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What My Mother and I Never Talked About

A short, honest portrayal of what a relationship with a parent can sometimes look like.


As we sat down across from each other, I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. My palms were sweaty and I could feel my heart accelerate with every beat. It didn’t take long before my eyes started filling with tears and my lip began to quiver. Unconsciously, I started taping my leg against the hardwood floor.

As I began to get a grasp on my body’s subtle way of telling me to get the fuck out of there and never see her again, I felt her cold fingers settle assertively on my thigh.

“Stop doing that, you know it drives me crazy.” Her tone was cold. Emotionless. She waited a few seconds before removing her hand.

“You don’t get to tell me what I can and cannot do anymore.” I tried matching her energy. She had years to perfect various manipulation techniques, this is a game I can’t win. She can see right through me; I know it, and she knows that I know it.

I slowly moved away from her, calculating and carefully considering my next move. How sharp should the movement be? How far away should I move? Should I keep up eye-contact while moving away from her?

I wanted to show her that I don’t need her anymore. That I don’t care about her and that she no longer has power over me. However, both my body and soul knew that it was complete and utter bullshit. I love her, how could I not. It’s what society commands us to do. On the other hand, society also encourages mothers not to be heartless and cruel, but she doesn’t seem to care about that.

“Don’t be like that kitten, you know I mean well!” If she uses that horrid nickname one more time I’m gonna need an exorcism. The audacity. Her tone completely shifted; from ice-queen to some Morticia Addams type shit.

“Don’t call me that!” I stand my ground. Little does she know that underneath that confident tone I managed to force out of myself lies more fear than I have ever experienced before in my 18 years of life. “You called and begged, so we are doing this on my terms. What did you want to say? I’m listening.”

I watch her mouth open just a little bit as she tries to find the right words to start with. It’s taking her a while, so, while she thinks, I signal to the waiter asking him to come over.

“Could I get one iced, black coffee please? And maybe a slice of banana bread.” I can almost hear her rolling her eyes at my order. I am waiting for the “Are you sure about that last part? You should really watch what you eat” comment, but I know that this time around I won’t hear it. She knows she is stomping on thin ice with me and, as much as she lacks empathy or compassion, she is not an idiot.

“I’ll have the same thing please. Minus the banana bread.” I can feel her stare. The tension between us must be really palpable since the waiter, who’s more or less my age, basically runs away from us the second she finishes her sentence.

“Can’t a mother just ask her daughter to go out? I wouldn’t say ‘begged,’ I shouldn’t have to, you are my kid.” She says in response to my previous remark.

“A mother can, you can’t. You can lie to yourself all you want, but please have the decency not to lie to me. I paid too much for therapy to go through this shit again.” I should leave. I should get up and leave. I feel like such an idiot for thinking that maybe, she finally gained some perspective and reflected. I guess not. I should leave but I don’t. I don’t even attempt to, I stay still, waiting for her response.

“Listen, I think you are being unfair. I don’t know what kind of stories you’ve been telling yourself to so deeply convince that little mind of yours that I was a horrible mother, and am at the root of all of your problems, but it’s not the case. You have to stop victimizing yourself.” I feel my blood boil. I’m not sure if I can do this. She makes me question my sanity on another level.

“It’s not a ‘story.’ I haven’t been telling myself anything. Just dealing with the consequences of what you did and reached an informed and reasonable conclusion. You were a shitty mother. End of discussion. Time for you to accept it.” I say summoning all the cold and resentment that I have for her.

“Why? Because I didn’t lie to you? Because I didn’t tell you that you are the prettiest girl in the world? Because I didn’t come to your school plays, cause you couldn’t act? Because I was honest with you when no one else would be? That’s what a mother’s job is. Doing what is best for her child even when it doesn’t necessarily please them.”

“Who’s telling stories now? This is not about those things and you know it. Stop deflecting. Even though what you just said wouldn’t exactly win you a ‘mother of the year’ award either.”

“Then what is it about? What did I do that was so horrible for you to move out at 15 and not say a single word to me in 3 years? That is outright cruel.” For a moment I just stare deeply into her eyes. Her deep blue eyes; the one thing she gave me that I don’t despise. Those deep blue eyes I used to trace while she would read bedtime stories when I was little. But that was before everything that happened. It’s hard for me to blame her since I know why she is the way she is, but justification doesn’t just alleviate all of the pain and trauma she left.

I get another urge to leave, and yet again I don’t move at all. My brain is furious, but my heart travels back to that little girl who used to look up to her mother. I wanted to be just like her. For a couple of years she was my role model, she was my mom. And then my dad left one day and she just became Natalie. Nothing more. The bubble burst. A child idealizes their parents until the day they realize that they are actually just regular people; they stop being mom or dad and just become normal people. Normal people that you usually are somewhat fond of but that is not a given. I give myself a second to collect my thoughts. How do I say this lightly?

“How about all the yelling, the throwing, the crying, the emotional blackmail, the financial blackmail the…”

“That is not-“ She tries to interrupt “The telling me I am the reason you’re suicidal,” I keep talking over her protests, “the telling me how much better off you would be without me, all the missed birthdays, all ‘the phone goes both ways’ comments, all the coming back at 4am without letting me know, leaving me all alone, all the neglect, emotional abuse and suffocation you put me through. That’s what was bad enough for me to move out. Is that reason enough? Or do you want me to keep going? God knows I can.”

I almost whisper that last part because of the lack of air left in my lungs. I can hear my voice cracking, but I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing my cry. I start biting my lower lip, struggling to avoid the unavoidable.

Panic takes over me when I feel a cold tear, slowly rolling down my cheek. It stings. I quickly wipe it off and pull my gaze back up to hers. I stare at her lips, desperately waiting for them to part but they don’t. The discomfort grows along with the mounting silence and tension as I refuse to take a step back. I notice the sun moving through the white, wooden, distressed window blinds; a few rays shine on her rosy cheek and a couple of others reflect off of her earrings onto the espresso machine situated on the bar on the opposite side of the cafe. My mind wanders to the background noise which consists of people chattering, the coffee machine running and glasses clinking together, forming a loud cacophony of sounds. No one around us knows what is happening. They are all going about their lives as usual. While the earth parts underneath my feet, their world is perfectly fine with no visible disruptions.

“Are you gonna say anything? Or did you just feel like wasting my time?” I know I’m being harsh but she deserves it. My heart aches for what my siblings and I had to go through. It also aches for her but in a different way. She never even tried. She didn’t care. We didn’t need much, we didn’t really ask for anything. We deserved better!

“It’s a lot to take in,” she mumbles. I keep staring into her eyes, deepening my already intense gaze. As much as I tried to convince myself that I don’t care about the turnout, I do. I need her to say what I want to hear. I’ve been waiting for it for so long. Just one apology, one promise to change, even just showing willingness to change would be more than enough. I would forgive her.

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” Her words echo in my head as I get up and leave just as the waiter brings the coffees and piece of banana bread over to the table. The confused look on his face is permanently etched into my mind.

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