I can’t say I’m surprised to see you, sitting there in my favorite chair. Cantered back, leaning on the arm like you own the joint.
Did you miss me, you ask. You already know the answer.
Can’t say that I did. I cross my arms. You make me nervous, but I’m trying not to show it.
I thought you’d be expecting me, you say.
I don’t answer. There’s no reason to answer. We both know the answer. You sit there, both familiar and unseeable.
I thought I should mark the date, you say. You smile, but it’s more like a sneer.
I could have done it without you, I say. I’m looking at the door, hoping you get the hint. You don’t.
When I was five, my Mom got sick and went away for treatment. For cancer. For melanoma. I don’t remember a lot about it. I remember someone feeling sorry for me and going to Dairy Queen and buying me a peanut buster parfait which I ate in it’s entirety and then got a stomach ache from. I’ve never been able to eat one since. My brother, just an infant, stayed as well. Both of us with our Great-Grandparents. My Mom went far away, to Buffalo where they were the best. She was in a study where they tried to test chemotherapy’s effectiveness on melanoma. She didn’t receive chemo. When we went to visit her, I remembered the bald heads of the chemo patients, with sparse hairs reminding me of baby birds.
But we both know you won’t do it without me, you say.
The thing I hate the most is your arrogance. The assumptions you make. I can do this without you. I don’t have the slightest problem excluding you from the rest of my life.
You’re needier than me, I say with a sniff.
You throw back your head and laugh at me.
That’s funny, you chortle! Oh, you really are funny.
I wasn’t being funny, I say. I was being serious. I think you need me.
I don’t need you, you say. Your eyes glow red. That’s just what you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. We both know that’s not true.
When I was 28 the cancer came back.
When the Princess was five my Mom was fighting for her life. She was going to lose, but when the Princess was five, we didn’t know that. We didn’t learn that until the Princess was seven.
And while I’m not the type of person who buys into that “my parents ruined my childhood and look what a screw up I am” crap, that time as a five year old girl, separated from her Mom weighed heavily on me. And in the fall of 2005, when the Princess was the age I was when my Mom went away my attacks began. Small and annoying at first and then big and brutal. I became agoraphobic. Afraid to leave the house for anything. Big Daddy would have to drag me out, physically, with me sobbing and begging him to let me stay at home. No place really felt safe anymore, but home was the safest, I guess. We were in so much turmoil and I had all I could stand.
On Halloween, Big Daddy took me to urgent care. I thought I was having a heart attack. The Princess waited in the car, exhausted in her pink princess costume while the people at urgent figured out that my pulse was over 130 beats per minute.
The next week, I made an appointment with a therapist. When I pieced together that I was the age my daughter was when my Mom’s dying became a very real possibility everything started to make sense. Everything. And while I don’t blame, because what is there to blame? It changed me. Mommies went away. Mommies left. Through no one’s fault. And while my Mommy came back, for a while, sometimes they didn’t. And I didn’t want to ever leave Big Daddy and my little girl. Alone and confused and lonely and sad and frightened.
It’s been three years, you say. People forget.
No one’s forgotten.
You’ve had to remind people. You’ve had to remind them why you’re feeling this way.
Because it’s not at the forefront of their mind. It affected me more. It affected me more deeply. It changed me.
You laugh. You’re such a bastard about that. Laughing when I actually open up to you, thinking you’re more sensitive than you are. Thinking that maybe if you see me for what I am, that you won’t come back.
You keep telling yourself that, you say.
One day you won’t come back here, I say.
I wouldn’t make any bets about that, you say. You can’t afford to lose to me again.
I’ve never lost to you, I point out. Not once. I always send you packing. You stay for shorter and shorter amounts of time. One day, you won’t be able to come back. I’ll change the locks. You won’t be able to get into the door.
You don’t say anything. You don’t meet my eye and through the tiny chink in your armor I see a pinpoint of light.