Norman stood outside his mother’s room. He sighed and balanced the tray in his hand, he had made all her favorites, pancakes, sunny-side up eggs, and freshly squeezed orange juice. He knocked on the door.
“Come in” his mother’s hoarse voice shouted.
Norman entered the room and placed the tray on his mother’s bed, across her lap.
“About damn time. What is this breakfast or brunch?” Mother hissed at him, “ I thought you had forgotten about me.”
“Sorry mother, I had to go out to get the oranges, we ran out of them.”
“This is why I tried all my life to teach you discipline. God knows I tried. You used to be better when I could get out of bed and whoop your sorry ass.” Mother took a sip of the orange juice, “ and you still cannot choose ripe oranges. What am I going to do with you?”
Norman stared at his feet. He had to hold both his hands to keep them from shivering. His mouth was dry. He tried to lick his lips but there was no moisture in his mouth. Breakfast was the best time to tell mother. She would only grow grumpier through the day. And he had been wanting to say this for a while now.
“Mother…” he whispered. She did not hear him and continued eating the pancakes.
“Mother, I have decided to leave,” he said as if testing her hearing.
“This pancake still needs to be cooked. You will kill me with the uncooked batter, boy” Mother said still chewing, “And you are not going anywhere. ” she said.
“I am a grown man now mother.” Norman’s voice was soft.
“Wouldn’t seem that way if anyone looked at you. Look at you. You are an overgrown man-child is what you are.” Mother stabbed an egg yolk and it ran all over the plate.
“I am capable of taking care of myself.”
Mother almost choked on her eggs, “Just until recently, I had to change your bedsheets and wash your underwear for you. Take care of myself.” Mother mocked him.
“That is not true.” Norman’s voice was a little louder.
“What has gotten into you today.” Mother put down her fork.
“I think I should live by myself.” Norman clenched his fists.
“This is not you speaking, is it Norman?” Mother said.
“Julia thinks I am grown up enough to live on my own.” Norman fidgeted with his shirt.
“I knew it. I knew my sweet little Norman would not think like that. It’s that witch Julia whispering spells into your ears.” Mother nodded to herself.
“I think she is right mother.” Norman gulped.
Mother stared at the yolk running down the plate. “So, you are going to leave me? I will be alone all by myself in the house.”
“I will come and visit you mother, every day, I promise.” Norman said.
“And who will care for me?” Mother said.
“I will care for your mother.” Norman felt his heart go heavy.”
“You remember when you were 5 years old and had typhoid. I took care of you for months on end. I don’t remember leaving you alone even for a minute.”
Norman looked away from mother.
“And now, when I am ill, when I need you the most, and I cannot even get out of the bed, you want to leave me?” Mother stared at him.
“There is nothing wrong with you, mother.” Norman said.
The fork flew at his head and Norman ducked it in the last moment.
“You ungrateful brat. How dare you say that? Throughout your childhood, you were a weak child, and I never once denied to take care of you. Now when I am sick…” And as if to prove her point, she became thinner and sallow, the skin stretched across her bones, her eyes seemed to pop out of their sockets.
“Go, I should never have expected any love from you, you selfish selfish man.”
“I AM going to go, mother…” Norman said with some strength.
The plate flew at him, throwing bits of eggs and pancakes across the room. He dodged it easily and sighed. Julia had been right. His mother was not as loving as he remembered.
“I took care of your for so long…for so long…all by myself. How long have I been sick? Just a few months.” Mother seemed to shrink to her bones right in front of his eyes.
“It has been 15 years mother. 15 long years.” Norman sighed.
“So what? I am your mother. You are my son. You are supposed to love me. What is this, a limited time offer?”
“I never realised until now…” something seemed to be release itself in Norman. He took a deep breath and smiled.
That was when Mother realised Norman was serious.
“You ungrateful child. I wish I had drowned you in your bath water. Leave this house and you will not amount to anything. You are nothing without me. Nothing I tell you.” Mother screamed at him. The breakfast table flew at his legs but there wasn’t enough energy in it. It simply thudded on the floor beside the bed.
Mother’s skin was stretched thin across her bones.
“I did love you mother, Goodbye.” Norman did not want to look back. But when he reached the door, he turned around and found Mother was reduced to a crumbling skeleton in the bed.
Norman closed the door behind him and breathed in the fresh open air.
Photo by Ali Morshedlou on Unsplash