Writer's cramp entry 22-11-19
|He stood halfway up the stairs, looked at his mother and said: “I’m so glad that I can eat at home today.” He disappeared into the landing without apologizing for then dent in the passenger side door or his mother’s sacrifices over the years hosed off like an oil stain on the tarmac, or about the letter from his college and the thing they refused to discuss. His mother turned to the kitchen like an infantryman following, not questioning orders, instead of pulling rank for the first time. She had other children, but those people were too old or too young or too independent or too needy, and simply not her favourite Goldilocks son. She saw in him all the charms of his father and was all too happy to fall for the same tricks a second time around, and she liked to think his sharpness was her gift to him, and not at all dangerous. But now, she might be forced to recognize her favourite as her failure.
She could fix this with macaroni. She gripped the blue box, looking at the logo that had changed so slowly over the years that it was at once the same and entirely different. If she could turn this hard pasta and noxious orange powder into lunch, she could change Martin back into a good person.
She just needed him to be a child for a little bit longer.
The water boiled up over the sides of the pan and hissed against the stovetop. She dumped the macaroni elbows into a colander in the sink, without even testing them for doneness. She stood over the sink, letting the steam reach up, wishing it’s cloud would obscure her vision forever: She had sided with Martin against her daughter, and now the three times a year she was allowed to see the grandbabies they called her Mrs. Ahern. Her younger son was living with his father, both refusing to pick up her calls. The cheese was too thin and the pasta was still crunchy. The glue refused to stick. Stacks of finger paintings and handprint turkeys tossed in the recycling bin because it would have taken over every surface if she had refused to cull.
When Martin came back down the stairs, he had changed into his high school gym sweats. She wanted to believe him, that he was making an effort to go back in time to when he deserved to be her favourite.
“Michael Hughes says they usually drop this kind of thing after a few days,” he said, waiting for lunch to be served. His mother folded a white paper napkin.
“Those frat boys,” she said, shaking her head as if she could shake off some of the blame. “That is where all this trouble started.”
She took a bowl from the cupboard and wiped it with the tea towel, trying to remove some imaginary water droplets or dust.
“I was thinking about transferring anyway,” he said, “I don’t think a state college is where I should be.”
She served him the macaroni and imagined that fixing everything. He’d finally get into one of those schools that rejected him the first time around. He’d be surrounded by the kind of nice young men he was supposed to be. No more bottom feeder, straight-C students for Martin to fall in with. He wasn’t supposed to be like them. He was supposed to be special.
She remembered her pregnancy with him, the only one with a glow. Amy had been such a brat, not wanting a baby brother. And she was right, in the end; a mother’s love couldn’t really be shared fairly.
Her phone lit up and buzzed, slowly inching across the counter toward her. She left him, just for a moment. She snuck into the living room where she was safely surrounded by framed photographs of the golden years. She listened, knowing each second was eating into the retainer. The man on the line was the same one she had gone to for the divorce. This was his chance to bill through all that money he’d fought for her to win. She finally spoke, to confirm she would let Martin know his options.
She went back to the kitchen and he was dumping the macaroni into the garbage can. Each scrape of his fork against the bowl an admission that he had betrayed her. She grabbed the colander out of the sink and threw it at him. It bounced off his shoulder. For the first time, his eyes flashed a tiny recognition that he might have done something wrong.