small talk

“The next time there is a mini apocalypse you don’t want to burn up all your toilet paper”

My eyes shot up and caught Clyda’s gaze sitting in front of me, a bite of tamale hovering in front of her mouth. What was my mother talking about on the other side of the room? I pretended to be surprised but my mother rarely makes sense taken out of context.

I drug myself unwillingly to the get together. Recently I don’t trust myself in situations where I have to interact with people, especially people who aren’t my immediate family. I’m not used to being myself anymore, not in English, not in my own clothes, not in my own home. I don’t know how I’m going to respond or react to people and circumstances; and lately, what comes out of me surprises even myself. In a way it’s exciting. In a way it’s nerve-racking. If you don’t know what to expect out of yourself, the unplanned can be embarrassing or awkward or even worse-phony.

Topics of conversation when you are with people you don’t know very well and probably won’t ever know very well:

The Ice Storm and two weeks without power.
What I ate in Russia
What we’re eating in the moment (“This guacamole dip is simply to die for!”)

Such a stark contrast from the conversation I had with my mom the day before. In the car, on the way to the doctors office…

When I was little, I’d lie awake at night thinking about what it would be like if someone close to me died, my mom or my brother or my dad. I’d just think about it till I was hysterically crying.

How did I manage to maintain my composure while we talked about it so candidly. It helped that she had to keep her eye on the road and I could look out my window. Tears are contagious.

Would my step dad get re-married? She’d admittedly thought a lot about it, but they hadn’t talked about it.
She’d got an answer that if she would fight off the cancer, she’d have more time…how much? Everyone is dying she said. She told me things I never knew, that she’d found the tumor years before and it had been misdiagnosed. That it’s in her blood and that’s why spots are showing up everywhere. That my step dad asked her the other day, “The cancer is gone isn’t it?”

I don’t ask the questions I don’t want her to worry about, Do I still come home to see my stepdad if she isn’t there? Is it still my home? What will I do when I see a movie I know she would have loved, or read a book and want her opinion on it? Am I doing it again? Am I just working myself up over what is, for now, a non-reality? Is it dangerous to think about these things or talk about them? Where do you draw the line between preparing yourself for the inevitable and dwelling on it?

She jokes that she’ll be with us in spirit every time we go to the bathroom, then Ron calls and wants to go to a Buddy Holly tribute concert, so  we grab a bite to eat, and drive over to the mall for our favorite bonding pass time…buying things we never knew we wanted until they were marked down to $1.97.

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