Mom tried to talk to me today. But I’m not sure what she was thinking—or me either for that matter—because we ended up yelling at each other. This is how it went.
—knock on door—
Me: Come in.
Mom: —pushes door open hesitantly— Is there anything you want to talk about, honey?
Me: I’m fine, mom.
Mom: —sits down on edge of bed where I’m pretending to be engrossed in an old Time magazine—
Me: Mom. I said I’m fine. —turn page—
Mom: —reaches for my hand— We’ll pull through this, Jove. You’ll see, sweetie.
Me: —snatches hand out of her grasp— Whoever said we wouldn’t?
So finally, I guess she got fed up with my “I don’t care” act.
She said “Maybe if you stopped denying what’s really going on, you’d be able to move through this.”
At this, I slapped Time down on the bed and sat up. “Me? You’re saying I’m the one who needs to move through this?”
“Well . . . yes, honey, that’s what I’m—"
“If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been the one crying for the last three days!” Then I stomped from the room and slammed my door in her face before she could follow.
By the time she caught up with me, I’d made it out the door and into the animal’s shack.
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, young man.” She stood in the doorway, her eyes shiny from holding back tears and a wrinkle standing out on her forehead.
I grabbed the parakeets’ cage from its perch and pushed past her. “Where do you think you’re going,” she demanded.
“To clean the cage,” I snapped back.
She followed me, her voice softer now. “Honey. Jove, sweetie.”
That’s what happens when she has nothing else to say. She says “sweetie” or “honey” or something to sugarcoat things that she’s not sure will hurt or not.
“It isn’t that bad of a percentage, honey. You know . . . a 31 percent is—"
“Is an F- if that were possible,” I cut her off. The parakeets squawked in protest at the pitch in my voice and I set the cage down before I turned and looked at her.
“It isn’t like that, sweetie.” She smiled weakly to sugarcoat the sentence even more and said, “its a three-year average. You’re strong. I know you can beat it those three years.”
“And what if I don’t?” By then, my eyes were on fire.
She hesitated again and took a step towards me. “Jove, swe—"
“Don’t “sweetie” me, mom! I know all you’re going to say is, ‘Oh, you can beat it. We can get through this.’ But you know what?”
But I didn’t give her time to answer.
“Has it ever occurred to you that the percentage means that only 31 out of 100 survive those first three years?”
Her bottom lip quivered, but I kept pressing.
“Did it occur to you before I told you that a 31 percent is an F and the average grade among the seniors graduating next year with me?”
“No, mom! You’re only going to say that an F is fine as long as they’re trying their hardest. But what about my life? Is it trying hard enough if I join that stupid percentage? An F, mom?!”
By now, the parakeets were going batty. Their cage rattled as they flapped about it frantically.
“Jove. I had no idea you felt that way.” She’d finally gotten past the sugarcoating.
“Yeah, well. News flash for you,” I muttered and reached for the cage.
Then she said the worst thing of all. “But that other 69 percent . . . they lived for another three years, honey.”
The cage, now in my hand, crashed to the ground as I stood before her in horror.
“And only three more years with your son is good enough for you?”
To that, she couldn’t answer me.