I love it when she calls me that. It's so simply perfect in every way, and I don't think she knows it. Of course, it's a statement of the obvious, but I don't believe that she means to remind me of the biological order of events that needed to occur in order for me to be standing here, today. In order for the implications in that address to hold fast to truth.
No. I'm sure that when she says it, and each time she says it, she means to remind me of the weight it holds for her. And the exponential weight it's gained with each ounce, with each pound, with each inch, with each foot, with each day, and with each year. From the moment she first held me in Balboa Naval Hospital not 25 minutes drive from here, to this moment now; as I hold her in return.
I never want her to be inconvenienced so I'm leaning down, as I would any other time, to get a warm hug from her; she's good for those.
I'm a fiend for them. If you were to tell me that I had a choice, and the choice was between the taste of every warm meal at the dusk of every starving day that I'd ever know, and these hugs, the choice would be simple. I'd trade them for few, and I'd give most for them. She knows it, I'm sure I hold her tightly and firmly enough for that much to be clear. I'm sure I'm doing that right now.
It's the kind of thing that's understood in life, and in living it; the love within that exchange.
I'm smiling now, as I almost always am, but it's a little awkward. She wants me to call her Sunshine but I've said, and continue to say 'Momma'. When Kenneth and Nardos and Charlean and Auntie Brenda and Pop and all of us were here last, I think it was some odd weekend with Kenneth and Nardos were in town, she'd mentioned that to us. She wants our kids to call her that, when we have them, of course, because it sounds better to her than 'Grandma' or 'Grandmother'. Understandable. Who wants to grow old and feel old?
But I can't, and I've almost completely drowned in the practice of calling her 'Momma', and with good reason. I'm not going to argue with her about, that's just disrespectful, and I do that enough already; I don't need anything else testifying to just how horrible of a son I can be. But she should understand, I get it more from her anyway, the value for family in the utmost. You blend that with what I've stolen from my Pop, respect for the weight of a word, and you have a near-unbreakable attachment. 'Momma' means so much more to me than 'Sunshine' ever can. I've knowingly loved and love her and the word so much more, I don't believe the 'Sunshine' even knows my name.
"What you watching, cartoons?" I ask.
"Yea, Brenda's soap operas just went off. Where you coming from?" She answers and asks in return.
She's asking as though she wasn't texting me the whole way here. As if she hadn't called me in class and left a voicemail telling me to come by after to help her clean some odd part of the house, that I'm sure would have been cleaned anyway if I didn't come. Since I moved into that apartment with Jason and T.J. she'd been acting different towards me.
Not the kind of 'different' that might caution someone as a clear indication of disapproval from another, but the kind of 'different' that seemed to imply fear. As though she's scared I'm going to run away somewhere forever.
I laugh in forethought as I respond, "Oh you know, I was up at the school in this Human Sexuality class and I had to uhhhh.... stay after... for some uhhh...extra study, if you know what I mean, haha! The professor wanted to help me catch up from a couple classes I missed, and you know she feeling me so... you know how I do, haha!" I can hear my father in my head saying, you better wrap that rascal, but he's not here. It's like, 11:30 in the morning and he works up in Carlsbad; we're in Southeast San Diego.
She loves my sense of humor, it's almost exactly like hers. Not too vulgar, but crude and expository enough to make people the right amount of uncomfortable so that they laugh uncontrollably. Unable to tame themselves or, in effect, deprive themselves of a raw and honest moment of joy. The kind of jokes that can make you so angry with someone for telling them, but once the laughs start going you catch the contagion and can't stay angry for the life of you.
"Shut up!" She says, laughing purely and loudly, "You crazy." And then, "You better NOT be missing no classes!" She says turning the joke around on a dime. I, of course, laugh that off as well; don't want to address it and lie, so it's best that I just don't engage it. But let the record show, I never missed a class when I needed to be there.
"What'd you need me to do?" I ask, already bracing myself for something simple, a scapegoat used to get me to come over here, as though I wouldn't have come without it. But I don't mind.
"Go over to the stairs, and if you look up, there's some cobwebs at the top that I need you to get for me up there."
"Momma, I can't get that up there. I need like a ladder or something. I'm not that tall."
"Use a broom. Thaannnkkkksss, son."
So, here I am. Trying at something that I know I can't do just long enough to settle in her mind that I gave it a legitimate attempt. Just long enough for her to relieve me of this duty. It'll likely take some further explanation as to how I'm going to go about fixing it at a later date. How I'm going to get another ladder for Pop from Home Depot to replace the one he threw out when we first moved into this house. How I'll use it to get all of the cobwebs in the house, not just this one, on some weekend in the near future; the bargain of promise.
It worked. I sit on the couch next to Auntie Brenda, who'd just handed her a cup of water with which to take her pills.
Auntie likes physical humor, where people get hurt, but not badly or to the point of death. The kind of 'hurt' that says to a person, now, you know you had no business even trying to do that. So I grab the remote and turn from the cartoons that we all love to AFV, which is ample material for me to use for jokes about how stupid these people are. Everyone's having a better time for it. Talking about what we'd do in those situations, or how someone we know might react.
We laugh long enough for me to miss the rest of my classes today, no need to mention that I had any left. If she asks, this is one white lie I'm prepared to tell. When my Pop gets home, the jokes continue, and I pull him into the laughter. We have some of our best times when she's around. He and I are so much alike that we butt heads sometimes, but there's never any love lost. She's a medium for these and, like I said, we laugh together the most around her. Good times.
I get up to leave, because it's late and the morning will come. I hug them all and walk to my car laughing as I relive some of those jokes in my head.
When I awoke, I remembered the last time. That time when I leaned in, I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her I love her. I told her that I'm going to keep all the promises I made to her; I made more promises and now shoulder the weight of breaking some of them, each day. I told her that she's not going to miss a thing.
She couldn't hear me, but it helps me to sleep if I can believe that she could.
The grass is wet. I'm cold. But the Wild Turkey's warming me; I emptied it from a flask that was a gift from a recent ex-girlfriend. The open night sky, full of stars, helps me to feel a tie to things that transcend this world. And I'm reaching for such an experience now. Her tombstone offers no condolences, only the coldness of truth; undeniable reality.
My arms are empty, and the grass atop the earth that her casket lay beneath, is much too short of filling that void. I cannot hold it. The longing is heavy and I've only the memory of her hugs to sustain me. Arms wrapped around her as hers are me, resting on her shoulder as one of her hands holds the crown of my head. Only the vivid memory remains.
I'm drawn to high places now. The chance they offer is alluring. To be closer to the heavens is to undoubtedly be closer to them. The vantage there is therapeutic and reminds me of just how finite and how small my experience is, and has been. From here one can see it all, the expanse of his reach and sight, the edge of his impression. How easily we fall into delusional points of centricity, that ours matters more than the great plains of the endless systems and galaxies that render our world... irrelevant. So great they are.
How easily one could fall from here.
Succinct Bio: I am young man born in San Diego, CA who's story-told for years. I'm a graduate of San Diego State University. I had some program experience in a graduate program at CSU Northridge, and it was ineffective for me, so I stopped. I've recently been working in Los Angeles, CA in an unrelated field and have decided to submit some stories with hopes that others will enjoy them as much as I do. This story in particular, is unrelated to the series of stories I've written in the fantasy fiction genre. It's a necessary expression based on true accounts.
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