By: Christopher S. Bell
I got jealous today, but it didn’t feel normal. She was maybe sixteen and didn’t know much about anything. I still found myself trying to sound cool, though, like this girl could whisk me away. I’d tell her friends secrets, and maybe buy them some booze; never an older sister despite years spent with impressionable souls. They all escaped in time, some skipping steps along the way. That night they called me a townie, Brian didn’t wear a rubber; my insides slowly becoming unfashionable as tops grew skimpier each season.
The little whore didn’t buy anything, but remained genuine, adjusting her eyepiece to check better deals online. She won’t think of me again, while my afternoon fades, realizing it won’t be long before Will starts bringing them home. It’ll seem innocent for only a moment, then the overwhelming temptation to check her profile, uncertain of why tongue studs are still a thing. Brian will think about her when he’s on top, sweaty from a suit jacket, kissing my closed mouth.
The other mothers have already accepted these truths, their heads full of far greater fantasies as the line gradually moves forward. I just beat the buses, the yellow reflection in my rearview almost inspiring. I stopped riding in ninth grade, but often wondered what the losers learned with each individual stop. It’s impossible to tell where my son fits, his rude little friends often bragging about their parents, or more importantly, what they recently received from them. Keeping up has never been my style even if we had more tact back in my day. Christ, I’ve become that crazy lady, too introspective for her own good.
“Hey sweetheart, how was your day?”
“Dumb,” Will sets his pack on ground and buckles out of obligation.
“Care to elaborate at all?” I ask.
“No,” he gazes out the window as we slowly crawl to the street.
“Well do you mind if I talk about my day?”
“It was probably stupid too.”
“You’re right, it was.” I observe his solemn expression and consider my approach. “So how’s about a little music to cheer us up, huh?”
Flipping the radio on, its eight bars of an ex-lovers mix CD before Will abruptly taps the button. “I don’t wanna listen to your old people music.”
“Well, you’ve got your phone. Feel free to drown me out,” I defiantly hit the switch again.
“My headphones are busted.”
“Is that why you’re being so pissy today?”
“Well then what is it? Did some kid punch you or something, because we can poison them tomorrow.”
“Hank wouldn’t fall for it. He’s too smart.”
“I’ll be very persuasive,” I raise my eyebrows. “So what did that little turd do?”
“He told everybody that you never wanted me.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were on the computers and he was showing me all these pictures of him as a baby on his mom’s Facebook, so I went to yours and there weren’t any of me from when I was born.”
“Um okay.” My voice trembles slightly; the surrounding lights and signs of little consequence.
“So where are they? Why aren’t there any?”
“I don’t think I was posting much back then.”
“But everybody else has baby pictures.”
“You have tons of baby pictures, Will. We can look at all of them when we get home, if you want.”
“I wanna know why they’re not online.”
“Ya know, before you were born, it was perfectly okay if people didn’t put every little thing about themselves on the Internet, and then all of sudden, everybody started doing it, and now it’s like I’m a bad mother because I didn’t do what everyone else did, but I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the only way of doing things, and as you get older, you’ll understand that more and more.”
“I don’t understand,” he spat. “There should be pictures of me. What am I supposed to do?”
“You don’t get it. None of this means anything. The Internet is just a thing. It’s out there, but eventually you’ll learn to ignore it like the rest of us.”
“You don’t ignore it! You’re always on your phone.”
“I’m allowed to be, and you can tell Hank to mind his own business next time he asks you about these things.”
“What’s dad gonna say when I ask him about it?”
“I don’t know. Your father and I aren’t the same person.”
“You can tell me why. I won’t get mad. Was I an ugly baby?”
“Will,” I sigh, unsettled. “You were a gorgeous baby, so much so that I wanted to keep you all to myself.”
“I don’t believe you.” He plays with the zipper on his sweatshirt, aimless and discontent.
I consider how feeling sad as a child only made me stronger before asking, “What do you want for dinner?”
“It doesn’t matter. You and dad will just make whatever you feel like eating, and I’ll have to swallow it.”
“You’re learning so quickly these days.”
I don’t feel in the least bit relieved making the last turn into our driveway, realizing I forgot to water the flowers out front. Then there’s the garbage and dinner, listening to Brian ramble about his day and maybe helping Will with his homework. It’s only a matter of time before we all occupy separate rooms and complain about the lousy Wi-Fi. I let him play video games for a good hour, then make him set the table, all the while wondering how my customers are surviving their lives. That dumb bitch is one baby bump away from complacency. Now it’s only a matter of finding the right boy to bang on. I hear his car pull in and make a radical decision. No sex until the weekend.