Sunday, December 07, 2008

It might be the earrings

When Rose answers the door, she has a big bruise on her face like someone hit her but I know it's from falling -- this is the first time I've seen her when she doesn't look made up and ready for the glamour shot. I'm guessing she's letting go of that or maybe she's in too much pain. Probably too much pain. She says where did you get those pants I've never seen pants like that in my life -- and that belt! And, to my mother -- can't you afford to buy him some clothes?

No, my mother says, I can't, as if the issue isn't my self-expression but my mother's finances. This is the game my mother is playing with Rose because she wants to make sure she inherits whatever Rose has to offer, which is certainly way less than she already has, like maybe a quarter as much is what I'm guessing. But she acts like Rose is the one with the money. I have to look at you because I haven't seen you in so long, she says. Rose says oh those earrings, do you have to wear those earrings? We're at the kitchen table with the bright fluorescent light and my mother is busy acquiring things -- oh, these glasses, they’re beautiful -- there are 12 of them, Rose says, they’re from my wedding but I still have the whole set -- they’re champagne glasses and I have another set of wine glasses and another for brandy, and you can have those glasses any time you want -- I won't be using them anymore. Oh, my mother says, that would be great because you know I entertain.

I'm wondering if my mother wants to sell the glasses -- what will she do with three sets?

Upstairs in the studio, we’re looking at Rose’s art, more things my mother wants to acquire and I'm supposed to put my name on the paintings I want, want when Rose dies I guess because that's what Allison and my mother do and I don't totally understand this process because what will any of us do with dozens and dozens of paintings and paperworks and collages, hundreds altogether but I pick a few for my apartment and then I guess I am putting my name on things but I'm not sure why -- it's not like I have anywhere to put big oil paintings, but I don't know when I'll be back here so I'm trying to find this one series that I like the most but there are none from that series around.

Back in the kitchen, Rose wants to tell me that all my health problems might be caused by my earrings, so I go in the other room. When I return, she's talking about how she has to eat more, if she doesn't eat more then she won't get stronger so the doctors tell her to eat every hour on the hour but she can't do that -- but I gained 4 pounds, she said, now I'm all of 90. Then she says: you're getting a beer belly. I say what, I don't even drink. She says but that's what they call it, you're getting a beer belly, you'll have to exercise. I say I can't exercise, I keep trying to find something that I can do without hurting myself but I can't find anything. She says why? I say have you not witnessed anything that's been going on for me in the last 10 years? She says if you're talking about the fibromyalgia... I interrupt her: then I should take Lyrica.

I can see Rose smile at the corner of her eyes, exactly like my father, she's smiling because she’s succeeded in getting me angry. Like all those childhood battles over dinner, battles to get me to eat more but of course what really mattered was control, I can feel myself flushing and maybe that's because it's so hot in here too but now my mother is maybe studying my body or maybe it's just the way I become self-conscious and hate myself, hate my body there's nothing I would rather do than exercise the only time I kind of liked my body and then. I go in the other room. This is when I realize that childhood ends and it never ends, we can escape but we never escape.

The next day, Rose wants to know if I remember one of the pictures that's on her refrigerator, where I’m maybe six which is as old as I get in these pictures no I guess I get up to 12 or 13 that period when I looked traumatized at all times. In this picture I’m maybe six and Rose says you and Allison were excited about the idea of an electric blanket so you got under the covers and you were watching the American Ballet with Baryshnikov -- this was the first time you were staying somewhere without your parents and they called to see what you were doing. Allison said we’re watching Baryshnikov!

Rose points to a picture in the top left corner of the refrigerator -- that's your father, she says. With the dog we had at the time, on Milford Avenue, I guess that must have been 50 years ago. We had every pet you could have -- dogs, cats, fish but we had to get rid of those because they would eat the guppies so I would stay up all night scooping them out and putting them in other bowls. What are those small rodents that don't live very long? Hamsters. That's right -- hamsters, we had hamsters. Rabbits, we had rabbits. One time Marvin brought a live chicken, a tiny little chick -- but we had to get rid of that pretty quickly because you can't give a little kid a live chicken -- you eat chicken all the time.

Back in the studio after my mother leaves, this is where my grandmother and I can connect -- when she takes out a painting and says it's not finished yet and I say maybe that part in the middle stands out too much and she looks and says I think you're right. Or, on another: do you think that red is bright enough? Or, on the third one, when I say that I don't like the gold diamonds in the top left corner because they stand out too much and she says those are one of her favorite parts but then, a few minutes later, she says you might be right about that. It's funny that I might be right about her artwork, but never about myself.

I want something more emotional and present but I don't know how to get there I mean I don't know if Rose is interested. When we’re facing each other at the table again, I say: it's good to see you. She says: it would be good to see you without those earrings, you're welcome to visit any time without those earrings.


Hilary Goldberg said...

is it the shape? color? size? really, what is the attribute that crosses the line? what do they symbolize? i mean it is true that there are accessories that i find problematic and make me question someone's character choices but only silently in my head. oh these women in your family, maddening...sheesh...
and by the way, i like your earrings.

Becca said...

"This is when I realize that childhood ends and it never ends, we can escape but we never escape."

How fucking true.

why does rose insist on insulting you, especially in regards to your earrings? I can't stand it when people become so offended by my body's my body, right?

kayti said...

i will most likely see all of Roses belongings on ebay sometime very soon. After seeing your mothers condo it became clear to me that she needs the money. I am shocked that your mother and Rose aren't best friends. They make such similar insightful comments.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Hilary, can't you tell -- it's the earrings that gave me all of these incest memories, made me confront my parents about sexually abusing me, made me start turning tricks, maybe even made me queer -- damn those earrings!

And I'm glad you like them :)

Becca, it's true -- but wait, it's those earrings that made me question Rose's authority, right? Those fucking earrings!

Kayti, I keep all my favorite belongings on eBay too -- just for safekeeping, right? And true -- all this insight coming from the blood relatives, so much support and nurturing!

But thank you all for actual support :)

Love --