My mother came to visit me in Melbourne last week. She walked into my tiny apartment with the Devlin dust still in her hair. She smelled of eucalyptus and burning sun -- like my childhood -- and when she put her bony arms around me she felt that way, too. She felt like my never-ending ache for more, more, more which has only just started to recede now that I’m in my twenties.
“How are you?” I asked, steering her to the dining room table, the space between my shoulder blades hollower than it had been for years. It’s incredible how easily the longing of childhood returns to us -- maybe one day it will take more than a remembrance to re-instill the yearning. Maybe one day I will ache for less.
“I’m fine,” she said, but her once smooth skin had furrows. They were few and far between, but still my mother looked as if the cracks of the desert were finally beginning to be baked into her ochre body. Perhaps to compensate for her wrinkles, her lipstick was so deep a shade that it reminded me at once of plums and war.
I served her lunch, using the willow-patterned china I reserved for guests. The food was over-indulgent, laced with intricate flavors and ornately presented. There were courses of it, too. Home-made dumplings as appetizers, pan-roasted garlic chicken as the main and wildberry cheesecake to finish.
She drank in the food with slanted eyes. It was so far removed from the necessarily cheap and simple meals the two of us had shared when I was growing up. Baked potatoes, pastas, stir fries. My mother had a knack for combining the simplest of flavours in the tastiest of ways which I had certainly not inherited. But still, she complimented the cooking. She said, “It’s good to see that you feed yourself well.”
I laughed, but made no reply. What would she say if she knew that my diet remained, largely, unchanged from my boarding school days at St. Patrice’s? My staples were, and probably always would be, instant noodles and weed.
She met my silence with silence, the conversation only resurfacing just as we were about to finish the chicken, when she asked, as some sort of afterthought, a follow up on my initial comment, “How are you, Kenna?”
She seemed more interested in the bite of chicken at the end of her fork than in my well being, but I replied, “All right.”
As we began on the cheesecake I wondered why she had come here. The afternoon sun filtered through my window and flared its way through her dark brown hair, turning it a golden brown and even with the cracks in her skin, I could see it for a moment. I could see why nearly every man in Devlin had wound up in her bed.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
A super rough snippet from BREAKING SKIN: