Velvet Trappings

Kate Campbell

I can’t do this! I’m tired, burned, fried! Stop with the empy rituals—the peck on the cheek, the what’s for dinner? Can’t we do something besides this? Besides the usual Wednesday night thing? Isn’t there more to life than this? Work, cook, clean, sleep, repeat. I feel like screaming!

He slinks away, settles in the pink slipper chair, once stylish in my mother’s dressing room, now grease stained and shabby in my living room. He stretches his 6-foot, four-inch frame over the chair, obliterating it’s dainty shape, appearing to float above the floor, defying gravity, eyes me like an empty fridge with bland acceptance, repressed hunger.

The metallic sound of CBS news yammers from the TV, color blurring, then the ad chorus, “How ya fixed for blades, Mister? How are you fixed for blades? Better look.” He stares at the screen.

Well, how are you fixed?

No response. We’d been to this place before. He picked up the squirt bottle beside the chair, sprayed the cat, clawing madly at the ratty couch. The tan velvet sofa from my mother’s family room, where she laid during her last days, skeletal, floating on dilaudid, too high to talk, shivering under a blanket in the summer heat while the cancer ate her and I watched. It had been new back then. Tonight I knew I couldn’t put it in the driveway with a “free” sign and expect it to be gone in the morning.

Don’t you hear me?

I step forward, stare at his inert shape, stand in front of the window and shed my work clothes, roll down panty hose, strip to the skin, take my heavy breasts in my hands, turn to the street and stroke my belly, curl my pubic hair around the tip of my index finger, wish for someone, anyone to walk by and look up, see me, recognize I’ve reached the outer edge of grief, that I have no choice, that I have to go on without her, will never smell her hair or hear her voice. Go on without counting on that secret, unwavering love mothers provide even when their children are grown and angry.

Go put on your pajamas. He says it flat and bored, doesn’t look away from the screen. I plod up the stairs of the house my mother and I bought together when I got my first good job. She helped with the down payment because she said she wanted me to have a place of my own, a safe place to live after she was gone. She wanted that for me long before she was diagnosed. I put on my pajamas and the once-elegant velvet robe she bought me, because, she said, it looked like me.

At the top of the stairs, I pause before stepping down. Tick, tick, tick. The anger in me is keeps time like a watch, unrelenting. Balancing on the top stair, I contemplate letting go, but clutch my loss, hang on.

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