I tell people she's dead. It isn't the truth, but it isn't a lie. Breathing isn't proof of life. Breathing sometimes happens only because the body hasn't caught up yet. It will sooner or later. In time, her body will realize that she's already gone. Not because she's special, but because it happens to everyone.
Explanations are exhausting. Telling people she died is easier than explaining why I don't talk to her. Why there is no place for her in my life. Why I despise her.
Most people think hating makes a person bad. That anger is a negative thing. Good for them. They found a happier way. In their ignorance, they have no idea how these things can keep a person alive.
Really alive. More than just breathing.
It's fewer words to say that she's dead. It saves time. When people think your mother is dead, they have a ready-made, go-to answer. The response is always some variety of, "Oh, I'm so sorry." It's easy and always works, regardless of who's been lost, or when.
Then I shrug it off and change the subject with something banal like, "Hey, let's go get some tacos."
Because there's no reason to let a dead person stop you from having fun and living your life. I go from dead mom to tacos so fast, they can't help but be stunned by how well-adjusted I am.
Use words like "estranged" and they catch a whiff of drama. Say something like, "it's complicated," and it's like squirting lighter fluid on a spark of curiosity. Some people, they don't care if being nosy is rude.
Other people, they take it one step further. They start rattling on about forgiveness, even after I remove my scarf and I lift my curtain of hair to show them the smooth patch of skin where she melted my flesh. They see a hideous scar. I see my mother's rage happening over and over again.
What they don't know is how forgiving I am. I visit her in that creepy home from time to time. Standing there above her bed, I lift the pillow from her face and look down at the gasping visage gawking back at me. Her frail, exhausted body like a pink skeleton melting into the bed.
"You gave birth to me," I say. "But I just gave you life. You're alive in this moment because I've allowed it."
I could tell people all that, but it's too many words. Let's go get some tacos.
Rasmenia Massoud is from Colorado, but after a few weird turns, ended up spending several years in France. Once she learned all she could about cheese and macarons, she found herself in England, where she writes about what she struggles most to understand: human beings. She is the author of the short story collections Human Detritus and Broken Abroad. Some of her other work has appeared in places like The Foundling Review, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Literary Orphans, The Molotov Cocktail, Full of Crow, Flash Fiction Offensive and Underground Voices. You can visit her at: www.rasmenia.com