Adults wanted to talk to me.
After she came home from work, my mom did her nightly check. I lay in bed. She knelt on the floor and leaned her torso on my bed. She needed a new first line.
“How are you?”
“Come on Fabian, it’s your mother.”
“Try to say CJ.”
Mom pursed her lips and pushed off from the bed. She walked in a circle. Returning to me, she sat on the edge of the bed.
“Why do you want to be called CJ?”
“I’ve told you.”
“Tell me again.”
“Part of the problem, mom, is a feeling that you don’t listen to me. You didn’t listen to me before, so why should I tell you again.”
“I listened before. I’m trying to understand.”
“Then try to understand. You don’t need me to say it again.”
She pursed her lips again. I admired her effort at being patient.
And I wanted to be generous.
“How is your school going?”
“Doors will be open for the start of the next school year.”
“You’re killing yourself mom.”
“I’m doing this for you, and Emma.”
“I’ve told you before. Don’t you listen to me?”
“Just trying to understand. You know it makes me feel very responsible for this to work.”
“All you have to do is attend. Getting you out of that school will do you a world of good.”
Mom recalled her days in public school and decided to start a new school. Because she felt abused in public school, Emma and I must also be suffering abuse. Her logic was dangerous. I tried to rebut her reasoning. Mom was tenacious. She was making enemies in town.
“I am going to sign up as CJ.”
“Fabian, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“Why don’t you love me like you loved Uncle Grant?”
I did not expect that one.
“Mom, I need more to go on before I say anything. What do you mean?”
“You tried to kill yourself over Grant.”
“Mom, what happened to your explanation: that it was not suicide, it was a cry for help?”
“Oh that? It was for your school.”
“You mean you think I tried to kill myself?”
“Yes, I guess I did.”
“And Uncle Grant?”
“What ’Uncle Grant’?”
Mom cried. I was uncharacteristically dry.
“Mom, it’s obvious I’m not in great shape. But let me assure you: that had nothing to do with love for Uncle Grant, and certainly not because I loved him more than you.”
“Love him more than me?”
Talking to adults was difficult.
“Mom, you are my mom. You get a lot from me simply because you are mom. You get the good and bad from me. We’ve been on bad streak for a while, and I’ve said some rough things to you. I suspect there will be more to come. But I bet that will run its course. And then, you get the good too. You are great in many ways and you get my daughterness. All of it.”
“Daughterness? What is that?”
“You know, you got the cute adorable me when I was little, the pride as you watched me developed into a precocious whippersnapper, you get the agonizing Fabian, and you’ll get more in the future. And now you get CJ.”
“And your love?”
“I hate that word mom. What you get from me is bigger than one word. And you have it.”
“You are stingy Fabian.”
“You are selfish.”
“Don’t be mean.”
“Just having a conversation.”
“It’s not like this with Emma.”
“She’ll have her moment.”
“You think so?”
“It’s part of daughterness, something that Uncle Grant did not receive. Does that make you feel better?”
“Nothing with you makes me feel too good these days.”
“Don’t be mean.”
We look down and played with our fingers.
“I like girls.”
“So do I.”
“Are you sexual?”
“Weren’t you at my age?”
“Not with girls.”
Topic change time.
“How is school?”
“School is school.”
“I received a call from Mrs. Stone today.”
“She says you staged a disruptive rally.”
“And she wondered if it would be better if you stayed home.”
“And I told her that I think it would be better if you attended school.”
“Did I say the right thing?”
“You staged a disruptive rally? I’m impressed.”
“It wasn’t your ’save-the-world’ type of thing. I didn’t even make it happen. It was the others.”
“Your Club Dead?”
“It’s not mine! Mr. Blok tells to me start it. I start it. He tells me to end it. I end it. But the others keep it going. And it was hardly disruptive. I mean, they were writing!”
“Why are they writing a play?”
“I saw a contest advertised. It gave us something to do. It’s out of my hands. Mr. Blok should understand these kids are not a problem. He’s making it a problem. Or Mrs. Stone is. I mean, they’re writing, that’s all they are doing. Writing!”
“I have never heard anything so ridiculous.”
“Not much makes sense these days, at least for me.”
Mom leaned over and kissed the top of my head. I didn’t pull away. I was trying to be generous.