How to Be (9)

Samantha Edmonds


Call home

Remember that your family will always let you come back. You will forever, no matter what, have a place to call home in your mother’s arms. But it will not feel like home anymore. Hug your mother when you return but thrash against the embrace. Breathe her in and choke on the smell. Try to remember that you missed her, even though it’s hard to believe that now.

You are twenty-three years old. Move back into your childhood room, a time capsule from your senior year of high school. Stare at pictures of a much younger you next to a mother that looks just like yours but knows everything about her daughter. Take down the pictures of your old friends. Sleep every night with your dog.  Start looking for a job in the suburbs, the local Half Price Books, maybe. Make minimum wage. Your parents will not make you pay rent. Do not consider moving out again for a long, long time. Get drinks on Saturday night with your one friend left from high school. She has plans to move to California.

Fight with your mother. About politics. About religion. About existing. When you are not fighting with her, ignore her. Lie to her about where you’re going, where you’ve been, what you had to drink. She still thinks the only things you eat are pizza bagels and fruit snacks. She has never tasted Indian food at your favorite restaurant or seen you eat broccoli. Smoke in the car and change your clothes before you go in. Leave the cigarettes in the console and lock the door. Start a new novel but don’t have a plot, just a really angry protagonist. Throw away the classified ads your mother brings home for you.

Wonder if it is possible that the golden-eyed boy would agree to try again if you called. Think even a life in an office away from your family would be better than this, a life on hold.  Remember the way he had one tuft of black hair that always stood straight up. Remember that you could jump on his back with no warning and he would always catch you piggy-back style. Remember that he had 188 freckles on his body. Remember that your mother loved him.

Hesitate with your hand on the phone, your thumb on the first digit of his number. Take a deep breath. Call. Say hello in your most you’re-not-really-average voice. Grab your notebook, your pen, your laptop, your words, and go to Section 10 when he hangs up.