I should have known something was amiss the way she launched the call, "Hello, darling," arcing the phrase so that the "lo" syllable was accented. My mother doesn't say those two words in sequence like that. She'll say "Gavin, darling" if she's patronizing me, and just "Gavin?!" to start off a regular phone conversation (always as if maybe someone else could be answering my cel phone). She never says, "Hello, Darling." This was notably abnormal, but I was on a deadline, so I barely noticed.
"Hey, Ma how goes it?" I plugged in, spinning towards my desk to turn the internet down. "Gav, are you doing ok, with... work and stuff?" she asked.
"What? Ya ---" trying to swallow the disgusting nutri-bar I'd pushed into my face just before the phone rang, I coughed out, "Ma, you there? What's up?"
"Gavin? You there?! Hello?"
Now this was feeling more normal; my mother somehow mistaking a coughing fit for satellite interference.
"Mom, ya. I'm here," I said in a slightly agitated tone, turning back to the laptop to continue the styling of my flyout menus.
"Are you... Gav, are things OK with you and Sarah?"
"Ya, yes. Mom, what? What are you talking about?" I was suddenly confused as to how exactly she intended to segue this into a tech question about her iPod. I leaned back in my chair, waiting to witness her mastery of the non-sequitor.
"Gav, Keta called me."
I was quiet for probably too long to support any downplay of my discomfort.
"Oh, ya? ...H-how's she doing?"
"She still with..."
"Ya, Ben. They doin' ok?" Within seconds of saying it, I knew I'd sold myself out: the most natural reaction, when your mother tells you that she's been contacted by the girlfriend who left town with another man three years ago, is not to ask how she is doing. It is to ask, "Why the hell did she call you?"
"Well. Gavin. I think you know the answer to that question." She was articulating her words now, sharpening the knife on each syllable. I made one last pathetic attempt at bewilderment, "Mom, if this is about your iPod---"
"Gavin, you need to stop breaking into her email."
I was silent for an entire minute. The embarrassment was so total that I floated above my body and outside of it, looking down at this strange blushy shell while musing at my mother's eccentricities. I thought about how my mother never seemed to think we were experiencing any satellite interference when she had me on the ropes.
"I'm... not... doing that," went the autopilot of my mouth - denial denial, even beyond any reasonable doubt.
"Gavin, listen to me. What you're doing... I don't---you have no right to be meddling with them. I know that---"
"Mom, I'm not 'meddling' it's not that sort---I wasn't 'meddling' mom. I'm. I was---"
"Honey, listen to me: I'm not telling you this because I'm worried about what you'll do to her. You know how I feel about her. I'm calling you because I'm worried about what you're doing to yourself."
"Are things ok with Sarah?"
"YES! Mom! Why are you saying that?"
"And, Gavin? [sternly] She wanted to talk to Sarah about it, but i talked her out of it. But I gotta tell you --- honey? She has every right."
"TALK TO SARAH ABOUT WHAT?!"
"...This creeps people out, Gavin."
"Mom, I KNOW. I know, I know, I know! I'm not 'meddling'! I just want to see what... I just wanted to see how she was doing."
"She said you were reading all her emails to Ben."
"Mom! How could---"
"Gavin, you're 35 years old. You can do what you want. But this doesn't look good... you've moved on, remember? We've talked about this so many times. You are happier now. You want the best for her and the best is to let her move on as well. This was YOUR idea."
"Mom, she was my best friend. I..."
One of the benefits of birthing someone is an acute detection of their breaking point. She could even hear it in the absence of a predicate. "I know, honey. I'm sorry. Gavin, I'm sorry," she said in her lowest voice, the first sound of mercy since this massacre began.
I held it like an unhatched egg.
She waited for the sound of hitching breath, but I had the mouthpiece up against my temple so it never came. She bluntly asked, "Do you love her?"
"Gavin, are you in love with her? She said you told her years ago that you'd fallen out of love with her..."
"she TOLD you that?"
"No I'm not. I don't know... I lied to her. I mean, I don't I'm not in love with--- I didn't fall out of love with her. I just... forgot... I don't know."
"Don't you love Sarah?"
"Mom. Sarah is the best thing that ever happened to me. She's"
"---Gavin, you need to figure out---"
"I forgot how to love anyone.
I think when she left... everything was so
that I just
how to do it"