April, 2008

When I was a kid, I pretty much tried to toe the line. I didn't rebel dramatically or act out much. I was outwardly compliant and generally acquiesced to the rigid demands of my mother, a single parent who tried hard to keep us on the straight and narrow. That was my outward attitude, anyway. Inwardly, I was a complete madman and reveled in anything I could get away with that I wasn't supposed to be doing. My parents' on-again/off-again marriage left us in Mom's single custody and she was fiercely protective of us. It was hard to get away with anything. Anything overt, that is. I found sneaky ways to have fun, though. I spent a good deal of time in my teenage years in a state I like to call "quietly impaired".

So, I'm out late one night with my wastrel friends, doing God only knows what, becoming severely uh... chemically altered. I seem to recall a conversation with someone who lived in a ceiling vent, and being endlessly amused by the... "ripply" quality of my own fingers. Someone who can still manage to drive drops me off at home, and I tiptoe in the door and sneak through the living room toward my bedroom. I'm shaky and jittery and very wasted and I just wanna switch off and crash in the nice, safe darkness and get some rest.

My mom.... MATERIALIZES in the kitchen as I sneak past, all perky and chatty and happy, and starts to ask me all sorts of questions about my evening. Did I have a nice time with my friends, and was the movie (or concert or whatever the hell it was) fun, and was I hungry, and so forth and so on...? I'm trapped now, and I have to make polite conversation and avert my eyes so she doesn't see my dinner-plate-sized pupils before I can slink away to my lair. It's past midnight, but she's up and offering me food; her master plan for keeping me safe, I guess.

I traipse along after her into the kitchen, and see she's got a loaf of bread and some cold cuts and lettuce and tomatoes and an onion and mustard and mayonnaise and so on-- even some dill pickles-- already laid out on the cutting board. It looks to me like an illustration of The Horn Of Plenty. It's ... so... inviting! A minute ago, food was the last thing on my mind, but suddenly --godnose why-- I'm INCREDIBLY hungry, and a big ol' sandwich seems like just the thing!

"Sure! Thanks; I'd like a... um... some... whatever it is that you've got piled up over there, Mom."

She starts to fix me a giant, Mom-style sandwich, with the works. I'm watching her, and watching the progress as this incredible treat begins to take shape in front of me on the kitchen countertop. WOW! All I have to do is stand there, and like magic....FOOD HAPPENS! Cool! Suddenly, all is right with the world.

Now, unknown to me, she has a tea kettle on the stove, and she's boiling water to make herself some tea. It's one of those kettles that whistles when the water boils, you know the type...?

I'm watching her sandwich wizardry, and j-u-s-t exactly as she places the blade of her knife against this onion and begins to cut a slice of it, the kettle hits the boiling point.



I crouch, assuming some vague, defensive posture against... banshees (?) and I whip my head around, frantically looking for the source of this ungodly screaming. Mom-- her own pupils now almost the size of mine--stares at me like I am possessed by demons. I look over towards the stove, and I see a big cloud of steam jetting from the spout of the tea kettle there, and I slowly realize what's going on.

"What is the matter with you, for God's sake?" she asks.

"I.... uh... I thought.... um... well, I guess I thought that... er... the onion was...uh... screaming..." I say.

She stares at me like I'm some new specimen of insect.
I realize immediately how suspicious this rationalization for my bizarre reaction must sound, and I giggle.

"Are you all right?" she asks.

"Oh, yeah. I was just surprised, you know? That poor, little onion.... it, um... just seemed like it was... ah... in trouble, for a minute, there. Phew! Some deep shit for the old onion, you know? I was worried! Hey, but it's all right, isn't it?"

(In my head I'm saying to myself: "SHUT UP! YOU'RE MAKING IT WORSE! JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!")

She stares at me like she's not sure what the hell has just happened.
I laugh, and grab this half-assembled sandwich and start to ravage the thing-- just cramming my mouth full so I can't talk any more. I wave at her, give her a thumbs-up gesture and start to walk away.

"Don't you want some onion on that?" she asks.

"NOOO! No...uh... no, thank you. No onion, Mom. This is fine. More than enough. Gotta get some sleep, now. Thanks, Mom..." I wobbled off to my room, clutching the ruins of my (onionless) sandwich.

And somehow I managed to go on living there for another year and a half or so...

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