The Long View

So mom brings a guy home tonight—fourth fucking guy in a month—and guess what? He has a tattoo that says I Love Mom. It’s on his chest. They both think it’s hilarious. He finds it so hilarious he farts at the dinner table. We’re eating this cheap-ass pizza he brought. Not even real pizza. Frozen pizza. Kroger-brand: not even real frozen pizza. Mom had to bake it and everything—one-handed, because of her cane, which she got for stepping the wrong way into some other situation involving a man, plus ice. I’m trying hard not to get mean on her so I’m playing a game inside my own head.

Eyes. I couldn’t live without my eyes. I really like seeing.

Or legs. Legs are important. They serve a function.

Ears are pretty useful, too.

Someone?

I should back up to my question though. It’s my question:

What are you most afraid of losing?

Mom has every lamp in the room burning. A block of light glows on the trampled snow of our yard. I can see it through the window when she ducks her head to eat: outside, everything frozen except the light, the sky flat and slick like a photograph you could tear.

Someone. I look at her as I think it. But—nothing in her face, no change of expression, just the veins in her temples, and another vein bisecting her forehead.

Mom gets nervous because I’m scowling, so suddenly, out of fucking nowhere, she says, “Go on, Baby, show her your tattoo.” He does. They both start laughing. She reaches over to fondle the tattoo, her fingers slick with orange pizza grease. He says, “Oh I love moms.” And then he rips one. A decent mom with a cane would at least hit him for that.

I’m like, motherfucker. And then I’m like, oh.

What makes it extra crappy is I didn’t get a warning. I had everything arranged. Angie, my ride to town, was already in the driveway when mom showed up, effervescent as Sprite, like, be my daughter, for one night, be my daughter. So I tried. But it was clear to me within five minutes that he was a genuine cretin. He smelled like an old couch. I’m like, I stayed home for this?

So maybe I stupidly hoped that Angie was being overprotective.

She gave me a look as she backed out of the driveway. Her look said: This guy’s a junkie. Angie owns the hoagie joint where I sometimes bunk out. She also runs drugs so things get around to the hoagie joint. Angie loves me. She loves me because I remind her of her sister, her little half-sister that they found last year overdosed in a car with a bagel-shaped screw-bruise on her lower back. (I look nothing like her half-sister. For one thing, the sister was missing an ear.) But I don’t mind that Angie loves me kind of wrong. She feeds me, and gives me a place to sleep. She keeps an eye on my friends—Brian’s a weirdo, but a clean one, she says. Maybe I hoped—but where’s poor mom going to meet a non-dickhead around here? She has a fucking cane.

I don’t have to stay. I could call Angie back. Or Brian, I could call Brian. I’ve never been to Brian’s house but there’s always a first time. I could even walk to town—it’s far but not impossible. But the thought of calling, of stepping out the door into the rock-hard night and doing cop-detail while Angie makes her drops, of sleeping on a cot in a hoagie joint that smells like pickles and other hoagie shit—damn it, this is my house too. I have a right to be here. And if I walk to town I risk getting raped behind a snow bank, and, sorry, I’m just not up for that.

Mom’s too busy laughing to stop me leaving the table.

I say, “I’ve got reading to do for school. Nice to meet you, Fuckwit. Happy farting.”

I wish. Because after about half an hour they’re not farting. They’re screwing on the sofa in the next room. I can hear it through my door.

It’s not too late to call Brian. But that would be asking for help. When you ask for help, that makes you dependent. I’m not my mom. I’m not dependent.

I’m like, okay. Be okay. It’s just one night. One night. You have a radio and a shatterproof sense of humor. You can live with this for one damn night. It’s fucking comedy if you think about it.

On second thought, don’t think about it. Just turn on the radio.

So I turn my radio full blast on Good Time Oldies—screwing to La Bamba, who can’t laugh at that?—and soldier on through Macbeth.

 

{To read the rest of this story, please purchase Issue 39.2.}

 

Meredith Martinez has an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College. Her poems have appeared in Contrary Magazine and Dzanc Books’ 2010 Best of the Web anthology. She lives in Phoenix, and is finishing her first novel.

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