Contradictions

My parents are like children. They are not so old yet that their hands shake when they move and not so young that they have all their memories still neatly ordered. They spend a lot of their time sorting through the supermarket coupons in front of a reality show about cooking or carpentry. When I visit them, I throw out the expired coupons and take out the trash. I make sure they’ve paid all their bills and check that the cat’s still alive. I’ve been living away from them for only two years and already I can’t remember their house feeling like my home. It’s the place where I remember being a child and the place where I am suddenly, wearingly, painfully too adult for my age.

The last time I was at my parents’ house, my mom wanted to make macaroni and cheese for me, to celebrate my being there. It was my old favorite dish when I was young and so she thought it would be special. She left the pot on the stove for half an hour after it boiled and the water had shrunk away while we weren’t watching. She had forgotten to buy extra cheese. She didn’t preheat the oven until eight. I stood in the kitchen and practiced my methodical patience. No, it’s okay, Mom. I got it. Don’t worry, it’ll start cooking while the oven heats up. That dish will be fine, we’re only three people, you can just stick the other half in the fridge and we’ll make it tomorrow. Okay, sure, I’ll grab a container. I’m perfectly calm and using my most tolerant voice so that you won’t accuse me of all the seething that itches under my skin.

My dad sat at the kitchen table and read a magazine for the two hours that this went on. I brought him a beer. He nodded without looking up. When we finally sat down, my mother had to ask him twice before he would look up from the pages and realize, bashful, that we were only waiting for him. While we ate, my parents asked me chipper questions about the job I’d left four months before.

I don’t remember anymore if my parents were grownups when I was small. I couldn’t have noticed, in the same way, if they brought the shopping list to the grocery store or if they ever got back into the car without unhooking the gas pump. Everything was funnier then, anyway. Now I take it seriously and it makes me want to laugh. What else can I do?

I try to visit less and then I worry that they can’t get on without me. If they’d never had a child at all, I wonder if they’d be able to take care of themselves. I wonder how they ever took care of me, or if they did. Now when I go back to the place where I am a child, I take care of my parents.

Advertisements

Disclaimer

I want you to know what you’re signing up for. What you’re getting into, that is. I don’t want you to think that what you know of me is all that I am. I love that you love me, for all that you do, but you don’t know me as well as you will. If you find out who I am, if you know me thoroughly and fully, and you still love me, then that will be true. If not, my heart might break. I want to know as much about you as I can. I want to know what you look like when you’re waking up in the morning with your eyes still half-lidded and dreams clinging to you. I want to know how you sound when you shout and the pitch of your voice when you murmur. I want to know what makes you worry and what makes you laugh. Do you want to know all these things about me? If you don’t, then there can’t be any love that is true. If you want to be with me, here are some things you should know.

I want you to want to know about me, the good and the bad. You will learn the way I tilt my head when I’m listening with all my attention, and the way I nibble on my lip when I’m anxious or distracted. You’ll find out that I love to sing, even though my voice can’t reach all the notes, and that when there’s a song on that I love and I’m alone, or almost alone, I will dance and jump and swing my hips around like a crazy person. You will know my curves and angles, the movement of my shoulders when I crowd close and the way I curl up with my feet folded under me. My moods jump from ordinary to gleeful at unexpected times, and I sometimes surprise myself with my own happiness. When we sit together, I will lean my head into the round of your chest, below your collarbone, and press my skin to yours. I will make ridiculous jokes and let off peals of laughter at myself. Sometimes they will actually be quite funny, because I can be clever when properly fed and rested. When I’m hungry or tired, I’m more silly than witty. I will look at you the way I look at nobody else. I am kind to people as much as I remember to be, and I think about it a lot. I smile at strangers. I hope you will love me for this.

When I am anxious, I am irritated by everything, and I snap under my breath at what you do; that is, I will, when you know me. When I am tired, sometimes I am wandering in my wits and you will find it funny, but sometimes I am spiky and angry because all I need is to sleep. Occasionally I take offense to what people do or say, and the reasons won’t make sense. I can be thoughtless and selfish. I need reassurance more often than you might want to give it. I will go into long rambles at times about my work or my family or my dreams last night, and I will expect you to listen. Pieces of my body cause me pain and I complain about it, and I’ll expect you to accept that too. I’m embarrassed by my singing voice, but I want you to pretend it’s okay, and when you’re around me a lot you’re going to have to deal with listening to me. Sometimes I don’t bother to shave my legs for stretches of time. I have a gastrointestinal system, and I don’t want to ever talk about it. I am prone to getting sick, and I will demand soup and somewhat unnecessary solicitude. If you don’t love the television and the books and the movies that I love, I’ll be annoyed at you about it. I am defensive when I feel that I’m being criticized, and sometimes critical without thinking. In the mornings I am almost always grumpy. There is nothing you can do about it, but I will want you to try anyway. You should make me tea, but I will probably not have time to drink all of it.

Know, please, that this is an incomplete list. You’re thinking of entering into something that isn’t certain, and I’m not all cataloged. I hope you will spend a long time reading the fine print.
Sign on the dotted line

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .