When she’s single, my mother goes out with the girls from work. “Men don’t grow on trees,” she says.
They grow in bars, in line at the bank where she works, at the gas station where she used to get her car inspected before she and Scott broke up. They grow older, wider, meaner, tired of her. They grow apart.
If she comes home still single, my mother is honest, tipsy. “I just miss the feeling of a man on top of me,” she’ll say. “It’s so hard to sleep alone.”
When I was little, I used to have these nightmares about her disappearing, getting into some car and never coming back. I never bothered telling her. She’d be upset about the wrong thing. I’d just go into the living room if it was late enough and turn the TV on real low, so it didn’t wake her.
I guess I spooked a boyfriend enough, asleep on the couch in my nightshirt, that a little TV showed up in my room one day.
“Wasn’t that nice of him?” she beamed.
She’s the kind of person who adapts to a broken thing instead of figuring out how to fix it.
When she’s single, my mother will climb into bed with me when she thinks I’m asleep. I can tell she’s disappointed that I’ve started to face the wall, because it means she has to be the big spoon, the protector instead of the protected.
I wait, until I can slide down the length of my twin bed and sneak out into the living room to sleep on the couch, facing the door, until the infomercials turn to news.
Jaime Fountaine was raised by “wolves.” Her novella, Manhunt, is forthcoming from Mason Jar Press. She lives in Philadelphia, where she co-hosts the Tire Fire reading series with Mike Ingram.
Image: Matthew Klein