by Alexis Truetle

My mother calls on Wednesdays. Wednesdays because that’s the day she can pencil me in, neatly, across an empty white page of her file-o-fax. When I’m home, we go to lunch on Wednesdays. I always wear something nice and comb my hair, put on the flowery earrings she likes so much. But since I’m 3000 miles away from home, Wednesday afternoon lunches have sort of evolved into complicated phone calls that eerily remind us of lunch dates back at home.

“Hiiii!” she sings into the receiver. My mother has one of those incredibly melodic voices, rich and commanding. My mother wanted to be an Opera singer. I tell her ‘hi’ back, not even bothering to make my voice as lovely as hers. We tried before. It doesn’t work.

“So how is everything?” Everything’s fine.

“Are you having fun?” My mother is convinced everyone on the face of the Earth is having more fun than me. She diagnoses me with depression when she sees me at home, alone, shut off in my room on a Friday night. I don’t think it’s possible for my mother, who reigned as the head cheerleader/ homecoming queen/ valedictorian when she was my age, to understand that being at home on a Friday night, alone is what makes me happy. It must be a hard thing to comprehend in my mother’s head, a Friday night alone. “Are you making friends?” Lots of fun. Lots of friends, Mom.

“I want to hear all about it!” My mother is one of those people who says they want to hear about it and actually means it. I don’t know. What do you want me to tell you, Mom?

“Shit! You’re in New Fucking York! You’ve got to have something exciting to tell me!” My mother has a mouth like a truck driver. It always shocks my friends at first, who then go on to think this is an incredibly cool trait my mother possesses. Like the time in junior high my mother had gotten stuck driving a car load of my 13 year old friends when a nun pulled out in front of my mother’s van, who then took it upon herself to yet out the window, “GOD DAMMIT! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” She was a nun! I cringed. My friends laughed the entire car ride. My mother, the confirmed Catholic.

My mother keeps asking me questions. I don’t know what it is, but I’m convinced there is something about the phone, that makes it incredibly easy to tell my mother about my days here. Or maybe it’s not the phone at all. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 3000 miles away or that it’s been scientifically proven the bad track lighting in this 6×10 dorm room has mind numbing effects. Or maybe there are some things about Wednesdays that make it easier for my mother and I to relate to one another. Either way, I’m suddenly telling my mother more about my life and my plans than I probably care to.

And she listens. And I know she is taking this all in, word for word, storing it like a computer, in that huge incriminating evidence file of her maternal brain, I know she’ll find ways to use against me one of these days.

ItÕs weird because I acknowledge this fact, but I still ignore it. This amazes me, the way that I’m eagerly replying to the same questions my mother asks on a day to day basis that normally are enough to send me into raging fits of annoyance inside my head.

But tonight I am incredibly grateful towards my mother for asking these questions, for replying to everything with such enthusiasm. It’s nice to know, that at least on Wednesdays, she still cares. And for once I enjoy listening to her daily affirmations, gossip, talk about her work. Things I normally wouldn’t care about.

“And oh shit, I locked the keys in my car again today.” My mother has a knack for locking the keys in her car. She’s the kind of person who presses the power lock button when she comes to a stop sign. My mother is the most paranoid person I know.

“You’re not gaining weight are you?” My mother always told me, “Sometimes you have to suffer to be beautiful.” Like the time she taught me how to buy an expensive dress one size too small so that starving yourself to fit into it would seem actually worth it. My mother is a very practical person.

I’m not offended by her questions, I’m used to them by now. My mother with her pear-shaped body. I did not inherit my mother’s small-on-top-big-onbottom figure. I do not resemble my mother with her average height and average weight. She says I take after my father.

I stare at a picture of my family we brought with me, focusing in on my mother’s smiling face while she talks about fat grams and Thighs of Steel work out videos. I wonder why I haven’t before realized how truly beautiful she is. How unfortunate it is for me, both of us probably, that I do not have her pink angelic face and rare green eyes, I think. Nobody has ever accused me of looking like my mother. I suddenly have a need to be very close to her. I get this empty feeling, thinking that if only I could stare into a mirror and recognize my mother’s face I wouldn’t feel so horridly far away from her.

“We made you an appointment.” My mother’s confident voice breaks in again and settles with me even though I have no idea what she’s talking about. My mother is always making me appointments that I somehow seem to always miss. Okay. I say ‘okay’ to my mother’s appointments a lot. ‘Okay’ always pisses her off. She wants me to take appointments as seriously as she does.

We are running out of things to say.

My mother takes it upon herself to change the subject. “I couldn’t wear a sleeveless shirt today. I have this damn bruise on my arm. It looks like shit.” My mother bruises easily. At least physically. I’ve inherited this from her, maybe the only physical trait that has been passed down to me by means of her.

Our phone call is lingering. Both of us trying to hold on to whatever it is about this Wednesday tradition that allows us to relate to one another. It isn’t working. Once, during one of our Wednesday lunches, I asked my mother what she thought about a relationship I was in. She had just looked at me and said, “You’re just trying to salvage what’s left of nothing.” It wasn’t what I’d wanted her to say.

Do you remember that Mom? Do you remember when you told me? I ask her.

She’s quiet for minute. “I don’t think so…” Pause. “You’re making that up. I never said that.” Whatever Mom. Whatever.

My mother gives it one last chance.

“I saw that Chris boy you used to bring to the house at McDonalds with some other girl. Did you know about that?” Yes. I want to tell her. I do. I want to tell her all about my teenage boy problems. I’d like to be 4 years old again, sitting in my mother’s lap, hair twirling around my finger, having her tell me that everything is going to be all right. I want to say I really messed this one up, Mom. He was smart and kind and gentle. He was the one. I want her to tell me it will all work out. I want to tell her. I do.

“To tell you the truth, I’m actually glad you got rid of that one. He seemed like such a loser,” I don’t tell her.

There’s more I should tell her. Important parts I’m leaving out. Partly on purpose, partly because I can’t find the words to say them. But mainly because the novelty of this Wednesday is wearing off.

“So I guess I should let you go. It doesn’t sound like you want to be reminded any more of home. It sounds as if you really do need to get away from here.” Yeah. I guess so Mom. I’m glad I left out the part about missing home. All those years of complaining would seem pretty hypocritical I think.

“I’ll talk to you Wednesday.”

I bite my lip. Twirl a strand of hair around my finger. I’ll be the first to say it I think. I tell myself it would mean so much more to her if I said it first. I think about it, practice saying it in my head before I go through with it. I smile thinking how wonderful it will be.

“I love you.” She beats me to it.

I love you too.