’s books – not the ones on the main shelf, but the ones under her bed. They are all about sailors and firemen. It doesn’t do anything for you.
- The boy markets the slash on his neck as a hickey. People taunt and ask prying questions. Mother looks pleased and another queer expression that you have never seen before. You go away to Florida to Father and you remember that forgetting is the human condition.
- A boy asks you out on a date. Immediately, you are suspicious – you start wearing thongs. He takes you to sushi, to ice cream, to his car. He takes you in and you take him out. Apologize. He looks as angry as the red mark on his neck. Apologize.
- All adults have a rulebook they will pass along to you when you become one of them. Many encyclopedias with chapters like Don’t Spit Your Food and How to Write a Check are in them, along with How to Make Small Talk with Relatives and Where, Exactly, You Get Hair.
- In Sunday School, you learn how to shrink yourself. They teach you how to Sit Proper, Don’t Slouch. The next day you steal your mother’s heels. You pretend to be interested in them. She pretends to be angry about it.
- On your way to track practice, your mother says she doesn’t believe in bisexuality, and suddenly, you can’t see your hands. You feel like the Tooth Fairy, aliens, Santa Claus. Your mother puts the car into neutral.
- Your mother pushes you to attend Sunday School, to join youth chorus, to get confirmed. She makes plans and you sit and watch as she mulls about like an ant, stirring herself into a frenzy. Sometimes in the pews she asks you to speak to God out loud and sing along His praise with everybody else, but you are too afraid he will answer.
- You and your mother move to a richer neighborhood, one where the grass always smells like chemicals and there is a better church.
- You ask her if she ever had dreams. She tells you, with excitement, about becoming an art teacher. When you ask her why she didn’t become one, she said it was because she needed her kids to grow up with money, because money opens doors. You count the number of doors in your house – twelve. Most of them are always closed.
- To the neighbors, your mother says your father is away on business.
- You are complaining about the laundry. You are folding your corduroy shirts and every fold is coming out wrong. Your mother tells you that her father used to drive down in his tow-truck, make her stand and sell two-dollar socks in the hot Philadelphia sun. If she sold more than four pairs it was a good day.
- You lose a tooth. Excited, you put it under your pillow, and stay up all night, waiting for the tooth fairy. When she arrives, you are in that floaty space between awake and dreaming – you grab her hand. Her nails are sharp and lacquered.
- Church school is stupid and boring. You get all Ds on your report card – they will never fail you because your father is a priest there. For the first time in your life, you are no longer part of the background – you are a threat, a problem for the family. You are yelled at, shook. This is the first time you feel like God hates you.
- All adults have a rulebook they will pass along to you when you become one of them. An encyclopedia with chapters like How to Get Rid of the Monsters and What, Exactly, The Parents Are Doing When They Lock the Door.
- Your mom is teaching you how to ride a tricycle. You are shaking but she holds you, tells you that she will help you down this hill, tells you she will not let go. This is the first time she lies to you.
- Your father gives you wordless pushes on the swing. Your parents kiss over candlelight at dinner, but when they laugh over coffee at breakfast, you think you saw love. They feed you mashed peas.
- You are Not a Mistake! But a Happy Accident.
0. You are the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.
Amanda Prager is a 2014 Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as a winner in the Luna Kaufman Short Story Awards, and in the New Jersey Poet Society’s National Poetry Quarterly. She is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and enjoys filmmaking and pole vaulting.
*Featured image courtesy by Fede Racchi