Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chapter 15 Part 3 (24,840 words out of 50,000)

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“Agatha, what, exactly, caused you to lose faith in Jesus?”

Holy shit, this is a good one. He’s going for some deep, spiritual shit – he’s not even bothering with the surface stuff. He’s not going for the lying or the power-tripping or the over confidence or the vanity or any of the other sins he likes to peg on – this guy is going right for the body and blood of Christ jugular and tearing at that mother fucker. Agatha’s just sitting there with mashed potatoes stuffed in her mouth – I don’t even think she’s breathing – she’s looking at me so I give her the dumbfounded “I have no idea look” to keep her off balance, letting her think that I’m not smart enough to help, that she’s going to have to handle this one on her own.

“I…don’t…” She didn’t even swallow her mashed potatoes, the words are coming out all muffled and starchy, little flecks of heavy-white spittle fly from her mouth and onto this ridiculous turkey-tablecloth my mom likely bought at Winn Discount for ninety-nine-cents, as if she was having people over for Thanksgiving – as if anybody but my father would ever even see it. I used to feel bad for her, you know that? In college I would always call her up and see how she was doing, she’d light the fuck up – nobody ever talks to her anymore, you know? She wasn’t a bad person, technically, she just wasn’t fun to hang out with out. She’s fat, for starters, and no-one wants to hang out with fat people. I mean, a little meat is ok if they have some trait to compensate but the fat fuckers that just gave up – the four-hundred and change pounders – what the fuck will you ever get out of that relationship except a midnight call asking you to take them to the hospital because they just had a fucking heart-attack, as if they couldn’t call a fucking ambulance, as if they’re not just looking for the pity and calling you up because, otherwise, no-one would even realize they were fucking missing. They’d be in the hospital alone for days with tubes up their nose, getting lectures from the entire hospital staff on the importance of watching their weight. So I’d feel bad, I think she was the only person to get to me like that – at a time when I was learning how to take what I want I shouldered my mom as a fucking charity case. Take her shopping. Out to dinner. Parade that fat bitch around town and draw stares from everyone. By the time I was becoming well connected I had to make sure to restrict it all to phone calls and house visits. Then it was just phone calls. Then I just stopped all-together and she didn’t try to call me, it was like she thrives off of misery, like she’s a fucking martyr. It’s been a year and now I’m sitting here, staring at this fucking ninety-nine-cent tablecloth, and feeling bad for her all over again. You really can’t go fucking home again.

“You’ve been looking at the cross, on the wall – you’ve been looking at it and then looking down at your plate. Ashamed. Like you abandoned him.” She looks at me again and I just stare in mock-disbelief. My mom puts her head down, she sees where this is going. She just got her son back, the only person that treated her like a person over the years, after years of not talking to her (and it was obviously her fault, in her mind), he’s going to be chased away again. She’ll be eating Thanksgiving dinner alone again, while my father goes hunting with his church buddies, a turkey for eight laying out on the ninety-nine-cent tablecloth, she picks the meat off and eats the whole thing, angry at herself for her lack of self-control, spooning stuffing into her fat mouth and fucking crying.

“I don’t think Jesus abandoned me. I don’t –“

“You’re lying. I can tell you’re lying.” Agatha looks at me again but this time I don’t even acknowledge her, my mom’s tearing her napkin frantically, piece of paper are rapidly dropping from her shaking hands, I keep thinking she’s going to say something but there’s not desire there, the thought of speaking up doesn’t even enter her mind – she’s just going to take it – she’s just going to let my father have his way because it makes him happy – she’s just going to let me slip away again because she thinks she deserves it. For marrying my father. For being fat. For being unlikable. For being too nice and getting shit on everyday of her fucking life. She’s going to take it like the goddamn martyr she is.

“Well – what if Jesus abandoned me?” I’m not sticking up for her so Agatha’s taking the offensive – let her do it for all I care. Let them battle it out and talk theology all fucking night. My mom is shaking now, rocking, the chair underneath her fat ass is creaking, giving way, she’s going to break it – they get these reinforced chairs for her bit they’re not made for sudden movements – she’s going to break it and she’s going to fall on her fat fucking ass and she’s going to get so embarrassed, she won’t be able to get up – she’ll be rolling around the ground, her stocky arms flailing about and reaching out for something to help her out, asking us for help, fucking crying, thinking about nothing but Junior’s Cheesecake and Thanksgiving’s alone and just wanting to end it – just wanting that fucking heart attack to come so she call me up only to have me not answer, so she can die alone in the fucking hospital.

“Jesus would never –“

“My sister. My sister Joannie – she’s older than me by about ten years. Was older than me.” Agatha’s voice is rising and my mom buries her head in her hands, she sees this ending coming, she can’t stop it. It sounds like she’s mumbling something or maybe she’s just sobbing, either way I just wish she’d shut the fuck up – it’s fucking distracting. Always a fucking martyr.

“In the 80s, when I was still in elementary school, she fell on hard times – she fell in with the wrong crowd – she got into drugs. Heroin.” My mom’s not even listening anymore, she’s waiting. Her face is flushed, her eyes are frantic – beads of sweat are running off her forehead and soaking the palms of her hands, dripping down her arms and ruining the ninety-nine-cent tablecloth, the ink on the turkey is starting to run, she’s probably wondering if she should replace it – if it’s even fucking worth it – if she’s even going to be alive on Thanksgiving – if that Junior’s Cheesecake is going to finish her off.

“But she cleaned up. It took a couple of tried but she cleaned up. Found a husband. Had two kids.” When I was a kid my mother would take me to the park over on Congress Street. She was a bit thinner then, thin enough to walk the ten blocks and have faith that the bench wouldn’t collapse under her as she sat and watched me play in the sprinklers. All the kids would point at her. Stare at her. Laugh at her and make jokes. None of the mothers would sit near her or even look at her. And she’d just sit there and fucking take it and you can tell she was trying to ignore it – she would say high to everyone – she’d attempt to pick up the kid’s balls when they rolled over by her but she can never bend over quick enough, some speedy Puerto Rican kid would run over and pick it up first. She’d try to make awkward conversation, she’d ask if he was having fun and he’d just mumble a yes and run off without even looking at her. My mother – my fucking charity case.

“Early 90s she found out she had AIDS. Her husband had AIDS. Her two kids had AIDS.” She’d go to my school assemblies and she couldn’t comfortably fit in the fucking seats – this was in the 80s when it wasn’t posh to be grossly overweight – when you didn’t have terms like obesity in our common vernacular to describe people, if they were in the three to four-hundred pound range they were just fucking fat. Everyone would be in a chair for the assembly and my mother would stand in the back, alone. My father never showed to these things so she’d stand back there with no support, the only person in the entire congregation that can’t fit in a chair, and she’d hear the whispers, no-one knew her name so she was always “Joseph’s mom”, and she would try to stand proud, try to keep her shoulder back and her head straight, staring at the stage while I play the roll of Frosty the Fucking Snowman. Tried to be strong and appear strong for me, trying to teach me something about handling adversity, not letting others around you affect you. How to be a better person.

“They died. All four of them. My sister and her husband died first – my two nieces spent their last year on this planet parentless and dying of AIDS.” We’d go to McDonald’s, I loved to get me some Happy Meals when I was a kid – especially loved it when they had Saturday morning cartoon toys like Smurf themes or the occasional Snork paraphernalia. That was always the worst – I wasn’t a fat kid, I was actually thin as a fucking rail, and people would look at my mom like she doesn’t fucking feed me. Like instead of taking the time and effort to be a mother and make sure that there is food in my mouth she just kept stuffing her own fat ass. Looking at her like she wanted to go to McDonald’s, not me – like she wanted to eat a big fucking carton of fries and a quarter-pounder with cheese, wash it all down with an extra fucking large coke-a-cola because this was when hippies and yuppies drank Diet Coke. And I’d play with my fucking matchbox car, dragging it across a layer of ill-washed ketchup and grease that coats the tables in McDonald’s, oblivious to everything – thinking people were staring because I had the best fucking mom in the world – thinking that they were jealous. Proud that my mom would take me to McDonald’s for dinner even though my father considered it to be unholy food – fucking poison – we weren’t allowed to eat it when he was around, only when he was visiting his family. And what the fuck could my mom do? She’d eat her Big Mac and her apple fucking pie and drink her coke and put down her fries because that’s where we fucking were. And all around her people would whisper that she’s gross. That she’s negligent. That someone should call child services before she eats me. And she never looked at them, just watched me play with my cheap happy meal toy that I’d forget existed by the next day.

“I didn’t abandon Jesus. Jesus abandoned me.” One time we were down by Woolworths around Christmas time, shopping. A fucking plastic bag comes towards her, caught in the wind, wraps around her face. She tries to get it off, her big fucking arms trying to get around her massive tits enough to grab this bag, and by doing so slips on some ice. She goes down hard, everyone on Fulton Street turns to look at her. She can’t get up, she’s on her back and she can’t even turn around, the ground is too slippery. She looks like an overturned turtle – struggling to just get some leverage, rocking back and forth in an attempt to get up – in an attempt t get on her stomach so that she can look at the ground and not the faces of the people that are standing over her laughing – everyone’s laughing. Loud. And I’m laughing too. I’m a kid, I don’t understand the concept of being mocked yet – falling is funny – to everyone, even the person who falls. And I’m standing there, with everyone else, laughing. And for the first fucking time my mom doesn’t even try to look strong, she doesn’t even try to teach me any lessons about adversity or being the better person.

She cries.

She cries louder than I’ve ever heard anyone cry. And everyone around just laughs harder, everyone but me. I realized what I’ve done – I felt her embarrassment and her disappointment in me – I was always the one that was there for here, through and through, I never saw her for the fucking disgusting fatty that she was. She was just my mom. And even though I was laughing because the falling was funny, I was also laughing because she couldn’t get up. I was laughing because she was too goddamn big to even roll over. I was laughing because she was a fucking joke.

I finally go over to help her up but there’s nothing I can do – she’s too heavy and trying to help her up is only causing me to fall, everyone is laughing at the two of us now like we’re some type of fucking sideshow. Finally an older man comes by, offers to help, calls over one of the younger kids near by and tells him to help as well, tells him he should be ashamed for laughing at a woman in need.

He should be fucking ashamed.

The three of us help my mom up although I don’t contribute much. We walk home in silence – she doesn’t hold my and when we cross the street, she doesn’t ask me if we want to stop of for pizza like we always do. We don’t even finish our shopping. She wasn’t crying anymore but she was certainly shamed. Her caked-on make-up was running all down her face, he cheeks were oily with sweat and tears. She was limping.

She looked like a broken woman.

It took her weeks to almost get back to her normal self around me – she was embarrassed to be around me, afraid that her own son was secretly mocking her, waiting for her to fall or some similar situation it’s funny to see fat people get into.

“Jesus didn’t abandon you – he punished your sinful sister.” My mom. My fucking charity case.

“Woah, woah, woah – what the fuck, dad? Wasn’t Jesus’ big thing redemption? Atonement? Sound’s to me like Agatha’s sister atoned for her supposed sins.”

You really can’t go home again.

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