My chest is tight, I can feel it. My arms have wrapped themselves up in front of me to keep out of harm’s way. I draw in a breath but the air fills my lungs only partway and gets stuck. I am electric.
This is when I’m floating outside my body, you know? Just staring down at my dead tree self, seeing this mother, crackling and stiff. She can’t bend, this one, not now. She’s tucked in her branches and if a strong enough wind comes, she’ll land on her face. Those angry features will break off and leave her expressionless, roots in the air.
And I just feel for her. I see her so mad and I know why. She’s had it up to here. But shame on her, too. She needs to shut it up. She needs to stop the words, those boring, expiration-date words she’s said so many times before. You kids need to be responsible. The tortoise is not gonna feed himself, is he? You may not sass me get your shoes off the couch stop bugging your brother we don’t say those words your room is a disaster area I have had it with you.
The thing is, when she starts this, this woman I’m floating above, I know it’s not going to end well. She does too but then she’s on fire by now. She’s buzzing with purple energy and it’s razzed me as well. So I feel sorry because I know how hard it is to shut your mouth when you see the sass in your son’s mouth, flirting around the corners. You want to slap him with the lightening that’s filling up your arms. And that’s why you hug them so close to you, so they’ll be out of harm’s way.
And then I hear her say things that bore me and her, and then she’s deflated, and they are angry now, or tired, which is almost worse. And she’s angry that she’s angry, that they’re angry (how dare they be angry?). She walks out of the living room and into her bedroom. But the lock on the door doesn’t work well so she slips into the bathroom and stares at her Judas face in the mirror. I’m listening for the kids, of course, while she fumes and grieves. They seem OK. Their skin is thicker than hers, apparently. They can hardly see the veins in their wrists but she can see her white blood cells whirling around, fighting and cleaning, fighting and cleaning, like she herself does from time to time.
I feel myself sinking down again. It’s time to come home. She whispers a prayer that sounds very like a plea. Oh, Jesus… Then she unlocks the bathroom door. I take a breath and the air fills my lungs full now. I breathe out and start over.