by Audrey Bowers
i sit across from my mother
in the middle of a steakhouse
in muncie, indiana
i don’t know if she knows this:
but i don’t want to be her daughter
& she doesn’t know that I know this:
but she doesn’t want to be my mother
at least not like this
she works at kroger,
dreams of escaping her life for once & for all
she left me when I was a child, not once, but twice
once for music city, another time for palm trees
& beaches in cali, homelessness was something
she became used to & something i feared
we dare not speak this truth into being. instead,
we mask our pain
play make believe
eat at restaurants
we can’t afford
order steak & chicken
fried pickles & mozzarella sticks
even though we should probably share an entrée
nothing but the best, this is a special occasion after all
i eat all of the bread & butter,
order a cocktail to my mother’s dismay
because i need a drink
to deal with this bullshit.
she complains about not having a good job
& her master’s degree classes
& her dumb professor
i don’t want to clean toilets anymore, she says.
that’s not my fault, i tell her
why can’t you care about me for once?
we talk about my life for two minutes
& then she’s back where she started,
blaming the world for her circumstances.
she tells me how open-minded she is,
although she cringes every single time i mention
my future girlfriend or wife. she made me cry
in a bookstore once because of it.
i pay half of the bill even
though i’d prefer not to, i told her to visit
even though i didn’t really want to see her,
thought it was a kind gesture;
that kind gesture put us both through hell.
usually, we say our i love you’s
& our i miss you’s,
but this time, it didn’t end like that
i slam her car door, storm
off to my apartment, & don’t look back.