“You know,” my mom says to me, “how sometimes you can just tell.” She sips her coffee. “That you’re attracted to each other.”
I’m 20 and I don’t know what she is talking about. You mean you can tell when a guy you like likes you back? “Oh, sure,” I say and eat a french fry. I think about the one date I had before the summer vacation. He hasn’t called.
“It’s okay,” she says. “I don’t expect you to tell your mother about your love life. We don’t need to know everything about each other.”
“Mom, I don’t have a love life to not tell you about.” That one date had been my only date that entire spring semester. And I had asked him out. Clearly I couldn’t tell anything.
She sets her coffee mug down. “It’s okay for you not to tell me. You’re old enough to have a life of your own and somethings moms really don’t want to know.”
“I’ve had one date in six months,” I tell her. I want to make her believe me, but I’m too distracted by this news that she knows when someone likes her. How do you do that? Will this knowledge descend upon me at, say, 21. Or midnight? As a freshman I’d learned that a fellow can kiss you and two months later marry that girl you thought was his ex. If kissing didn’t mean he liked you, how on earth was eye contact supposed to work?
My mom looks at me the way she did when we went to Wendy’s on prom night. She doesn’t want me to marry. Not before I have a career anyway. But she wants me to be happy. “It’s no big deal,” I say. “I’m not going to date just to date.” Of course, I don’t tell her I’ve kissed guys at parties. I think I can tell how they feel about me, and I don’t expect them to call.
So, I read a lot about how to write, and often I wonder how it is this all seems clear to other writers, but not to me. Like one day I’m going to look at something I’ve written and know it works or it fails. Like the light is going to shine from above on some enchanted evening.
I don’t want to give up hope or admit how hard I try to make the most of what I’ve got–makeup and miniskirts and too much time editing everything. I don’t want to feel that the words go a little too far, but then don’t actually go that far at all–a kiss on the dance floor but a great big no to anything else.
And I’m still startled when a reader calls.