Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Masks, A Youtube Novel by Megan Lisa Jones Chapter 7


Chapter 7
            “I was sick?” she asks, her blue eyes vacant and inquiring.  I can’t read anything in them.  Nor can I find my voice so I just nod, still staring at my mother, the same woman but is she?  I shift from one foot to the other and wait.
            “You can’t speak?” she asks, and I see a slight sparkle in her milky blue eyes, the whites shot with a little red but no makeup on her lids.  My mom never went anywhere without makeup.  Had the hospital taken it off or had she been in such deep distress she couldn’t be bothered?
            I nod again and rush to her, grabbing hold as she pulls herself up.  She seems okay as she hugs me close and I feel her delicate arms encircle me.  She smells like Shalimar and mom, with a touch of lavender.  Her attire is a simple hospital gown covered with a thin white sheet.  “You feel okay?” I ask and hope to hear the affirmative. 
            “Tired, but everything seems to move.  And I’m talking fine.  It was a stroke wasn’t it?” she asks.  Her voice sounds scared and she must feel real fear, especially with how her health has been increasingly failing.  So far I haven’t noticed any mental slips but isn’t a stroke often the first step?
            “Yes, mom.  It was a stroke but your friend got you here fast enough for you to get the right drugs,” I say, leaving out the “hopefully” part.  “I can stay here for a while until Ron arrives.”
            With my words mom’s eyes fly open.  “No!” she exclaims.  And I know that side of her, too proud for help and never willing to be weak.  Especially around her kids.  Something about many single moms, they’re so busy telling themselves that all is okay even when it isn’t that they can’t bear to lower the veil and show a little reality.  I pull the same act in my business.  “Never let them see you sweat,” I whisper to her and know she’ll get mad.  It was a joke that Ron and I had as kids, and she’s always hated it. 
            “That’s right,” she responds crisply.  I pull back and study her delicate bone structure and set jaw.  She’s such a contradiction of hard and soft, sharp and round.  So many extremes, perhaps too many for her to really know herself.  Right now my mom looks tired and pale.  Perhaps our roles are slowly reversing despite our best efforts to keep me as the child.
            “Please go down to the gift shop and get me a stack of fashion and gossip magazines,” she says imperiously but her voice is strained.  She continues, “my head hurts and I’ll nap again soon.  Until then I need something fun to page through.  I’m not ready for a book,” she asks, then pulls herself straighter in the bed.  Flashing her sexy half smile mom continues.  “Too bad they don’t have makeup there.  You’ll bring some when you come back?  Your newest stuff please!”
            “I’ll get you magazines, mom,” I respond.  Exhasperated.  “But I’m not leaving!  I’m staying here until Ron arrives from the airport and then we’ll bring dinner in and spend the evening with you.”  I pull myself up straighter too, mirroring her.  Stubborn runs in the family.
            A loudspeaker, urgent and calling for a doctor, breaks the standoff.  What did I expect in a hospital?
            “If you don’t leave after you get my magazines I’ll call security and tell them you’re harassing me, a poor sick old woman.  You have meetings today!”  My mom’s cool blue eyes just glare at me, and her gaze never wavers. 
            Laughing, I just shake my head.  Parents lose a lot of authority when we reach adulthood.  But we listen to them anyway due to love and respect and perhaps a fine slug of apathy.  Still, I must argue or I’ll hate myself later, as I negotiate to my advantage in a meeting while she silently pages through magazines alone.  “I have other people handling the meetings.  It isn’t a problem.”
            “Leave!” she says.  “And please give me whatever lipstick you have in your handbag.  Can I see?”  She smiles now and I can see that while she might be weak, mentally she’s still my mom.  I don’t like watching how stiffly she moves and can’t tell if she’s covering up slight paralysis on one side.  Time will tell.
            For now I stand and go over to my handbag, right next to the room’s chair, watching her all the while and wondering at how obvious I can be.  The bag is an old black hobo that seemingly goes with me everywhere, though I do have others.  The leather is heavy and textured and a friend’s mom had given it to me when she got tired of the style.  Grossly pricey, it had amortized its cost through sheer use.
            Never ask a cosmetic queen for her lipstick!  Of course, I have about 12 and a bronzer with mini brush.  I dump them on her bed and watch as she delightedly opens them all, slowly and with a little difficulty but she manages.  I must have looked the same as a small child when I unwrapped candy.   She holds up a bright coral with a smile then winces when her eyes fall on a nude.  She hates nude lipstick.  The tubes are a mix of brands and colors as I crave variety to spur my own creativity.
            “Ooh, you have a red!” she exclaims.  And indeed the one she’s picked has a little mirror on the cap and I watch as she applies it and then dots some pink on her cheeks.  Too much red is always too much, she’d taught me years ago.  And I wonder how much of what she’s doing is an act so I don’t worry.  If only I were watching an everyday manifestation of my mom playing with makeup instead of an ill woman trying to be normal.  There is no normal after an emergency room visit.  But I don’t question her, honoring her act and leaving it at that. 
            “I need to sleep now,” she exclaims.  “Just leave my magazines and bring Ron later with dinner.” Her command sounds like Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra but I just nod.
            “What do you want for dinner?” I ask, watching her wilt in front of me, red lips defiantly showing she’ll fight her weakness but my heart lurches.  Lipstick is her sword and she’ll always put a bright color on whenever facing something she fears.  I can see her fear.
            “Whatever,” she says and rests her head lower on the pillow.  The room is dark and I silently turn to leave.  “Maybe sushi,” she adds softly.
            “I love you, mom,” I remember before leaving.  But she doesn’t respond, already seemingly asleep.  I’ll buy this woman every fashion magazine I can find then rush off to make the money to pay for them.
            A meeting can be rescheduled.  Sickness comes as it wills.
Soon thereafter I ‘m sitting stuck in stopped Los Angeles traffic in my car.  Trying to keep the delay in perspective I check my texts and emails.  No, not legal in California but whomever wrote the law didn’t realize that in this city we spend a lot of time not moving in our cars and texting is of no danger….
Will my product make it into stores on schedule or not?  I’m getting threats from my manufacturer and don’t have the money to pay them what they want upfront.  If I can’t find the money will my company, my life’s work, survive?
            And I decide that I’m going to yoga tonight.  The world might collapse around me but at least I can ground myself in space and keep breathing.  All life is an illusion anyway.

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