The last time I saw my mother was a warm spring day. The air smelt like a day at the beach, playing on floats. A million thoughts raced through my head.
I sat on a bench outside of Central Park; people walked around me, almost moving at the speed of sound, cars drove past me. Fast enough to the point where I couldn’t see the people inside. License plate after licence plate moving faster than the minute hand on my hazel watch.
I stare at my watch with the hope that my mother will come, sweat dripping down my forehead, flooding my hairline. The last time I saw her before that was on a cold day, I couldn’t have been more than 15; I was sitting on the steps of my third foster home that year, her broken down beat-up car that she got in the ’90s turned the corner. She started screaming as she jumps out of the passenger seat. The social worker was sitting next to her, he parked the car and sat, staring at us.
“Baby!” she shouted, as she ran up to me. “Oh sweetheart,” she said, jumping up the pavement stairs.
She sat next to me and grabbed my chin, she started hugging me, brushing her cold, dry, thin pale cheeks up against mine.
“Hi, mom.” I solemnly say, turning my body slightly farther from her.
She doesn’t get the hint, she moves closer and wraps her arms around me. Grabbing me she pushes her head down onto my shoulder. I see her hair, thinning from the middle out.
“I got a job sweetheart, everything gonna is okay.” as the words leave her mouth confidently, I begin to sink into the stairs.
I dont remember anything past that, yet a tear trickles down my cheek. As I think about it.
I look out of my bubble of solum to see a woman that resembled my mother, walking off of a bus. She walked off the bus, wearing a flannel rolled up to her shoulders and a flowy orange skirt. I stood up and patted the static electricity off of my black and white pantsuit. As I pushed my purse onto my shoulder.
That was it, no backing out now, it seemed like no taxies were even driving near me anymore. My breathing pattern quickens, in and out, in and out, I remind myself.
“Hi ma.” the words are pushed out of my mouth like an old memory. My face turns white as she gets closer, her bag filled, most likely with everything she owned, and her shoes, broken on one side, dirty on the other. She gets closer to me and it looks almost like a new person. It brings me back to when I was a kid. Once the memories start they won’t stop.
Being the kid who had to take care of her mother, who never saw her mother, who’s mom came home at 3’oclock almost every morning, the one who had to tell her mom to take her meds. I felt like that kid again, that kid that just wanted to stay in one home for a few months. The kid that didn’t want a new stepdad who would leave like all the other ones. That kid that would cry herself to sleep in an abandoned car on Sullivan street because she didn’t want to go home and the car was warmer than her apartment that she could only get into through a broken window on the second story.
I look down to ground myself from my earthquake of emotions to realize, the women left. She walked past me completely. Ignored again, forgotten.
I walked after the women, chasing after the only family I had. It felt like all my life I had been chasing after her. I didn’t want it to be true but it was. All I ever wanted was her approval. I wanted her to say “good job Ali” but she never could.
“MOM!” I shout, past the fragile women’s head, breaking the silence between us that has been there for almost 15 years. “You said you would be here at 3:00! You promised it’s in the letter, you promised! MOM” I screamed as I broke down, almost falling to the floor.
The women kept walking, almost like nothing was happening, like I didn’t just fall behind her, professing my deepest secret. That I actually did care about her.
“Alison,” Says a man. He’s pale and kind looking. He’s wearing a button-up shirt with fun colours and is plump enough to make him look around 50 or so, but not large enough to fill out his Workmans jeans. “Alison?” he says again, walking over towards me. He offers me his hand, I take it. He looks at me with a sad smile and then says, “let’s sit.”
I’m too vulnerable at the moment to say no, so I say nothing at all.
We walk out of the park and go into a small coffee shop where he orders two hot chocolates and brings them over to me.
“Who are you?” I manage to muster up without crying. “How do you know who I am?”
The man lets out a light chuckle, filled with a bit of sadness and says, “I’m Henry. I was married to your mother.” He takes off his mittens which look to have been made by a seven-year-old and shows me the tag, “For Henry, love Delia.” he reads out. Then he takes a letter out of his coat pocket and pushes it over to me. Its a datebook, with my birthday, today, circled. It says “meeting with Alison, central park, 3:00.”
“What is this, why are you giving me this, where is my mother?” I say, slightly exasperated.
“She sent you that letter a year ago, it was all she wanted. All she wanted to do was to come and see you. She was so proud of you.” a tear falls down his rosy cheeks and he lets out a slight cough. “She kept every article you wrote, from when you first started at the new yorker. She was” he took a pause, “we were so proud of you.”
“Where is my mother,” I say as my heart sinks into my chest, she was proud of me.
“A month or so after she sent you that letter,” He takes a deep breath, and lets out another tear. “she was diagnosed.”
My heart sank to my feet. The world began to spin. The cars outside became silent, then slowly so did the rest of the world.
“She died a few months ago, she was too hopeful to tell you. She didn’t want you to worry.” he begins to cry a little harder, then holds my hands. “She loved you most in this world. I know she wasn’t perfect, but there was nothing you could do to make her not love you.” His voice cracks as my brain spins.
My stomach is churning and I feel like I might fall out of my chair, the world just goes dark.
I run out of the restaurant and try to find my car while I walk around the world an orphan.
I find my car and somehow get inside. Then everything goes dark, its nothing. She loved me and I never spoke to her, I talked about how much a loathed her. I wanted her dead, this is my fault.
I hated her, or at least that’s what I thought, for most of my life.
I curled up in the passenger seat and thought about her, for what felt like days. Thought about how she would always give me a blanket instead of keeping it herself, how she would feed me before herself every day. In the song she used to sing me to go to bed, I would look into her hazel eyes with spots of green and feel peace.
“Mom. please dont make me say goodbye.”
“You don’t have to say goodbye,” says Henry. He’s looking into the window of the car, tearing up at the sight of my running mascara and a broken heart. “Let me drive you, home sweetheart.”
I look up at him, he is my mom’s type or was I guess. Kind, not pushy, and a nice smile. I open the door next to me and put my address into the GPS and henry ducks into my car. We look at each other for a moment, and for some reason, I feel safe.
“It’s gonna be okay, I promise.” He says. As we drove through the New York City traffic. I feel like I’ve gotten a new member of my small family, were held together, by something stronger than both of us, someone stronger, held together by my mother.