Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spoiled Rotten

I opened the refrigerator door and took out a bag of rotting strawberries. Mom was in the dining room chanting. She'd been on her knees for hours.

She never would throw food away if there was any way possible of saving some of it. Now she's getting forgetful so it's even worse, and like her hoarding, it's become unpredictable.

The other day I found empty 12-pack soda cartons in the basement, along with a tied-off plastic grocery bag filled with some Rubbermaid storage containers that I just bought a couple weeks ago so I'd have something sturdy to pack my lunch in now that I have a job. I suppose at least that was one mystery solved.

I considered the strawberries, bundled neatly in a fold-top lunch bag that was tied in a small, tight knot at the top, weighing the decision whether to toss them out while she wasn't looking. Her back's to me while she's chanting, the altar facing the east wall of the dining room. She sits on an old couch cushion Japanese style, her legs folded under her compactly, like bat's wings.

I burned my dinner and had to open the kitchen fan to let out the smoke. Mom glances over at me like I've just shit outside the toilet and she'll have to clean it up, such scorn. I'm having cereal and soy milk in lieu of what I'd planned to have for dinner, I decide to cut what's usable from the biggest of the strawberries and add it to my bowl. I do this in part out of respect for my mother's habits, but mostly to try to slake her ill spirit preemptively, to pay in to this spiritually exhausting deal we have, to try to shut her up before she starts in with her goddamn nagging.

She's getting nasty in her old age.I don't talk to her anymore. I don't like her anymore. She chants all the time. I wonder what she's chanting for since she's always in such a foul temper around us, around the people she supposedly loves. She chants and shakes her head, as if it feeds her mean streak to commune with the mysterious characters inked on the scroll. It's supposed to bring her focus, lift her life up. It's disorienting to think how much effort she's putting into staying sour. She's mean to me. I'm waiting for her to die.

I shovel in a spoonful of cereal. I get a bite of half-rotten strawberry and shake my head, wondering why I'm eating it. I wonder if my mom is chanting about me as she shakes her head and tisks. I try to solve the mystery, find a trail that leads from her bitterness to some seed of genuine and justifiable concern, but it's so twisted, I can't identify a clear route. I hope to at least be able to assume she cares about me, that I've posed some cause for concern, but I haven't. All I've done is live my life, and somehow that isn't good enough. There's something wrong with me that she won't ever forgive. I'm foolish, a wasteful person who would throw out food instead of eating it, just because it's rotten.

I once went to a weight loss support group, where the most valuable thing I learned was that it's OK to not clean your plate, eventually food becomes biodegradable waste one way or another, it all ends up in the same place whether it's passed through you or not. And there's nothing wrong with being choosy about what things get to make that privileged journey through your system. It's a private road, after all.

I wonder if Mom is just over-protective about me getting hurt again, because I've been through so much, but I realize it's only me and the rest of the world who allow that kind of concession. Mom's been through worse, and as much as I would like to see her belligerence as a show of a deep-seated concern for my well-being, I know that's not the case. She's not worried about me getting hurt. She's always been the kind of person who would let me jump of the edge of the couch to let me learn my own lesson as to why not to do that. Let them jump, and fall, and get hurt, that's how they learn not to be so dumb. I've had a much easier life than she has. I'm spoiled, I haven't suffered enough. She's probably praying that I won't have it so easy, that I'll have to work for it, and earn it, that I'll fall and come crying to her so she can turn me away with my knees bleeding and my head banged up. I think that she's not that good a mom, to think that way I'll learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment