||Sometimes I Think Were Meant For Each Other
Mom, listen. "There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing."
"Grab me another ice pack, please, this ones lukewarm," she said.
I placed a cold press on top of her blue, bulbous, kneecap.
"Here, let me see that", she said, beckoning me towards her. She took the book out of my hands, grabbed her wide-rimmed glasses from the nightstand and read, " He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward worlda world so intense and strange, complete in himself. Bum bum bum bum bum," she muttered, skimming the page. "The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."
She flipped the book shut and glanced at the title.
"Carson McCullers, huh. Be the beloved dear, by whatever means, not the lover."
"Do you have a choice?" I asked, pressing the ice pack against her skin.
"No. Yes. But its difficult. Im a lover. I wouldnt choose to be."
"No," she breathed heavy, "not but once." There was an Australian named Dylan. He adored me. We were both lovers, him more than me. I was a coward then. I was better off though."
"But the other times?"
"What I remember, yes. Your father, Kirk Appleby in the tenth grade, Neal, schmuck, my sister, Linda, sometimes not all the time. Howard." She raised her eyes, "Youre a lover, Im afraid I gave that to you, unfortunately. But its much easier to be the other one."
My mother broke her knee in the spring. She lay prostrate in the bed of her studio apartment for a week so I went and cared for her. I rode my bicycle through the park, hurriedly, feeling there was some sort of calling and the sun built beads of sweat all along my body. Couples kissed under trees and on bridges. An Asian pair posed in front of the boat house in wedding whites. Dark-skinned au pairs strolled with little white babies.
"Ish, this pillow is not right," she yelled to the kitchen. My leg keeps sliding off of it."
I lifted her leg, suspending her by the heel and calf, and doubled the pillow over, then put her down, handing her a glass of water and two pain pills the doctor prescribed.
"The knee brace, also. Uhh its so cumbersome." I responded correctly to her kvetches, rearranging the clanky full-length brace theyd given her and placed a bag of frozen peas on her knee cap. Her knee was full of fluid. Its floppy form wobbled on her fit thigh. Her legs were those of a young woman. They hadnt always been that way but Pilates was good to her. Her face had energy. Her eyes sat firm, brown, and large like beads of polished sea kelp. Shed looked that way in photographs, the one at my grandmothers when she danced at Joffrey, as well as in a head shot that was to run with her unprinted book, a sociological thriller about homesick New Yorkers who loathed cars and lived in LA. She looked at me, "I love you. Isnt it strange we both live in New York?" I raised my eyebrows in annoyance, rolled my eyes at her, and put a Jolson tape in the cassette deck.
On Broadway I bought gloves, bleach, dish-soap, new wash cloths and toilet paper. Then olives, cous-cous, rice-pudding, and soups from Fairway. I bought glucosamine-sulfate, arnica gel and ice packs at the health food store, and sunflowers because theyre her favorite with those big petals tirelessly wanting. Then I went back.
She snored in staccato, hanging up on her breathing, so that her head would jump and then fall. The sun sketched lines across her thighs and the soft rounds of her shoulders as she slept deep and medicated through the afternoon. Her skin, translucent with light beams flowing all over, was an elaborate facade of stained glass like the ones I remember from schul.
The phone rang through the afternoon waking her up a little after sunset. It was my sister and her children. She told them grandma hurt herself, that shed come visit soon and bring them little brontosaurus and stegosaurus figurines from the Museum of Natural History. Linda called from Chicago. Rita and Barbara called from Santa Monica. We read the paper, scouring Brooklyn real estate since owning on Eastern Parkway overlooking the arch and the park was her bright new idea. Howard called.
Howard is a huge obese, gray-bearded, St. Bernard of a fat man that my mothers loved since Los Angeles. I remember having lunch with him on Mothers Day on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica when I was five or six. Hes only the second man shes dated since my father left in 1984. But they dont date regularly. She wont sleep with him anymore since he doesnt visit enough.
When we have dinner together, I watch how he laughs and smiles at her foul eating habits. She speaks with a mouth full of food, and Howard smirks at what my brother is embarrassed about. Walking down the street my mother pats his round hind and sometimes they will dance the foxtrot on the sidewalk. On a Friday night, trash stacked on the curb, I watched him wheel her the four blocks home along Amsterdam in a voluptuous and tattered leather office chair.
My mother is brilliant, always thinking cause and effect; she sees contexts and she knows things about people. But she is dumb as nails in terms of love. She expects the world from people. She gives too much of herself and has never met anyone who can give back the desired amount.
She spoke quick into the phone and moved her hands. "Its surprising."
. . .
"Bloombergs doing a great job."
. . .
"No, I dont want to talk about Israel
The incident at Hebrew Union College is devastating. Its beyond low."
. . .
"Im not the one to speak to about it."
My mother sat up straight, leaning her back against her bureau and animated her face; she tilted her head, widened her eyes, and pulled up the corners of her mouth. I had to move her leg, grabbing the ice pack and placing it atop her swollen knee.
"When are you coming to New York?" She shook her head. "Why not, there are price wars right now."
"Fly Jet Blue out of Long Beach. Its campy." She hung up the phone and shrugged her shoulders.
"Howard is never moving to New York." I looked up from my book. "If he ever sells the technology, then he could afford an apartment here. I tell him he doesnt have to live here, just come visit once a month," she said as I watched her lips.
My mother is beautiful for a sixty year old woman. Her eyes knock you out like a silent film star. She has the excitement of a child. She talks to babies on the street. She competes against twenty year olds for work. Her legs are taut and attractive from dancing. Her hair is a henna-brown, short, giving her the appearance of an uptown art critic, and she lives in reverie, day and night.
"But Im tired of paying rent," she said, flapping her arms and shaking her head. She looked down at her knee, "I cant work for a couple weeks as it is, but hopefully its not worse. Agh," she continued, dragging her tongue out of her mouth, "clients
Im going to have to give them to Pam."
My mother keeps saying that if things dont work with Howard she wants to get a computer and go online dating, but she cant figure out how to turn the damn thing on. Ive had similar fantasies. Im sure she knows its a fantasy as well, but it makes it easier for her. Now if she does not meet someone its a technical problem; not because shes afraid of pain, nor that her neediness makes her near impossible, even for me, and I think her the moon and stars.
"My feet, please," she said, bending her head towards me, "wash them for me. Theyre filthy from the floor. Please Ish."
I filled the metal basin with hot water and soap and took her right foot in my hand, holding her by the arch. My fingers tickled the creases in her skintiny canyons of memoryyet she stayed still. I scrubbed a wash cloth along the heavy vein of her foot and her pearly toenails.
"Thank you, she said, we take care of each other dont we?"
She clicked on the television. I soaked the cloth in soap and scrubbed the land where her ankles become her calves. Her skin was fragile. The tiny hairs of her leg pricked up against the hot cloth.
"Oooh, cest magnifique," she said.
A voice uttered from the television. "Cest mal. Je crois que rapporter est très mal." I looked at the subtitles. "Thats wrong. I think informing is very wrong."
"Non, cest la vie. Les indicateurs indiquent, les cambrioleurs cambriolent, les assassins assassinent, les amants aiment."
"No, its life. Informers inform, burglars burgle, murderers murder, lovers love." I stared up at her as she smiled at the television with her finger languidly resting on her lower lip.
"You know they say I looked like Jean Seberg when she was happy?" She smoothed her own hair. "I had a pixie and did my sides in points just like hers. And those white heels she has in Breathless, I just adored those and looked all over Chicago until Linda and I found a pair at Marshall Fields on State Steet, ohh, and I had this bengaline white silk Pauline Trigere coat that I wore with them. I got that from Blums of Chicago. They were the epitome of style, an atelier, but the daughter and I took modern together."
"What happened to it?"
"I dont know, lost somewhere in the move."
Earlier that spring I met a French girl named Caprice whom Id fallen for in a deep way. I wanted to tell her my fears, yet she was a Seyfert galaxy, a shapeshifter, with more faces than the moon. She would place her head in the valley of my chest, "Im giving myself to you," shed say. Then the next day shed be full of sour-apples. I never trusted her. We fell asleep to the sound of birds. She was infatuated with them even more so than I and had the most moist mouth Ive ever kissed. Its silly, but this image came to me one night after sharing mussels on East Fifth Street of the two of us in an old, boaty, convertible, on a road bisecting two fields, in some place very South France, like Normandy, and she was turning her head in disapproval towards the back seat. I remember all these things: her voice, disciplinary yet playful"quiet down.," the wind on my hand, her neck craning beneath the sun, and her fingers rustling on my leg.
One morning, leaving her house in a rush, I forgot my cap and ran back. Her hair was wrapped in a silky gold and purple scarf as she straightened up my coat, tugging at the edges and placed the cap on my head. "Youre so cute when youre a mess," she said. I loved the pock mark above her left eye. She wet her thumb and gently cleaned the bread crumbs around my mouth.
"Youre being like my mother," I said giggling slightly.
"Remember that picture you showed me?" She asked.
"Of your mother by the Dead Sea?"
"Yes?" I responded.
"Cest moi, no?" she paused. "Yes," she shook her head, "no."
My mother looked off in the distance. She fluttered in and out of sleep. Shell be okay alone, resigned to her own solitude. Its me Im worried about. Sometimes in her apartment I find myself looking at her; at her lazy breasts in a cut-top shirt, at the crook above her hips in dance clothes, at her lips which are red and full without paint. If she were younger I would kiss her. I would pull her to me and hold her against my chest.
I wonder, would I like the way she held me? Would I be bored? Would loneliness disappear? Sometimes I think were meant for each other. It doesnt much matter. Shes my mother, not my lover. Im her son, and there are these moments. I cant tell when theyre going to come but I get all bottled up and want to lash out at whatevers close because theres a feeling that rises telling me Im becoming her and its getting louder and louder.