Maternal Possession

by Joey Delgado

At this point, the ashtray is piled to the brim with fags smoked clean down to the filter, some even one drag beyond, into rancid, chemical after burn, a taste erased only by sparking a freshie. So, freshies are sparked, one after another. 

Things are not going well. I want to know everything; the gossip, the chisme, the dirt. All I'm getting out of her is sugar water and Betty Crocker's Cream Cheese Frosting, big ole' heaping dollops straight from the can.

“Mom, you're giving me a cavity with this shit. Pretend she's at home, chain-smoking 'til she's knee deep in ash and haloed in smoke, spilling Cape Cod on her nightgown. Pretend you just got off the phone with her. She probably talked about your weight, about what a reader you used to be. No doubt she talked about your taste in men.”

“It's different now she's gone, honey.”

"Sure, but you're trying to canonize her. You never talked about grandma like this when she was alive. Why are you pandering to a ghost?”

“Don't be an asshole. Wait 'til I'm gone. All that shit-talking you do with your brother about me will stop, and you'll only bring up the good times. Suddenly I'll become a little less Joan Crawford and a little more the woman who lost her voice cheering at every marching band competition. It's human nature. Same with break-ups. Why do you think break-ups are so hard? Because we romanticize the shit out of ‘em. What was that boy's name? Drew? When you guys first broke up, you never talked about the cheating. You only remembered your inside jokes and his smile.”

I can tell my momentary falter pleases her. She closes her eyes as she clenches another Virginia Slim between her lips, which are locked in a bloodless, self-satisfied grin. 

“It's not the same thing,” I say. “That's a romantic relationship. And how did I let go? By accepting the whole picture.”

“Took a long time, though. It was pitiful. I hated you for being so pitiful. You were perpetually one teary breakdown away from me slapping the shit out of you. You don't understand because you don't have kids, but a parent always tries to look into their child's future. Moms are masters of cautiously optimistic divination. With your brother, I could see the usual ups and downs, but ultimately a successful life. Not with you so much. I shattered that crystal ball years ago, because I couldn't bare to look.”

She smashes out another cigarette on the pile of the dead, leaving scorched half circles on the lipstick smeared filters. Quickly, I pull another from the pack and hand it to her. She fires it up.

“Stop smiling, honey. It's scary. I shouldn't have said those things. They were off topic.”

“Keep going. Please.” 

I am getting everything I need.