“Well, could you?” I heard the question the first time and ignored it. She had a way of asking random questions that didn’t really need answers, such as “you know?” or “am I right?” The weird thing was that she wanted the answers. She wanted you to agree to her warped logic or acknowledge your understanding.
And she would wait patiently for you to do so. Letting the question linger in the air until one’s resolve cracked.
The question wasn’t rhetorical but ludicrous. It wasn’t one I wished to answer or should even have to consider. It was one of those awkward moments where I hoped she was tossing an idea into the breeze, hoping it got swept up into a conversation.
I was fine with letting it go, like leaves escaping a tree only to flutter down by its roots. But when she got stuck on something, it was hard for her to walk away.
“No.” Short and sweet works best with her. Any phrase or word I may have tacked on to the end of the one word would only give her point to argue. Excuses to flatten out like iron to laundry.
She had pressed for an answer and I gave her an honest one. Her shoulders slumped in defeat and her low top sneaker traced a line in the dirt. “Even though—”
“No.” I held up my hand to stymie her upcoming tirade. I had heard the list of complaints, the whining, and everything that is wrong in her world one to many times this week. “I know all of that. I don’t okay what has happened. But I’m not going to do it.”
Her eyes narrowed for the briefest of moments. It would have looked like a slow blink to anyone else, but I knew her better than most.
She took a deep breath and pursed her lips, before skewing them to one side. “You’re right, you know?”
“I know.” She was changing tactics. She was good, I had to admit to myself. However, her mode of operandi was known to me.
“Do we know anyone who could?” You to we. It was another method of bending me to her will. They were now working together on a problem. Her lifted eyebrows and upbeat tone made it sound like she was inquiring about my plans for Friday night. She was, in a frightening way.
“No.” Short and sweet. I needed to stop the line of thought. The line of questioning. Needed a way out of this dialogue.
“Well, it’s more curiosity since I know so little abut these things.” Again, she adjusted her tune to coax me into marching to her drum. I’ve seen this concert one too many times to be dragged into her complex orchestra.
“Stop.” Her face contort into one of rage. I would later say that fire could be seen behind her blue irises.
“Is that so?” Again, she waited for me to answer when most wouldn’t.
“I don’t need you anyway. I can do it myself. You’re pathetic. Weak . . . “ I was fine with the venom she spewed my direction. It was a storm of nasty names, second guessing and rehashing shame that I was used to weathering.
“No,” was all I said as she paced around the yard in front of the house unleashing her tantrum. For the most part, I tuned her out. I was used to her ramblings in the background. It was the voice that told me that I wasn’t good enough to try out for the high school play or convinced me that my first love was cheating on me.
“Honey?” I jumped at the sound of my mother’s familiar voice from behind me. “ Dinner’s ready.”
Mother, a frail older woman, stepped out onto the porch with her cane. She looked from me to the overgrown front yard with a sigh.
“Be right in, mom.”
“What are you doing sitting out here all by yourself? You okay?”
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“I made taco soup. It’s your favourite, isn’t it.”
“Well, come on in. It’s getting cold,” she said and fumbled with the door.
I got up and held the screen door open for her as she wobbled though.
Before I could follow my mother inside, she appeared on the top step.
“Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone, if she wasn’t around?” For once, I left her waiting there for my answer.
This dark tale appears to be about planning a murder. However, it really is about the anxiety that wars within me. I have one that is clearly a dark side, the one who tells me I can’t do something or my best effort will end in failure. I have a good side that, when she is there, frightens the dark one away. But there are days when she is older, tired, and not up for the fight.
It’s on those days that I have to be stronger.
Short and sweet.