The person I talk to inside my head changes—sometimes it’s a boyfriend, a close friend, a stranger, or just some omniscient something. But lately, it’s been my mom.
When I’m at the end of my rope—walking home in the rain after a tough day, attempting to shield my trying-not-to-cry-face from strangers with my umbrella, I pour out my sadness to her. I tell her how I’m scared, sad, frustrated, stuck—getting more and more worked up as I imagine the conversation. What do I do, mom? How do I make it better? I don’t pray, but I imagine it’s a little like praying.
It wasn’t always this way. In college, I could call, and she’d be there. If I was having a bad day and needing her, I could skip class and call, ask if she wanted to come to lunch. She drove 90 minutes, no questions asked, to fix me, to take me to lunch and buy me a winter coat. Crying in my car in the middle of the night so my housemates don’t see or hear, I call and she answers, tells me to come home, and she fixes me. Sometimes I would just drive home just to sit at the dining room table and watch the patterns of light in the room change in familiar ways. It was enough to feel at home.
Home is an insurmountable thing now. Hundreds of miles away, and, in that coming-of-age-movie-slash-novel trope, years behind me. For the better part of a decade now family is an occasional voice on a phone, and home is a troubling and evolving concept that doesn’t really stick to anything. Home is not where I am. My home is not my home. Their home is not my home. No home is my home. Most of the time when I call, no one’s home. No one answers.
I’ve grieved the loss of two grandparents in the last two years, waiting for news alone by the phone. Bearing the burden alone and hearing everything after the fact, details that should to be relayed to me are lost in the shuffle while everyone else communicates face to face. It took me a day and a half to tell my parents I got engaged because I couldn’t get them on the phone. There’s a massive distance between me and almost everything and everyone I love, even in death. In that distance, relationships erode, aren’t on as solid footing as they once were. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to call home when I’m broken but can’t bring myself to. There’s too much distance. It’s not what it was.