One night, my phone emitted the slow crescendo of a brass chord. It was the text ID for my mom. I need warnings like this to prepare myself for any kind of communication with her. Her previous ringer IDs include “Totally Fucked” from Spring Awakening and “Lux Aeterna” from Requiem for a Dream.
The text read: “Hey mutt, just wanted to tell you that Laura is sharing things you’ve told her with Robin and Robin is sharing it with whomever she chooses…just sayin…”
The only “things” of note that I disclosed to my cousin Laura were the guilt complex fueling my workaholic nature and the highlights from a series of self-destructive shenanigans that I survived when studying abroad in Australia almost three years ago.
It was 11pm. What could I do? I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, of course, but I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t fact-check my mother’s claims by calling those she named, and I couldn’t frantically dial my best friends for advice because they were fast asleep, three hours ahead on the East Coast.
So I replied, “Fan-fucking-tastic.” What more was there to say?
I tried to Zen the fuck out of the situation the next day and convince myself to let go of things I couldn’t control. I didn’t know what exactly was out there, but I couldn’t retrieve it.
I was home and in sweats when Z (the guy I was dating) texted. He asked if I wanted to join him and his improv friends after their show. I jumped on the offer, and it felt good to laugh over a plate of comfort food at Roscoe’s. Walking back to my car, Z asked what was wrong, why I’d been so eager to get “a solid drink,” as I’d phrased it earlier. I asked if he wanted the short, vague story or the long life story. He said it was up to me.
We ended up at my apartment, and I finally confessed that I wanted to tell him the long story, but was afraid of scaring him away. We’d known each other for two weeks, and the various strings behind my recent drama seemed a little intense for that timeframe. He said not to worry, and though I didn’t fully believe him, I gave the long, dirty, shameful story.
Turns out he used to harbor some of the same habits that peppered my past. We shared more than either of us expected in fucked up families, flinching histories, residual fears, the whole lot. We both breathed a little easier with everything on the table, and I finally slept.
It wasn’t as if the situation had remedied itself, or that I was suddenly impervious to whatever would come when I talked to my mom a few days later. No, it was simply that, at that moment, my life went all American Beauty, and with everything Z had given me to be thankful for, I couldn’t be in a bad mood. I wouldn’t.