I drag my mother’s deflated body around in a plastic dry cleaning bag. She attaches to the wire hanger surprisingly well. And I marvel at the correlation between all oppressive mothers and wire hangers thanks to Joan Crawford. She isn’t dead, not yet. But she is dead weight, dragging me down, always drunk and always wanting more from me than I can give her. Is this what it is to be a daughter? To constantly disappoint no matter how much you try, offer yourself to the altar that is impossible-to-impress-or-satisfy matriarchy. God, this body is getting heavy. I have to set it down on a staircase I happen to pass in this endless hall that looks like the sterile interior of a mall but is more akin to an office building in the aura it exudes. I don’t know how or why I got here. I don’t know anything anymore, other than I must go on carrying the weight of my mother. Her name is Camille–“my grandmother was French,” she would often add after introducing herself to a new person.
Mother is creator. Mother is god. This is why we hate her so much. She has a power that will forever outshine our own. Even those daughters who have daughters of their own can never surpass what their mother did for them. Because the daughter cannot give life to the mother, it is perpetually to be the other way around. And as she gives life, she also likes to suck it right out of you. Just to show you that she can, to remind you of all she did for you, especially how she destroyed her own body to give you yours. You are forever an ungrateful little shit for this crime you unwittingly committed upon entering the earth. The crime of your birth. How can you ever repay the favor? I tried so long to figure out how before I decided simply to give up. And yet, she still has me lugging her around out of guilt.
The unshakeable fucking guilt. I start to sit down just as she comes to, decides this is the perfect time to detach herself from her stupor–right when I’m trying to relax a bit and collect my bearings. It is in her maternal DNA to be able to sense the perfect time to interrupt me in a way that will completely fuck me over. It’s the sort of sixth sense that only algorithms and animals possess. I abhor her for it because I probably wish I had it, and could use it on another person I, too, wanted to torture.
“Cassandra,” she accuses, annoyingly putting her usual emphasis on the “an” part of my name. I cringe. She is going to request something from me that I will inevitably be unable to adequately deliver on. I wish already that she wouldn’t demand whatever she is about to from me. These entreaties of hers are never a treat. She only makes them to further prove to herself that the thing she hath created is useless, a reflection of herself.
“I want you to take me home.”
“I’m trying mother, really I am. But you’ve put on a few pounds it seems. You’re not so easy to cart around.”
She practically grimaced at me. “And what about you? You’ve certainly got the heft to be able to support me.”
It was true, I had developed a paunch, and my love handles couldn’t be ignored either. I had so long denied what had been happening to the shape of my body, however, that to hear an allusion to its proportions so harshly conveyed was jarring to me. And only Mother could be the one to render such a crushing blow to the self-esteem. As she gives life and detracts from it, she is also an expert at building and destroying the daughter’s confidence. Oh, what a gifted woman is Mother. Gifted in all things generative of that which is excruciating to bear.
She pokes me in a way that indicates she is mocking the density of my flesh and urges, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
I should have never picked her up from the dry cleaner’s. I should have never agreed to be released from my father’s penis. And where is my father now, huh? He’s certainly not taking care of Mother, that’s for sure. Mothers are so easily abandoned, in the end. And by everyone who they gave the most to. It is such a cruel irony. That the more a person gives, the less people want to give back in return. Indeed, they get a hair repulsed by self-sacrifice. It almost makes them squeamish, like, “Oh god, this person wants reciprocity from me? I can’t.”
Still, I am committed to getting her body back to where it belongs: in the coop-like comfort of her own home. She so rarely leaves it now, opting to stay in and drink or try her hand at an unfinished needlepoint that will remain unfinished. One might say that the ultimate source of incompletion to Mother, invariably, is raising her daughter. It is a duty and a chore that burdens her until her dying breath, which is why she, in turn, chooses to burden her daughter as recompense for the favor. How else is Mother going to get her proverbial money’s worth if she doesn’t harass the daughter?
I know there are some mothers and daughters who have worked out that “best friend” rapport. But even Lorelai and Rory had their dips, their contentions. For there is no one who can get under the skin quite like Mother. And soon, her nails are very literally digging into mine as she clutches to my back, expecting me to get her to where she’s going, to do what she’s asked of me–in short, not to be such a goddamn waste of her now overly enlarged vagina all the time.
When we finally arrive back at her house, I remove the plastic covering from her body and take her off the hanger. But our relationship can never be made clean.