Mom is Breathing

My mother’s blood races through me, gasping for breath, searching out the experiences she missed. Is there still time? There must still be time, she says. She conjures up my thirst for British tea, her favorite. She encourages me to eat onion and mayonnaise sandwiches. They make my stomach hurt, I whine. Nonsense. Eat them. And enjoy them. For me. I sign up for a storytelling class. It’s important for me, to be able to find my voice, to write the words I want to say. Or is it those she wants to say? It doesn’t matter. When I arrive, I find that the woman giving the talk has created a play where women over 60 get to voice their opinions. Is this why I’m here, I ask Mom. She doesn’t say a word. She knows that I know. I wish she was here. She loved the theatre. She’d get up on that stage and tell it like it is. But I refuse. I can feel her poking me. Do it for me. Do it for me. But I can’t. She thinks I’m the extrovert. But this is why I write, so I don’t have to talk to people. So I don’t have to stand up in a room full of strangers. The teacher should know that. We are mostly all writers. The majority does stand up and voice what they’ve written, but luckily I am not the only one who doesn’t. There are six of us. I counted. Three are high school students. Maybe the others are too shy, like me. I hear the voices in my head. Well, I’m not going up no matter what. I can’t. I might pass out. She can’t make me. I don’t have to. I might walk out. I will if she insists. She doesn’t, though the lady next to me makes bok-bok chicken noises and meows. A kitty, someone says. But I know what it means. It’s ok. She’s right. I am a pussy. I don’t get up not because I feel a sense of superiority. I don’t get up because I let fear keep me seated. No one will hear me anyway. No one has ever heard me. Why, when we were going around the room at the beginning of class, even the teacher interrupted me by talking to the high school boys who had just come in. Rude. Maybe this was another way I justified not speaking. The teacher didn’t even realize it. She needs to watch her words. Said kids can’t write their memories like adults can. But she’s wrong. Some kids don’t have filters, they can write the truth. Said her first story, before reading it out loud, was amateurish. What about the rest of us? Aren’t we all amateurs? Was she, as another woman mentioned, simply apologizing for her inadequacies so the rest of us wouldn’t judge her? Isn’t that what we women do? Why did everyone have to cry reading their story out loud? Were they afraid too? I’m not disappointed I didn’t speak. I wanted to come home and mix in a few other things, polish it, perfect it, or make it sound like I wanted at least. Mom is ok with that, though I can tell she’s a little bummed she wasn’t able to get on stage. One day. Because I do secretly want to get up there. Or she does. And I’m ok with that too. Because as long as I do, I know she’s right along with me, blood racing through me, breathing.

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