Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Strange Plots 10


My mother came into the kitchen to get ready for work and stopped in consternation at the sight of me at the table, breakfast and coffee to hand, diligently making notes.

“Is something wrong? Why are you up?” she asked, and I swear she felt my forehead, as if eating a healthy breakfast was a sign of illness.

“I’m job hunting,” I said, too absorbed in my task to pay her any mind.

Job hunting was on the same list of symptoms as breakfast, if Mom’s expression was any indicator.

“I’m very glad to hear it,” she said dubiously, “but…”

“But?” I demanded.

“But nothing. I just didn’t expect that this morning.” She rooted in the fridge for lunch fixings.

“Did you think I was going to hang around here forever and become the family shame?” I said, getting testy at this vote of no confidence.

“I was starting to wonder, yes,” said Mom, packing up her lunch in that trendy beeswax fabric that cost more than ten boxes of Saran wrap. “I hope you won’t take the same tone with the interviewer when you’re asked to account for your gap between jobs.”

“If you must know,” I said, getting up from the table and stretching after my labors, “I’m beginning to feel ashamed of myself. I’ve led a pampered existence. By the time he was my age, Grandpa had been working half his life, and was getting ready to get married. On the other side of the family, Vin’s grandma and his great-grandma were single moms who worked and raised a kid by themselves. I’ve got a college degree, which none of them had, and they all could hold a service job better than I can.”

I had been thinking about this lately, how stupid I must have sounded telling Vin that I was between jobs as if I thought it was cute. And I’d had time to chew on my own words, since Vin’s silence had allowed me the space to grapple with them on my own. I needed to start acting like an adult, an adult who one day might have her own family…

“By other side of the family, you mean the Ramirezes, right?” Mom broke into my thoughts with that ultra-reasonable tone she uses to cut me down to size. “Because you already have a family. You don’t have manufacture one out of mountain air.”

I was smug. “The DNA doesn’t lie. They’re your family too, Mom.”

“They’re Grandpa’s family,” Mom snapped. “Good for him, he’s always wanted some back story. We’re above that.”

“What do you mean, above?” I pulled myself back from the edge of being strident. Mom had a sixth sense for when she was rattling me. “If they’re family, they’re family. It’s not like I invented them. The connection is there.”

“Where? Who? So far it sounds like it’s just a big game you’re playing with that guy. I hope he’s hot at least.”

“By ‘that guy’, do you mean Vin Titus? The one you couldn’t be bothered to meet at Grandpa’s house? Yes, he is hot.” She’d used Vin as a pawn to needle me, so I pulled out my trump. “As a matter of fact, I’m considering having Thanksgiving dinner with the Tituses. And it’s not just a game. It’s history. It matters.”

“The present matters!” Mom snarled. “You want to skip Thanksgiving with your parents and your grandparents and your cousins, all the people who care for you?”

“Vin cares for me!” I shouted, and froze, torn between shock at having spoken this aloud, and delight at hearing it put into words. Mom stopped pouring her coffee and stared at me. But if she had a moment of genuine curiosity about the state of my love life, it was subsumed to her need to catch me out in a moment of weakness.

“Does he now?” she said coolly. “That’s a plot twist. Your new family indeed. Well, that’s certainly what the world needs, another inbred mountain dynasty.”

“Oh, now we are related?” Fire flared in my cheeks and burned my breath away, but it was the furious pounding in my ears that made me almost light-headed.

“The DNA doesn’t lie,” said Mom, leaving the house in triumph. I didn’t yell, “I hate you!” after her because Vin wouldn’t have done it. Nor would he have smashed her coffee cup, set her bed on fire, or left the fridge door open all day, so I didn’t do any of those things either. Because of Vin.

What a rookie mistake, to give Mom an opening for her petty bigotry. I could just imagine her making that inbred crack to Vin himself, who would be patient and take it all in good stride while I fumed and fought. Sure, she could rail against strip mining and depletion of resources in the Appalachians when she wanted to rack up political points against filthy capitalism, but it was fine to treat the actual humans who lived up there with contempt. God forbid her daughter should even consider…

Consider what? What was Vin to me? What was I to him? I shut my eyes and luxuriated in the memory of his moment of choice before he touched my hand. He’d been weighing some option against me, and his decision was for me. I wouldn’t let his hesitation stand a chance next time. He had to choose me.

And it wasn’t just a game. Whatever our shared family history was, it was worth learning, because it affected all of us. What was it that had caused the Tituses and the Moores to branch out from each other? I wanted to learn the answer, and I wanted Vin there with me learning too. Besides our distant common ancestor, we shared this desire to learn more about our families, so that we could understand more about ourselves. Wasn’t that a good basis for a relationship?

I wanted to see him again. And I wanted to get out of my mother’s house, permanently, the sooner the better.


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