Fiction

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"You're Now the Adult"
                     By Robert Roth

My mother fell a couple days ago, the second time in a couple of weeks. She falls a lot and it is getting more and more frightening This time she fell in the elevator. Leaning forward she fell backwards hitting her head on the floor. She had to crawl out of the elevator on her back. I am more than a little concerned. There is not much I can do. Somehow I have to convince her to get someone to live with her. She had a couple of different women live with her over the years. She is of two minds about it. But having someone there reduces the chances of an avoidable catastrophe. Had a dream about her last night. It was not a nightmare but a very painful one nonetheless. My friend Freddy who I haven’t seen for years had brought my mother and me and possibly some other people together for dinner. There was a warmth I was feeling for my mother. Freddy said why don’t you kiss her. I resisted. A bit later I saw my mother had dyed her hair blond. There was a slight greenish yellow tone to the blond and it had not been fully applied. She was a little younger than she is now. And it was clear she wanted to look beautiful for the occasion. And she did.

I went over to her and kissed her a bit to the side of her lips, just barely touching them. And I woke up.

Skin draped over bones. A feathery physical presence. Lying in bed, her head cocked a bit to the right, she stares at the ceiling. Her fingers anxiously intertwined. Her 90th birthday just two months away.

My mother stubborn. Each fall more scary than the one before. I was very frightened, thought she was going to die. What to do? “You’re now the adult, she’s the child.” People started drumming that into my head. It felt wrong. But I didn’t know what to do. Everybody is so fucking definitive. Always definitive, as they say exactly opposite things from one minute to the next.

Act decisively. Bullshit. It was uncharted territory for me. I did let what they told me affect how I acted. The alternative to me was a kind of passivity. And that also was about as bad. But the truth is we are both adults. Some of her decision making abilities are seriously impaired. Still you’re involved with an adult who has lived a life, who has survived inside that life and even if something is scrambled it is the elements of their consciousness and experience that are scrambled. And they are not children. And as my friend Carletta Joy Walker once wrote about animals, children shouldn’t be treated like children. Certainly not the way an old frail woman thrown into an unbearable situation should be treated.

Let's Meet for Coffee
                     By Linda Lerner

A stranger starts talking to you on the subway, and soon it's, let's meet for coffee... a whiff of caffeine that might lure you into bed with him, marriage, who knows what. Could anything be more innocent, simpler? Or meeting an old friend who'd just flown in from the mid west for a visit.

I choose one of several coffee shops I'd marked off in the east village and ordered a small coffee with milk, no sugar. Here's where it gets complicated. My friend tells the counter person she wants the taste of coffee without the caffeine. What? He says. A double decaffeinated espresso, she adds, giving him instructions. He still looked bewildered. Let's go, I said. We head off for the next place on my list. I order the same thing. This time she gets through to someone.

Only it's never just coffee but coffee and... we get hungry, and look around for something to eat. Remember when the whole city seemed to become lactose intolerant, how it spread quickly from one person to another? Eventually it quieted down to resurface involving other food items. Ordering a sandwich became very complex. You were offered ten different kinds of breads to choose from consisting of all natural products. Signs began appearing in store windows, saying, Gluten free. Now everyone who had been lactose intolerant had celiac disease.

I don't know if I have it, my friend said, but I don't want to take any chances. The muffins here were made as always with everything in them. I don't recall the trail of places we went to, that day, just to have coffee and...

A different problem arose on meeting another friend for dinner one night. We both agreed on a neighborhood place within our budget. I no longer go through excessively long menu lists and arbitrarily chose something that looked familiar. She kept repeating that she wanted to eat something healthy, and pointed to different items asking me what I thought. The waiter kept coming over to us, and she kept asking that same question about this or that food.

I'm not a vegetarian and ordered something with meat. Maybe I imagined it, but saw a slight shudder go through her. This might have begun with the emergence of health food stores in the 60's and the baby boomer's certainty they'd live forever. I recall macrobiotic restaurants cropping up everywhere and food that someone said tasted like grass.

Let's Meet for Coffee Cont...

Another friend with similar food fetishes once ordered cereal and a gluten free muffin for dinner while I chomped away on a burger and fries. Delicious, I said. Once a food staple in my life, but now something I rarely have in my own attempt to eat healthily. I was just voicing my own rebellion against these food crazes.

In a wired age, I am wired differently and refuse to follow the herd even if it's my own herd. I am the adult of the child who drew outside the lines in the classroom and went to look out the window when bored. I'm sure if I were with someone who ordered what I did, I would have chosen something vegetarian.

And, let's meet for coffee, is never quite so simple as I've made it here.

Brick Wall

        © Brick Wall(4) by Aldo Vigliarolo