She’d always felt them leave before she saw them go. Everyone left; it was, is, and always will be a fact of life. She never knew when she should say goodbye. If she’d said it when she felt that tinge in their touch as they handed her the salt and their fingers slightly grazed, well, then she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the false time following thereafter. If she squeezed a little harder and spread her fingers out wider across their back going in for what she knew was the final hug, then she might not get that phone call or text message explaining what had gone wrong because then they would feel that they’d left too.
But when she actually sees them leave for the last time, if she were to say goodbye, they wouldn’t accept it. They would just go. They wouldn’t remember how happy they had been in her company because they wouldn’t think of the laughter, or the time she was the only one to make them feel better when everything else went to shit.
She watched the woman she’d been calling her mother for the past six years pull out of the driveway and fought the warm feeling tugging an ugly frown beneath her skin. As she tasted the salt of her tears sliding down her throat her mother yelled out of the car, “Mostest!” The muscles relaxed and smiled, and her arm flew up in an effortless wave. Ada’s thoughts changed only slightly, She doesn’t realize that she’s left yet. She thinks that she’s still here. But the holidays are coming. I shouldn’t get used to spending those alone again, but I have to. I have to do this again, she thought.
So, she started projects. She began painting again, and writing, and reading difficult texts written by old white men who claimed that their way of life was the most noble, and they had been so convincing that their writings had been fixed in some canon or another. She did her nails and face masks every week and cleaned all the time, which was nice because she always felt pretty and her house always smelled like laundry. She made it a point to clean her car and meditate and do yoga. She avoided thinking, but most importantly, she avoided talking about it.
Sure, she could email her mother on her work account or her personal account. She could text message her, she could call her, she could send her a private message on social media, she could even write her a letter, but how crazy would that sound? “I don’t think you want me any more. Part of me wants to ask why, but we both know it’s just me. This is me. You know me. If you don’t want it, then leave.”
In an abstracted way, they’d talked about this before. “This” being relationships. They agreed that words like “forever,” “never,” and “always” don’t amount to much, unless you were talking about heartbreak or taxes. Once her mother had said, “Sometimes people come into your life for a time, for a reason, and then they leave.” She’d said it so flippantly that Ada knew that her mother held no feelings of remorse for having walked away from others, and she didn’t miss anyone who walked away from her. The memory of this conversation only solidified how foolish any exchange of words concerning Ada’s feelings about their current relationship status would sound, and as a consequence, be dismissed.
“What are you doing for Turkey Day?” Beth asked as Ada helped her rip up the floor in her kitchen.
“I think I’m just going to dog sit,” Ada stabbed the paint scraper beneath the linoleum. Beth knew about Ada’s disturbing childhood, which she abandoned after her stepfather had finally outright tried to rape her, so Ada didn’t think Beth would push the issue.
But in Beth’s infinite wisdom, she did, “What about your adoptive mom?”
Ada tried to answer fully without getting choked up, “Well my adoptive dad disowned me. Long story short, he said he paid for stuff for me, and that I didn’t text him enough. He started yelling at me in a restaurant about it, so I just left some cash and walked out. He didn’t come after me…I haven’t spoken to my mom about it because I don’t want to make her feel like she has to choose. Holidays with only the two of us, well me being one of the two, would just be unbearable.”
Beth’s face somehow got wider, but not in a smile. Ada felt that Beth was going to apologize for something she wasn’t responsible for anyway, so to curb Beth’s guilt for asking, or for having somewhere to be for Thanksgiving, Ada said, “Yeah, the woman I’m dog sitting for has a whole library. It’ll be nice to just snuggle up with her dogs and get through some reading. I could use some weird headspace time.”
A few days after Ada’s conversation with Beth, this was right before Thanksgiving, the text message came. At 1:10pm on Sunday, November 22 her mother hit send on a message reading, “I’m heading out of town after teaching on Monday. Have a great week!” And then in another message, “And a happy Thanksgiving!” So there it was. The reminder, the reason she already knew, but somehow managed to convince herself otherwise, her mother already had a family.
Even after science and experience, blood was everything. Blood and sand. Blood and oil. Even after someone shared a viral screenshot proving that “Blood is thicker than water” was only half the story, the rest of the world clung to the idea of family. The niece you only met once was still your niece. The father who beat your mother was just sick, but he apologized. Ada accepted some of this insofar as she had to live with herself and what had happened to her during her fucked up childhood, but she could never live by it.
And so, for Thanksgiving she reminded herself that this holiday was all about rape, disease, and dominance of the white men who whistled at her when she walked to her car in the morning. She put some store-bought spicy chicken wings in the microwave for a minute and stared at the words on the page of a borrowed book until the machine’s shrill beep. She turned on the TV and found a stupid movie as the dogs crowded around her. As she began pouring Ranch dressing (not the fat-free kind) on her plate, her cellphone buzzed with a new message. “Happy Thanksgiving! Mostest!” Her mother had sent. At a loss for words, Ada responded, “Ditto.”