She came to me last night in a dream. We were walking in Vermont, passing the circular tables & wooden chairs of Otter Creek Bakery. But the landscape was off. The bluegrass of the rural town had met the urban landscape of my childhood. Rolling fields and mom & pop shops mixed in with metal street lights and the Hudson. After I moved, she never visited me so she wouldn’t know the difference. The main reason why she hasn’t visited is bus tickets are $60 one way, but she also hasn’t visited because I haven’t invited her.
“I want things to be different,” I tell her. We’re drifting along the sidewalk next to the glittering green plains. “I want you to be different.”
“What’s wrong?” she asks. A wooden bench materializes that would fit in nicely along the Coney Island boardwalk and she pulls me over. It reminds me that we haven’t been to the beach since I was a kid, or done really anything together for more than a couple of hours. She pats my shoulder like the mother she could’ve been. The mother she is “on good days,” when her disorder was more a gentle ripple than the crashing waves it usually is.
“I miss you,” I tell her.
My teenhood was all about escaping my childhood home, running and running until I found somewhere that felt safe to stop. Now, I’m in my early twenties and I’m free from her — the cloudy Klonopin tirades, the crying at the door, the threats of calling the cops, the escaping to friends’ houses for weekends or longer. I am 21 and never have to live with my mother ever again. I spent my whole life escaping her only to find that I miss her. That she shows up in my dreams.
“I need you to change,” I tell her. “I need you to change so you can be part of my life.”
Do you know what it’s like to ask for something you know you’re never going to get? Last night on the phone, a friend and I were talking about death, specifically the eventual death of our parents.
“I don’t want to spend my whole life in another country away from them,” he says. He has a lovely family, but such is his plague: international, torn between creating a life somewhere with more freedom or making the most of the life and limitations he has at home in Turkey. I feel for him.
I wonder what he thinks of me: mom not only in the same country, but the same state and I want as little to do with her as possible. My mom and I talk every Friday for an hour and usually I’m so drained afterwards that I just lie down and stare at my ceiling. I wonder, what does he think of me? Would my situation be any different if my mom was 5,000 miles away? What would he think if he had a mom like mine?
On her good days, my mom is bright & beautiful, beating these Brooklyn streets with her dark wavy bob and macabre wit. On her bad days, of which there are many, she makes me question whether it was better to have been born. If I ask her to change in real life — and I have — there will be one perfect week before it all comes crumbling down again. Do you know what it’s like to hope for something only to have it fail you every time?
This is the reality of my family that I carry on my back. Some days it’s so heavy on my chest I can’t get up and on other days I can barely remember its weight. I’m just waiting for the day when I can put my baggage down and walk away. Whether that’s with her or without her.