“Alex, what the hell are these?”
I’ve only just come through the front door when I hear my mom’s panicked voice trickle down the hall.
Oh fuck, my mind whirs, realizing three things all at once: my mom is in my room, she’s found something she doesn’t like, and that something could be any number of things.
The hardcore MILF porn, perhaps, or those weed laced cigarettes my best friend, Billy, gave me last summer. Maybe she’d found the love letters I wrote, but never sent, to my older cousin Sarah (forgive a boy for going through puberty while his mom made his total smokeshow of a cousin babysit him, for God’s sake!).
I slink down the hall, nervously pulling the straps of my backpack tighter around me, and peek into my bedroom. “What are you doing in my room?”
“Cleaning,” my softspoken mother says with tears in her eyes. “Are you on drugs?”
She holds up a little baggy of white pills and I nearly choke on my own spit. Shit. I’d totally forgotten about those.
“God no, mom! It’s not—”
“Because you could tell me you know. I’d get you help!”
My heart clenches hard in my chest, but then I start to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I wish I could explain to her that what she’s holding aren’t drugs for me, but for someone else. Rather, for me to use on someone else. Somehow I’m not sure that would make her feel any better though—and I really don’t want to freak her out. I’d found the dumb things on some dark website after I’d got a little drunk with Billy one night. We’d been whining about how none of the pretty girls at school would give us the time of day, and neither of us wanted to graduate from high school while we were still virgins. The website had promised that the pills were some combination of love and lust pills: ‘Get your dream girl, tomorrow!’ and all of that jazz. It'd been mostly a joke when Billy entered his dad’s credit card number and ordered one for each of us. He hadn’t even wanted his pill when they’d shown up in the mail (and sober us agreed the whole thing was completely insane)—yet for some reason I’d held onto them, amused that we’d been so pathetically desperate that we’d fallen for such a stupid scam.
They were probably made of sugar or chalk. Still, I didn’t really know how to explain the whole thing to my wide-eyed mother without looking like a complete psychopath.
“Alex, this isn’t funny,” she whispers, her knuckles bone-white as she grips the little bag. “Tell me what these are.”
“I really don’t know, mom.”
Her face screws all up and she begins to wail. I watch in horror as tears stream down her face, her entire body shaking. Ever since I turned eighteen, she’s been a little more emotional than usual.
“You’re just like your father,” she blubbers. “Always lying.”
I swallow hard but don’t have any idea what to say. My mom’s never compared me to my father before—a man who was in my life for a handful of years before dipping out to make a new family—and my mom has never been a vindictive or cruel person. If anything, she’s always been a freaking saint, taking on two jobs to support us and always being there for me. She’s obviously having some sort of mental breakdown, and I have no idea what to do for those.
“I swear to God,” I say softly.
I want to reach out and offer her a hug or something, but she’s kind of scaring me. My normally prim and elegant mother looks nearly deranged, clutching the plastic baggy so hard it looks like she’s going to make her palm bleed with her face beet red from weeping. It’s like she’s found out I murdered children and am going to be executed or something, not like she’s found a couple pills that aren’t even made of anything worrisome.
“Hey, please calm down….” I want to tell her she’s freaking me out but I don’t want to make her feel bad if she’s lost it or something.
“I found your porn,” she chokes out, holding the little baggy to her chest. “And the marijuana.”
She stops crying and stares at me with large, wild eyes. “Who are you anymore, Alex?”
“I’m me, mom!”
But I know what she means. Maybe I do lie to her a lot, but that’s only because with every year I’ve grown older she seemed to grow a little more anxious—like I wasn’t supposed to be changing or growing up. It’s kind of surprising that she’s waited this long to snoop in my room, as I’d stopped hiding things very well when I started realizing that she didn’t ever seem to look. Or maybe she was just good at hiding things from me, too. Until now.
“Then tell me what’s in the pills,” she says quietly.
“Likely nothing!” I cringe when she flinches, realizing that I’ve just yelled at my mother. “They might be salt tablets. I doubt they are real,” I whisper.
She considers me for a long moment, her blue eyes locked to mine. “What were they supposed to be?”
“I don’t want to say.” It hurts to admit even that much.
My mom sticks out her jaw a little, her eyebrows furrowing, and whispers, “Then I guess I’ll take one if you can’t be honest with me.”
“This is stupid,” I mutter, running a hand through my hair.
I want to ask her what the hell has gotten into her lately, but that doesn’t seem like something a good son should ask. Clearly, she’s worried about me. Worried about me lying to her and . . . well, maybe she’s worried about losing me now that I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want. I don’t really plan on going anywhere for a while, but the natural order of things is that at some point I’ll fly the nest . . . and that obviously bothers her.
“I’m serious, Alex. I’m going to take the drug that you bought so that you experience the consequences of buying intoxicants!”
I can’t help but laugh. This whole situation is pure insanity, and the least insane part is what will happen after she consumes the scam-pill Billy bought off the internet (which is absolutely fucking nothing).
“Be my guest!” I shout at her as she storms out of my bedroom.
There’s no way in hell I’m telling her what the pill is supposed to be or outing myself like that. I know for sure it’s not going to work, or maybe it’s a laxative and she’ll be stuck in the bathroom for the next few hours. That would be pretty funny.
No, it wouldn’t be, my mind whispers to me. She’s your mother and you love her, idiot—even if she’s being a complete Drama Queen.
“Mom, please don’t take it!” I call after her, dropping my backpack to the floor as I walk out to join her in the kitchen.
She takes a big gulp of water just as I arrive, swallowing deliberately while making eye contact. “Too late.”
“Well, if you’re hoping to get high or something, you’re going to be very disappointed.” I walk away and flop down on the couch, eyeing her as she downs the rest of the water.
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t just be honest with me.”
“There’s some things a son can’t tell his mother,” I mutter, grabbing the remote and flipping on the TV.
I’m bored of this whole dramatic conversation, and I don’t think the pill is going to do more than give her an upset stomach at most, so I decide to distract myself with something more pleasant. Like racecars or football (and I don’t even really enjoy watching either of those things).
After a few long minutes, I realize my mom is still standing in the kitchen, just watching me. She looks sad with her mascara streaked face and her smudged lipstick. Normally she keeps herself so perfect and pretty, it’s weird seeing her like this.
“You messed up your makeup.” Maybe that’s not something I should say to her at this moment, but she’s unnerving me by just hovering in the distance like some statue.
“Do you want me to fix it?”
I blink at her, not sure if she’s joking or if she’s angry. Her voice sounds a little strange and distant. Maybe she’s just messing with me, or maybe she wants to bicker more. I should probably apologize for the porn and stuff . . . I should really apologize for the entire argument and just be done with it . . . but she really shouldn’t have gone through my things.
Stubbornly, I return my focus to the TV. There’s some dumb commercial on about cleaning products where the people all sing and dance like idiots. Usually my mom hums along to this one, and although that always annoys me, I find myself wishing she would again. I don’t want her to be upset. There’s a hollow ache inside me. A roiling sense of guilt and shame.
“Please stop staring at me,” I finally mutter. “I’m sorry, okay,” I say without looking at her. “The pills were a dumb thing Billy ordered . . . a libido, uh, type thing….”
Okay, that’s as much as I’ll admit to, and even that has me so uncomfortable I’m squirming in my seat. “I don’t want to fight anymore, mom. I’m sorry for yelling. Can we just drop it, please?”
“Alright,” she says.
I flick my eyes over to her, weirded out by the flat tone of her voice. She’s not looking at me anymore, instead staring off into nothingness. Her work outfit looks a little rumpled—the slim, black pencil skirt and white blouse wrinkly instead of smooth. It looks uncomfortable.
“Why don’t you go have a nice shower and lie down?” I suggest softly.
“Alright,” she says again, and I give her a forced smile as she begins to walk woodenly forward and then turns to make her way down the hall.
God, she’s acting strange. She’s probably just exhausted from working so much and then having to deal with me, I think bitterly. I flip through the channels once she’s gone, relaxing as soon as I hear her bedroom door close.
She’ll be fine after she relaxes and takes a nap, I tell myself. Women are often unpredictable creatures, even my nearly perfect mother, with her generally soft and nurturing demeanor punctuated by little outbursts. I guess no one can hold it together all the time, but it certainly would be nice if she evened out a bit.
After a couple hours of channel surfing and settling on some action movie, I begin to forget the entire ordeal. It’s only when I hear my mom’s soft steps returning to the kitchen that I look up, and all the air escapes my lungs in one big rush.
“What are you wearing?” I stammer, my eyes flaring wide.
My prim and proper mother has come out in only a bright blue bra and matching, lacy underwear. She gives me a demure smile, her sapphire-colored eyes twinkling, and murmurs, “Do you like it?”
I gape at her. Is this her way of getting back at me for the porn and drugs? Her large breasts practically spill out the front cups of the lingerie, and I’m torn between revulsion and a sickening appreciation.
“No!” I sputter.
Her now perfectly painted face falls. “Am I not attractive?”
Oh no, my mind whirls. My mom’s completely lost it. That or . . . the pills have done something to her.
“I—I uh,” I stammer uselessly, tearing my eyes away from her sinfully curvy body to stare into her half-lidded eyes.
She looks just like the women I wank off to in my magazines. This has to be a trap of some kind. She’s setting me up, and I really don’t like it.
Well, except for one part of me, and that part has sprung up unwanted, straining against my shorts like some kind of horny beacon.
She gives me another smile, this one devious and knowing as she eyes the tent I’m sporting. “I’m going to make us a lovely dinner,” she practically purrs.
“I’m not hungry,” I yelp, covering my lap with my hands.
I can feel my face burning a bright red. I’ve never felt so vulnerable and exposed as I do right now—and I’ve never thought about my mother in that way before, but now that she’s parading around in skimpy fuck-me clothes my mind feels all muddled, the blood in my veins too hot.
“Not hungry for food?” she asks with a girlish giggle, lifting a hand to twirl her blonde hair.
Is my mom seriously flirting with me? Or is this all an elaborate prank to get back at me? I shake my head dumbly, wishing that I could transport myself back in time, banishing both the porn and the pills from my pathetic existence. Maybe then my mom wouldn’t be trying to humiliate me, and succeeding.
“Then what are you hungry for, Alex?”