If I could conjure up some fantastic super-powers, at this exact moment, I would stretch out my arm and yank back the departing taxi; reload my luggage and blink myself back to the airport.
Since I am still here, you see I have none. Instead, at the curb of Mom’s house under the beautiful turning orange and brown leaves of our oak tree I stand with wheeled luggage by my side as the yellow cab peels off to the next fare. HONESTLY, ... I almost wave it down in pursuit. But family duty's gotta death grip on my coattail. These family obligations flew me here, now they pin me here like a sweaty wrestler.
But, I can do this. This isn’t just for me, I coax; wishing I’d taken the opportunity to purchase another journal. My other journal entitled “Forever Fabulous” disappeared. And I need to write these feelings for Madame needs to gain belief in relationships too. Even if she doesn’t appear to see it, maybe my being able to recount this journey will build her faith. If not for Prudence I wouldn’t be a believer.
And wasn’t it thoughtful of Prudence?—her small gift, to be opened only when I’ve actually hit my lowest. Though, when did she think I might hit that point? She doesn’t know me or my family. Thus, the gift's negative connotation prevented my rushing to rip it open.
But upon reconsideration ... maybe she does know something; since I'm somewhat glued to this spot with the paned windows of my childhood home staring at me shadowed and unfriendly. Bitter. She, a brick red bungalow trimmed in white, bleached and chipped over time. A swing on the wrap-around porch squeaks in the wind like yesterdays yearned for—the few memorable ones. Today, the overgrown grass and unclipped hedges alienates our home from the manicured lawns and sparkling exteriors of our neighbor’s houses situated along the tree-lined suburban block. While behind the houses the Calumet River flows.
Before we were “our neighbors”—well kept. Loved. Briefly.
Neglected. I stare sympathetic, an actual ally, wanting to display love for her. To say, “I’m sorry; I know how you feel;” and to assure her, “Don’t worry. I’ll renew you.” But like ten years past Mom stands behind the wrought-iron storm door and my promises are interrupted. Like last time she watches and waits, . . . for what? Should I make the first move? . . . Isn’t it enough that I came?
Maybe that reason kept my feet set like cement blocks way beyond dry.
Not really. Who wouldn’t be peeved about the airport deal?
Of what? . . . .Well maybe.
Gradually I accept; yes, I believe I am. What if I fail? After Mom who else do I have? What other family connection can I make before Madame dies--? . . . Yes, Mom’s my last hope. This realization grows this fear to that sumo wrestler's proportions. Keeps me planted; while my mind writhes in quiet anguish. Finds desperate distraction in comparing the weathered door, rusted, aged and beaten, with Mom, who hasn’t changed much since I last saw her. . . Except, I notice, she’s a little pale—at least it seems so from this distance.
And she just stands!
Surprised I came . . . I said I would! I want to yell out. Instead, I again attempt to move forward, but can’t. Sweat begins to moisten the pits of my silk blouse. Though, with this sudden stream of stress, hope begins to float.
Just maybe she’s also anxious about this visit! With this tiny twisted joy, although ordinarily I wouldn’t wish anxiety on anyone, I think: Yes, she could very well be. Matter-of-fact, why shouldn’t she be? It’s been awhile; and she said she wanted to apologize. But flip side is: She may regret inviting me.
Foolishly, that bit of joy deserted me. I grip instead the luggage handle. It’s hard, the emotions. Happiness, anger, excitement, disappointment, and worry claw my insides for dominance. The thin shreds thrash against my interior walls like ribbons in a tornado rage, or maybe butterflies for freedom? Suddenly, I find, I can’t breathe! And with no breathe and eventually no life, if I die how will I beg for forgiveness? Though, that thought I squash. Forgiveness is not now what we are seeking.
I squeeze my purse feeling for the bottle, wanting to shout; would someone please tell me another way to stop this anxiety? Explain to me how I should feel; what I should do!
While trying to conquer my nerves, muster up some maturity, while the seconds masquerade as minutes marching by, I accept. . . we’ve reached a standoff. Except, Mom leaves the door and I swing my head side-to-side, embarrassed and puzzled; as if someone watching would explain to me; what just happened? Why did she leave?
Humiliated, I rationalize: Diamond, you didn’t think this would be difficult for her too?
Swallowing gulps of the great outdoors to squash my disappointment, finally reaching the listless end result, I manage to stroll the long sidewalk towards the house dragging my luggage, considering: You know your other option is to turn around and go home.
And as appealing as the idea is I can’t. Reaching the house I hesitate a second more before climbing the few concrete steps. I forsake the iron handrail and house offering support. When I reach the top, standing before the door with one hand on the handle, Mom reappears.
Face-to-face I want to scream, Why are you doing this?! My eyes burn in the suppression. But peering at her through the glass I realize; Aww. . . she’s sick. That’s why she didn’t come!—for this thin layer of moisture glistens on her face. Intensifies a rosy flush in her cheeks. The beads of perspiration especially pepper her forehead and upper lip. Her trembling hand slowly reaches for the door handle as I drop my luggage.
I yank open the door and Mom—“Oomph!” falls. . . . My goodness did it hurt! After losing her footing and tripping over the threshold her head landed solid against my chest forcing me backward. Winded, I steady her by her thin shoulders, fragile in my hands, wondering: Is she all right? Apologizing, “I’m sorry Mom,” since I did yank open the door.
Finally I inhale and. . . Whew! Alcohol, strong and awful on hot breath overwhelms me more than the collision.
Ah, Mom; this is bad. Tears win; distort my vision. Blinking becomes necessary for clarity. Holding Mom I fight them—the pent-up years of tears. I try to control the anger tremors. I want to shake her. Shake her hard. Shake her to her senses. Shake her for being drunk. To ask her, Why today, Mom? ... But I don’t.
“It’s childish,” Madame would say. “Don’t always expect to get answers or reasons for everything when you want it just because you want it.”
So I hold tight my questions and Mom, for our mountain of missed embraces. Instead, I whisper, softly, “It’s okay,” knowing that it’s not. Yet I recognize that I’ll support her, for the warmth from her body is incredible. I guess I missed the wonderful sensation of another human’s arms wrapped around me, even limply. At this moment, the reality of being here with Mom slowly snuffs out the blaze. Blankets my disappointments; fears. Suppresses my dark insecurities-- those pervasive serenity-snatching suckers. Gives me a hopeful glimpse of a. . . a functional family? Is it possible?
No. But I’ll even take dysfunctional as long as it’s family. Slightly rocking back and forth on the porch I cling for that future. I cuddle into Mom’s neck, childlike. Delight in the faint powdery scent, until Mom’s soft voice says, . . .what?
I ask. “What’s that, Mom?. . .What did you say?”
“You’re smothering me,” she mumbles; wiggling frantically.
Oh. Quickly I drop my arms from around her. I feel a sheepish grin spread across my face; thinking, my goodness! I don’t want to kill her.
“Wow, Diamond!” she breathes. Her hands push me to an arms distance away, where I’m able to see her face a mottled red. “Wow. . . .here. . . stand back. Let me look at you,” she continues breathless.
I stand straight, masking my sudden shyness with this goofy grin, as she studies me, and I her, anxious about her appraisal. Wanting her approval. Though disheveled, she’s still beautiful in a floral sheath dress. I look down into her eyes, hazel to brown—being in heeled-platform boots, while she’s in her bare feet—though, we look to be of a same body size. Unexpectedly excited, I envision the fun of us swapping clothes compensating our variation in length.
Continuing to study Mom, I notice I’ve got her nose—straight and sort of small, and her eye shape—almond, also like Madame’s. I had forgotten. Coloring is where we mainly differ. Mom’s natural blonde highlights streaked through her brown hair she has straightened into a shoulder length blunt flip. The shade always complimented her lightly tanned skin. She looks chic. Whereas my skin tone and curly hair is darker. I can only accomplish chic by taming my mane with gel. Lots of it.
I realize; people probably wouldn’t recognize our relationship right off.
After the forever examination Mom speaks. “Diamond. . . . .girl,” she draws out the word, “you’re. . . a freaking giant,” ending the statement with a little laugh. Her small hand covers her mouth, while her eyes stay glued to my face. Finally she closes her lids slow and tired-like. While I blink hard and rapid. Imagine I didn’t hear her right.
A freaking giant? . . . A freaking giant? . . . I’m no giant! Five-seven’s no giant!. . . Okay, granted, six feet in five inch heels. Still. Maybe it’s the vertical stripes. Okay, they do elongate. But still hurt, I remind myself, she’s drunk, Diamond. Forget it, I pacify my bleeding pride. What do you expect from alcohol?
I knew I shouldn't have come. . . How the day began was an indication.