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Arrival

An argument with the moms, circa 1980something.

It is a common domestic scene. A young man enters into an argument with his mother. The argument is like many others, charged with the tension of close living and insufficient funds, escalates. The boy, in surly passion, retreats to his room. His mother leaves him alone for a moment, but then some point which must be made consumes her, and she enters his room. He asks her to leave him alone. She refuses, and starts to scream at him. She compares him to his father. Her voice is shrill, penetrating, targeted.

Again, the young man begs her to leave him alone. She would not stop touching him, or barging in on him in the bathtub, no matter how often he asked her to stop. He does not realize how lonely she is. He is only tired of being invited to rest, half-dressed, in her day bed. He remembers her placing her hand on his knee in the car, and when he lifted it off, she put her palm back hard, and squeezed his knee, the other hand on the steering wheel. She said, "you took your hand away because you wanted me to leave it there. I know how it works." He opened the door of the car and ran into traffic.

That was months ago. Now, he is in the middle of being fifteen, and the fight is still going on. She is yelling at him, listing his faults, explaining that he is cruel to her, a disappointment. He has dumped himself onto the floor by the bed, and has pressed his body against the wall, shifting as far away from her as he can, squeezing himself small. She will not stop. He screams, "leave me the fuck alone! For a moment! Leave me the fuck alone!" and begins to strike his head against the wall, hard, turning the light to golden.

She looks at him with disgust on her face, then she says, "I used to hit my head against the wall too, when I was a child." Suddenly, something changes, her body glows a little in his concussed vision. She says, "you poor hurt child. Let me hold you, Paul, let me touch you. Let me hold you in my arms." She comes over to him, where he is knocking a dent into the plaster with his skull. She puts her arm around him as he tries to make himself smaller, shrinking into a ball of skin and flesh on the floor. "I just want to help you," she says.

There is nothing unusual about this; it is exhausting, but unremarkable. Sometimes he will just start screaming when she will not leave him alone, screaming for help or just to keep her back, keep her hands and her huge, burning feelings away.

The dog has grabbed one of her used Tampax from the bathroom wastecan, and has shredded it over his bed. He sees this for the first time, looking over as she tries to comfort him, her piercing voice now soft and calm, her hands grasping.

He rises. His world is gray and gold, and he is six inches taller than she, even though she seems as big as a statue. Her embrace falls away, and she backs off.

His hands come out from his side and grasp her shoulders and neck--they are big hands--and squeeze. His voice comes out low and deep, no hint of the child in it, and he says, strangling her, "leave me the fuck alone, now."

After that, she does leave him alone, and she throws him out of the house.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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