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My Mother Never Went To Her Prom MAG
I'm glad I'm not going to the prom. Period. I'm tired of repeating myself.
This morning my mother stood in my doorway, looking at me with that ping-pong ball gaze she has. "Have a good day," she said.
I was struggling on the floor with a mud-colored, too-tight skirt. I could feel my face turning cherry red so I turned away.
"It's too small," she offered. I could hear the sound of her teeth pulverizing Cheetos into smithereens and I wanted some.
"No, it's not. I'm always bloated in the morning." I flung the skirt across the room where it struck my poster of Winston Churchill and slid to the floor in defeat. It could stay there and rot for all I cared.
"Don't you feel the slightest bit of regret about tonight?"
I scrunched my lips into a pout and rolled my eyes heavenward. "No, I don't care about the prom. If I wanted to go, then I would be going. You never went to YOUR prom."
"Oh." My mother gave the floor a goofy smile. "Well, I skipped the prom because my date got the chicken pox. Or so he said. But I was devastated."
"I know, Mom, you told me. Now, please get out of my room."
She was always trying to get me to talk about my feelings. I lifted my chin and stared at the ceiling but all I could see there were her gray eyes, clouded over with hurt.
"Well, you'd think that I beat you, the way you treat me." And she was gone.
My mother was always hanging around my room, ever since she and Daddy got divorced. She always seemed to make an appearance when I was on the phone. She'd pretend to be dusting or something useful like that, but when I caught her reflection in my mirror, she'd be looking straight at me, the feather duster suspended motionless in mid-air. Sometimes I just let her listen but other times I told her to get a life. I know that's kind of shallow, but since she gave Daddy the boot, she just sits in the house and watches two-dimensional sitcoms night after night. And I feel so sorry for her that it makes me angry.
That evening I lay back on my carpet and tried to banish the word "prom" from my conscience. I fixed my eyes on the green satin star that hung lethargically from the light on my ceiling. It's the tackiest thing you've ever seen. My brother Marcus bought it for me one Christmas and made me put it up. Once I tried to take it down, but he threatened to tell Mom how my best friend Hilari Marsh and I once stole the sign on our street. It was Halloween. Two days later, my great-aunt got lost trying to find our house. I didn't feel guilty about that though. She's the one who always buys me bras that are too small for my birthday.
Mom had come into my room one night and asked me if I knew anything about the stolen sign. I told her that I saw some kids take it, but that I didn't recognize any of them. I'm a compulsive liar, you know. I know that's not anything to be proud of, but I'm sure there are worse things I could be, like a kleptomaniac or something.
That Halloween night I was so afraid of getting caught that I actually took out my rosary beads from third grade and prayed. The beads were blue and white and thick with dust. I never thought much about God until that night. I really believed He was on my side because we didn't get caught. I wouldn't mind meeting Him, even, to thank Him. And there are so many things I'd like to ask Him like: Can divorced people who go to church all the time still get into heaven? A few nights ago I actually asked Him to help me find at date for the prom. Maybe He was busy, and didn't hear me. I always imagined that He'd be real nice and soft-spoken, sort of like the priest at my church who died. Father McGowan had this glistening earth-colored beard that pulsated when he spoke. When I used to go to confession, I'd pretend that Father McGowan was God and that He was there just for me, because I was special. Everybody else had shrivelled old Father McGowan who smelled like Vicks cough drops, but I had God.
I was still thinking about how I'd like to meet God when I heard my mother's shallow breathing. I sat up and forced an exaggerated rush of air from my lungs. "What, Mom?"
"Did you want to go out to dinner? I found some crumpled Ponderosa coupons in a sweater and they haven't expired yet."
"I'm not really hungry."
"I just thought you might like to get out of the house tonight."
"I don't know. I just thought you would."
I studied my mother's expression for as long as she would let me. She looked so tired. She looked older than forty-three. Silver strands danced in her pale gold hair and soft cracks slithered from the corners of her eyes. She even looked lonely. Something stirred deep in my gut. "Okay," I told her.
"Yeah?" She seemed surprised.
On the way to the restaurant we passed the high school. There were formal gowns and tuxes everywhere. I ducked down in the seat, partially to avoid being seen but also to avoid looking. My mother had this dumb smile and I knew she sometimes felt the way I did. Like the whole world was going to the prom and you weren't, like you were missing out on something big. It's weird, but I got this feeling that my mother actually needed me. Not the me who dried the dishes or did the laundry or took the dog out, but the actual ME.
We passed the school again on the way home from Ponderosa. I didn't duck this time. I saw some of my friends standing outside, but somehow they just looked like beautiful dolls in their beautiful dresses on display. And I felt like something more. fl
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