A Night Of Questions
“When you think of love, do you think of pain?”
The running joke all weekend was that she was so much older than all of us. I protested because a year and a half is a deep breath and second of life the way I’d been living.
Historically, I’d always felt like the oldest person in a room, but even I had to admit that she wasn’t all wrong because as of late it’s different. For as much as my maturity is still present, I am more in my twenties than I have ever been. It feels freeing to show up whole. The night before, I poured the sangria like I finally trusted myself. A subtle toast to the woman I’m in the process of becoming and to the twenty-something who gives herself permission to make some really fun decisions in the presence of good company.
On the way back home, the train kept rattling us back and forth. I hadn’t downed enough the night before to want to throw up now, but definitely enough to wonder how we’d gone from pitchers of sangria to a night of questions. It’d started with talk of sex lives because when you’re twenty-something, and there’s sangria, there’s talk of who does what where. I remember sitting back and watching how a room full of women, all at different points in their womanhood, could chug at the same questions. There was more that made us similar than made us different. Which I guess is the common thread that got us though the night.
At 10pm we explored who had dated who, who had a broken heart at the hand of cheating, who would pass on the sangria and down water instead. At 11pm, there were laughs as the Polaroid was passed around, memorializing the moments right before we learned maybe a little more than we’d bargained for about each other. At 12am, the pitchers were gone, the shots were taken, the questions sat with how we all defined sexuality and fantasies. Then there was 1am, where it turned to identity and privilege and how we can reconcile coming from such different starting points and still toasting over the same drinks.
I peeled myself from the couch, leaned forward, and spoke about the awkwardness that comes with being self-made. There’s pride in the becoming, discomfort in having to explain how lived of an experience it is to know that as long as there’s money for rent, food, and electricity, everything else is a luxury. That I can walk into most rooms now with the confidence that comes with knowing what it is to live comfortably doesn’t mean that I don’t cringe when insensitive questions about those living paycheck to paycheck are asked. I took it a step further and related it back to how my lived experience without a mom, the nature of my work, and my openness to speak on it all somehow makes me the sounding board for questions like, “how’s it like to live without a mom?”
More often than not, my internal answer is, “I don’t know, what’s it like to live with your specific eye color?” In that, how often do you notice what color they are? Do you look in the mirror and see them, or do you see instead the way your eyeshadow is fading and your lashes could use more mascara?
Because I live my life the way anyone else does, not through the lens of woman who has no mom.
Which brought me to 2am.
Maybe it was 2:13am, but all I know is that I’d conceded. She was older. I was younger. She had some protecting to do. I had some answers to give.
She started by asking where my heart was, did I miss my mom, did I wonder who would play the role in my life when the time came, was I okay reconciling what I didn’t have with what others had.
She wasn’t asking me questions I hadn’t asked myself from time to time. She was though asking me questions that hadn’t crossed my mind that weekend. The lens I see life through isn’t one that points out all the ways I’m lacking, instead I see all the ways I am without want.
I think back to that morning when I had the chance to curl my friend, more like my sister’s hair as we started the two month countdown to wedding day. With each wave I added and each inch she scooted on the chair so that I could have the flat iron reach, more space was made for me in the moment. What a blessing.
At the shower, while she was opening presents, I shot a look at K as she spoke across the room, “You can see yourself in these, which I guess is the difference between Crate & Barrel and Target soup ladles.” I laughed, turned to their mom who was standing next to me, as she looked at Q, smiled, and wiped a tear. We saw the same thing in different ways and with different memories - a girl who was now a woman who was stepping into herself and the life she wanted.
At 3am, that’s what I said. I didn’t see my lack of a mom when I helped set up the cupcakes or when I took a picture of Q and the woman who lovingly calls me Four and in that act teaches me about having space carved out for me. Throughout the day I didn’t think of the woman I wouldn’t have at my own bridal shower, I thought of the three from there who would be.
Living without a mom is an interesting reality, I’d said a couple of hours before. As I made my way back into the city, I realize it’s also anchored in specificity. I don’t think of my mom all the time and when I do it’s not usually in sadness. When the sadness does creep up it’s just because I miss her the way we miss someone who loved us in very unique ways. It’s not always loaded, it’s not always present because how sad my life would be if it was.
“I know I’m going to miss my mom whenever I have a bridal shower, but do you know what an amazing problem I have? I’m going to have like 15 women fighting over who gets to host mine. All women who have shown up in motherly ways for me at one point or another.”
My pain isn’t unique. I’m not the first or last person who has lost a mom. But at 3am, I am the only person who is getting stared down by blue eyes as she expectantly waits for me to build upon my answer on where my heart is. She's showing up in love and worry, for me.
“You’re Four,” she says. I am. I smile.
It means I’ll be fine. I’ll be protected. I’ll be loved. All I have to do is keep showing up too.