I am carefully, perfectly dressed every day for my new job. Neither too much or too little which are both tendencies of mine. My make up is subtle, my hair is curled and my jewelry is vintage inspired. While I am often very busy there and apparently my time is worth about what a shrink’s time is worth to clients, I have time to work on things I’ve always wanted to work on – my posture, my elocution, making a good first impression.
On my first day, my mom’s bestie sent flowers to my desk. This is especially poignant because she held my position before me. She knew without saying a word how to signal her approval and love to anyone who walked past my desk.
It’s the first time anyone sent me flowers to an office. Something I always wanted when I was younger but never happened.
Later that week, we have a meeting that she’s not doing well. We use words like “cancer”, “terminal”, “not a good outlook” but we don’t say the most obvious part. I’m hovering behind my mother in the meeting, looking to see if she wants me to give a comforting gesture, but she swats me away from her, as annoyed with me for knowing she has feelings as Bellatrix is to be sharing her domicile with Max II.
The phone rings and I jump up to get it. It’s my mom’s bestie. I had been strong all week, not crying when I got scared or overwhelmed, putting on a brave toaster face and trying so hard to act like a goddamn adult, I start to actually act like a goddamn adult. I think, I can do this. I think, I’m not going to run crying into the bathroom at the first sign of stress anymore. I think, my mother didn’t cry this time in the meeting about J. so I didn’t either and maybe we can just keep a professional face on all of this. I think, Maybe I can really handle this.
And then it’s J., sounding like her old self. I know she is doing this for me, so I don’t feel scared and alone in this familiar-from-a-distance but completely foreign environment. I had been surrounded by tiny humans who could barely form full sentences let alone narc on me about sending a quick text for the last four years. Adults seem terrifying to deal with. Not only can they narc on you, but they expect much more interesting conversation.
She starts giving me advice about the job, telling me how she almost quit after three days but decided to stick it out and when asked by a partner if she would be returning, she stuck her chin out and looked him dead in the eye and said, I shall persevere. Even though it’s not in her nature to be so sassy. She’s making me laugh and telling me I can always call her, no matter what. I’m smiling so wide my face almost cracks open like a redcap’s. I’m genuinely laughing and I make it as loud as I can manage because I know she needs this.
But I can’t stop the tears streaming down my face, and all my new coworkers kindly look away as they walk by. All I can think is, You’re dying. Oh god, J. You’re dying and you’re trying to make me feel like I can handle this new job. You’re. Dying. And you’re trying to reassure me.
People say all the time that someone was too good for this earth and most of the time it’s true enough, if you loved that person. But J. really is too good for this world. She’s salt of the earth so she’s quick with a joke and a laugh but she remembers everything about everyone and always asks them about whatever is going on in their life. I can’t think of anyone who is kinder or gentler.
Today my mother went to tell her goodbye, even though we can’t bring ourselves to say it so plainly. Time stops to exist in any meaningful way, much like in The Body episode of Buffy. My mother lost her husband, her only sibling, her mother, her father and soon, J. I go over for dinner and she cries for a moment until she decides she doesn’t want to be seen grieving. I feel overwhelmed, thinking about what it would be like to lose one of my besties. Thinking about how few people in the world she has left. Thinking about how tiny her world is becoming. Thinking about the chasm of loss she’s starting to step through. Thinking about the enormity of stepping through my Saturn’s gate to fill a dying woman’s shoes.
It just makes me want to lie down and not get back up.
Also not helping: our home looks like we’re hoarders because we’ve been redoing Spare Oom. It makes living in a very small space very depressing because there’s no room. This triggers all of my baggage with living with exboyfriends who would claim that they would “get to” cleaning up after themselves but never did (even though Jow has been doing tons of painting and helping) and it triggers all of Jow’s baggage about having to have moved once a year for seven years like a folktale protagonist. It makes us tense, it makes us fuss. It makes us squabble. It makes packing orders feel like trying to run a race under water. Our cats are still not getting along, we’ve had to move Max II back to the bathroom which is super depressing for me because: (a) I feel like a failure as a cat owner (b) It makes the bathroom very cramped and that’s my sanctuary. It’s hard to feel ritually rejuvenated with bathing rites when you smell cat pee in the air and feel the crunch of cat litter under your feet.
I know logically, that our house will be put back together before my birthday party. I know logically that the cats will eventually get along better in all likelihood. I know my mother will learn to cope with the loss of J. I know we’ll be happy again. I know things will be beautiful again. But right now I just want to sleep.
Today, my best friend’s sister had her baby. A girl named Daphne. Gates opening and closing.