I love this house, with its five windows along the top floor and four windows, two each flanking the red center door, on the ground floor. I love that somehow it managed to escape the dreaded Tara style front porch that so many Southern homes try to emulate. It’s a simple, unpretentious house. And though the front walk has always been clean and inviting, I’ve never really used it, choosing to go in through the side door instead.
I pull up into the carport, parking next to my mother’s ancient blue Mercedes. She’s had the car as long as she’s had me. Just looking at it fills me with a sense of homecoming, as does the smell of old brick and decaying crepe myrtle flowers.
Through the window, I spot mom at the stove. It’s been months since I’ve seen her, but she hasn’t aged. Then again, my mom never seems to age. She’s magically preserved. Slim and fit, she wears sky blue silk lounge pants and a thin cream cashmere sweater. Her glossy black hair tumbles artfully around her shoulders, and she gives it an impatient flick as she pulls the old battered moka pot off the stove. While my mother might be a southern lady, she’s also a doctor and second generation Italian, which means I’m getting a cappuccino and fruit for breakfast instead of biscuits and gravy. Her one concession might be some fresh, low fat scones.
I smile and open the door. Her heart-shaped face brightens. “Banana!”
She hurries over to me and gives me a kiss on the cheek. I’m surrounded by the scent of lavender that she favors. “How has my baby been?”
“Good.” It’s the only answer she wants to hear anyway.
With a nod, she sways back to the moka pot and proceeds to pour thick, rich coffee into a waiting cup half-filled with heated milk. The scent is homey and mouthwatering. If I could just once achieve my mother’s coffee perfection, I’d be a happy girl indeed.
“Come,” she urges, “let’s sit and talk.” She places the cup next to a set place, complete with linen napkin. Freshly cut melons, strawberries, and raspberries wait in a crystal bowl. This is my mom at her finest. Warning bells ring in my mind. More so when she turns and pulls a tray of hot scones from the oven. They do not look low fat.
“So,” she says as she serves me a scone and doles out some fruit, “anything new going on?”
This is standard fare. Mom doesn’t like to pry, but at least she’s interested in my life. I think she’d be less gracious about it, however, if I told her that I’ve been f**king the star quarterback in my bedroom. My cheeks heat as I take a sip of coffee. God, that’s good.
My eyes close to savor the flavor. “I’ve missed you, Mom.” I don’t know where that came from, but it’s the truth.
Silence falls over me, and I open my eyes. Her eyes, so like mine in shape but a deep, dark brown, stare at me. “Is something wrong, Banana?”
I shrug and take another needed sip. “Can’t a girl miss her mother?”
“Of course she can.” She cups my cheek with her cool hand. My mom’s skin is always cool. “Only, I know my baby and something’s upsetting you.”
Sighing, I start in on my scone. I was right. This is not low fat, and it’s my favorite, orange and lemon flavored. There’s even fresh butter on the table, soft and waiting for me to dive in. I slather some on a section of scone before popping it into my mouth. Heaven.
“I’m fine. Happy.” And though doubt assails me on a constant basis, I am happy. It hits me like a brick to the face, so hard that I actually flinch in my seat. I’m happy. I wake filled with anticipation. Fight sleep to keep the feeling close to me. Why can’t I enjoy it? Accept it? God, what a f**ked up mess I am.
The back door opens again and Terrance, my mom’s boyfriend of the hour, walks in. I should say “of the year” because that’s about as long as these guys last. I’ve hated every one of them. And while that might sound petulant, it’s always been with good reason. There was Marcus, who called her trash to her face, spat in her food, and then cried that she didn’t love him enough. All in front of me. There was Oliver, a thin spaced out professor who ended up stealing ten grand out of her bank account. And Jeremy who criticized her so much that she gained twenty pounds and forgot to wear makeup to work one day, which is the equivalent of a mental breakdown for my mother. At least none of them hit her. Not that I know of, anyway.
Terrence owns a used bookstore and pinches pennies by collecting packets of salt, pepper, ketchup, and whatnot from various fast food restaurants around the area. I can’t make this shit up. He also generally loathes being left out of any of Mom’s business.
“Hello, Anna,” he says as he comes further into the kitchen and stares at my boobs. Intently.
He takes a seat next to my mom and immediately drapes an arm around her shoulder, leaving his long, pale fingers to dangle right over her br**sts. Because, while he might stare at my boobs, he takes any opportunity he can to touch my mom’s when I’m around.
My stomach turns. “Hello, Terrance.” I keep my eyes on his greasy hair, parted severely down the middle. Like Hitler’s. When my stomach turns again, I look at my mother, who is trying to appear casual and calm, even though some creep is stroking her like she’s a lapdog.
I don’t bother giving my mother a dirty look—he’s here on my day with her. He does it every time.
If I live a hundred years, I’ll never understand my mother. She’s smart, brilliant, beautiful, and talented. And she has the self-esteem of a gnat. I cannot fathom why she’d rather not be alone than settle for these… I don’t even want to call them men.