So, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again–to write a novel and to see writing friends. But mostly to write a novel. And this novel is the one my mother started before she passed away. The novel is autobiographical, and to continue the story, I’ve read her letters and spent time thinking about a particular time in her life.
The novel is, you see, about her relationship with a particular man. I lived with her and this individual for five months. They were together–on and off–for years, but I’ve been thinking a lot about those five months when I was in the 8th grade, and I’m realizing how incredibly inexplicable those months were.
Writing scenes placed in that time… well…
I would sit in the living room to eat the food this man had cooked. He cooked massive amounts of food. He’d prepare these casserole dishes. Three dishes–one for each of us. Each one completely full. Each one the length and width of a shoebox. Rectangular. The type of dish you’d use for lasagna.
But I hated his cooking even though I liked him. I got it into my head that I had to eat all of it–it usually included fish, about to spoil or slightly spoiled vegetables (nothing was too be wasted), pasta, and sauce. The first few times I managed to eat every last bite. A few later I’d feel the bile rising in my throat when I picked up my fork. I’d eat a corner of this mix and then stop.
In the end, my mother told me I could cook for myself–though I did not know how to cook. The side of a box taught me how to fix rice, so once I figured out that, I tossed in frozen peas and Spam–or maybe it was canned corn beef. Whatever, it was from a can. Sometimes though, when her boyfriend roasted chicken, I could have that.
I remember believing I wasn’t allowed to just eat whatever might be in his kitchen–though I have no memory of anyone telling me that to be the case. I know I’d make up rules for situations because I was afraid to ask.
My own made-up rules in his house:
Never eat anything without asking permission.
Never set foot in the master bedroom unless specifically invited in.
Never mention the Playboy magazine he kept in the hall bathroom–the bathroom my mother never used.
Never invite a friend over.
Never ask about the holes punched into the walls.
Never ask for a ride anywhere (i.e. no after school anything).
Never get in the way.
I drove my mother crazy.
And I’m trying to write about this time from my mother’s point of view…and the point of view that keeps coming back to me is the fork stuck between the plate and my mouth.
This is not going to be a delicious novel.