I’m on the phone with D, and although we’re having a nice-seeming conversation, I’m struggling to find the next question, the next topic-starter. The naturalness between us is gone. It’s been gone a long time now, so long I can’t imagining it ever returning. Still if I don’t allow for the possibility of it returning, it can’t return. So that’s I’m doing: I’m allowing for the possibility.
I remember a story D once told me about her mother. She was leaning out the window of her parents’ apartment when her mother came up behind her, wrapped her arms around D’s legs, and lifted them from the floor. For one brief, terrifying moment, D thought her mother was about to throw her out the window. But then her mother released her legs and explained that it was all just a joke. D lost it then and began screaming at her mother, who was profusely apologetic. However D’s mother’s apologies only infuriated her more, because her mother, in characteristic fashion, somehow turned the thing around so it wasn’t about the horrible thing she had done but rather how badly she felt about it.
And now, somehow, I’ve become D’s mother, and D is screaming at me, only her screams sound like conversational remarks, a causal bit of catching up after months of being out of touch. I try to respond, to apologize for what I’ve done, but what comes out instead are rote questions about D’s life and rote remarks about mine. She’s screaming at me and I’m trying to say how sorry I am, but the words have nothing to do with any of it; they’re just words said to fill the space where words belong.