a matter of confidence
My mother narrates herself to me, repeating the story out loud and again, a different angle, justifying herself, explaining the situation, aerating and solidifying, legitimizing it, “And I said,” “because don’t you think,” “You see,” everything becomes a sort of lesson, she’s a teacher and she doesn’t seem to know that I will always listen, offspring are different from students, and she talks herself into an answer, into acceptance, confirms her understanding, have me confirm her understanding, confirm her. In a sort of clarity she cannot have I see this, and entrenched in her story I watch her wade through her own head, not really looking at me, gesturing at the air, pacing, animated. I don’t say anything.
“I don’t really get attached to things,” you told me affectlessly, meeting my eyes without blinking. We talked idly of people that passed almost unnoticed from our lives as we waited for our trains at a stop I didn’t usually take. Your hands were folded in your lap and I never found out what you carried in your backpack, and out of all the frail things we let slide from our lips that day and slip away into the air that was all I remember.
When she gets up in the mornings she walks around the room naked, and then remembers to put on her robe. Still, in the dark she won’t put it on unless she has to go out to the bathroom. “I think people think I’m more confident than I actually am. I actually just don’t care. Seriously I don’t, they can say whatever the fuck they want.” She tells this to me bluntly, across the bed she is sitting on, and I ask her, “But caring is a matter of confidence, if you weren’t confident, you’d care more about what people think.” She looks at me and blinks, shrugging. “I guess,” she says.
He sends me a series of nervous and persistent texts. “Hey just trying to see if I could catch you when you weren’t busy. Give me a call soon, I’d like to hear from you” July 3rd; July 5th “Just wanted to add—I’m not going to the party, I’m sick of how the only way I get to hang out with my friends is by getting fucked up…If you end up going tell everyone I say hi though.” July 6th he writes me a long email that I can’t tell is a reproach or an apology and July 8th he apologies for having written it. July 9th he texts “Hey how is your summer going? Are you learning a lot?” July 11th “How has your week been? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?” July 12th he texts me saying that I am helping him realize how he needs to grow up. I have stopped listening to the voicemails. I have never answered.
“I am trying to find the beauty there,” a friend of mine wrote me in a letter, ‘find’ darkly underlined in his thin, crooked script, “to make it there. It isn’t actually there.” He was speaking about math, and for some reason this floored me, because whenever he spoke of math, he made me believe that it was.
I left a hat full of tiny yellow indian mangos outside her door, feeling guilty about never visiting. She doesn’t realize it’s an apology, and thus never accepts the apology. She thanks me, neither of us ask how we’ve been, but perhaps with some guilt, she invites me to a get together with some friends later.
My godmother argues eloquently on my behalf. “Those that stick, stick,” she tells my mother, “Sometimes people drift, and that is natural, and that’s ok.” She is heavy and Swedish and in the sun her eyes poke out bright blue from her small round face. “Friendships are beautiful, relationships are beautiful, they take a bit of care, but not too much, you know, if you put in too much effort, it really isn’t natural, or healthy.” My mother does not believe in distance. She does not trust forgetting, and condemns spaces that form between people. “We all breathe the same air,” she has told me many times, but I lose it among her countless other parables. I only ever see the images, not the captions per se.
My brother gets home late and has little patience for me. “Answer the fucking phone every once in a while,” he tells me irritably, “who cares if it’s the dentist or Ma or some 800 number? They’re calling you, so fucking pick up, be decent.” He reminds me of the time I used to sneak out of movie theaters when a particular scene made me uncomfortable. “Does everything make you uncomfortable?” he asks.
“23rd!” I shout, impulsively. “I’m coming down that weekend.” I am sure of it even when I’m not, and I can practically hear Steven grinning through the phone. “Good,” he says, “I’m glad you keep your promises.” I doodle a flower on the pad as we talk, and I remember a day in the park with some friends where we hardly spoke, but were for some reason very happy. I tell Steven this.