“Am I looking good?” Ma asked urgently, while examining herself in the broken, yellow mirror that was never repaired. “There’s never enough light. I’m fed up with this mirror, Gini, we have to get it repaired,” she complained and applied an extremely-red lipstick, rubbing her lips together in a nervous way.
“You’ve said that hundreds of times and you never did,” I said, trying hard not to sound sardonic.
“We’ll see, how am I looking now?” She smiled at me through the mirror, moving her hands over the yellow dress, straightening it.
I rolled my eyes. “It’s the fifth time you are asking me this exact thing, this evening. And for the last time, yes!”
She turned towards me, picked up her brown handbag and put the lipstick in.
“Now look at me, carefully. Is there anything you feel, that appears odd? I mean the lipstick isn't too bold, is it? It goes with the dress I think...”
She turned towards the mirror, again to get a final look at herself.
"How desperate are you to make an impression, Ma?" I said in a lazy voice, leaning on the door of her room, biting my nails.
"Don't you feel good about it?" She asked, almost in an imploring voice.
"What am I supposed to feel? You tell me. Why do you care, you'll go anyway…"
"Ma, please. I am not a little girl. Do you really think it's okay for you to go on a date, and with that jerk? I just can't support you in your ridiculous ideas. We don’t need anyone!" I half-shouted.
Ma stared at me; eyes wide. For a second, I felt guilty, but it faded when my eyes fell upon her red, bold lips.
"Why are you behaving like this with me?" Her voice cracked.
"Don't cry now, Ma. Your make up's gonna be ruined," I looked away, trying to act disinterested.
Ma controlled her tears and turned her attention towards her appearance, pretending nothing was wrong. I hated that.
"You don't realise Gini, but I need him to like me. He is such a nice man and we could be together and… happy." She said the last word in a whisper and I doubted if she really believed what she said.
"Doesn't he like you already to have asked you out?" I said with a smirk.
"Yes, but you know it's not every day that a 38-year old woman is asked out. I don't want my age to be a matter... Uh... so I have to be likeable at least."
Likeable, at least. That was Ma always. She wanted to be the likeable sort, wanting to be in people's good books, pleasing everyone she laid her eyes on, except herself.
"You realise, don't you, that this situation should be just the opposite?"
Suddenly, she shrieked.
"Oh my God, it's 8 already... he must have reached the restaurant. I am late... shut your mouth Gini, for once." She glared at me as I tried to open my mouth to say something. "Get me your heels."
My jaw dropped.
"What heels? You're gonna wear heels? Ma, you are crazy!"
"I practised walking in them, Gini. Don't just argue with me. If you can't move your lazy ass, I'll ..."
"Okay... just stop already... I'm bringing them."
I moved in a daze to the shoe rack and brought my polished, black heels, still shocked. When Ma wore it, I knew she was telling the truth; she had practised, for real. Something in my heart broke.
I looked at her through the window of my room as she walked out of the main gate of our apartment, towards the hired cab. She was struggling a little, perhaps because of the heels.
I sauntered to the kitchen and put some milk on the gas burner.
Ma hadn't grown up. She was a 38-year old teenager, trying to please everyone, appear perfect and pretend, always. I felt disgusted to even think she might have had sex with that blowhard of a man with distasteful glasses and a badly trimmed beard.
It should really have been the opposite. I should've dressed up for a date night, wore heels and felt anxious and she should've consoled me. Instead, I am the one alone at home, drinking coffee and eating fridge food on a Sunday evening.
I stared at the small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pan and sighed. I tucked a few strands of stray hair behind my ears and concentrated on the milk. It seemed to hold so much in, I was afraid it might explode. I couldn't let it spill.
Ma cried always; when she couldn't handle milk, when her food burnt, which was almost every day, when she watched romantic comedies and sometimes without any reason. Tears were always available for her. One time, she cried and slept the whole day and I was the mother. I stared at the opposite wall, as empty as our lives. I didn’t want to cry.
The milk hissed and I put some coffee and sugar. Then put the flame out, mentally patting myself to have achieved the extraordinary feat. It was not that difficult, to be honest but I could sense a few tears pushing their way up from the depths and felt sad.
I always thought I had invisible slivers, jutting out of my skin, pricking everyone who dared come close. I chuckled softly to think that we hurt the one we loved, ironically.
I poured the coffee in a cup and sat on my desk to read something. I leaned my head on the table and closed my eyes wondering if my mother was enjoying her date. Several hours passed and the coffee lay abandoned, cold as death.
It was about 9:30 when the doorbell rang. When I opened, Ma was standing there, her shoulders slumped forwards, face black with smeared kohl because of the large drops of tears that were falling from her eyes. The yellow dress was wet with tears.
Alarmed, I let her in and closed the door.
"What happened?" I cried.
"He didn't come."
I felt relieved for a second, but quickly set the thought aside and turned my attention towards my mother. She was still sobbing, standing in the middle of the room. The handbag fell from her hand.
"That jerk stood you up?" I hissed "I'd told you..."
I stopped, for her sobs increased and tears streamed into her yellow dress covered in black smudges. I sighed.
She leaned forward and I took her in my arms, wiping her tears in the process. She kept her head on my shoulder and started howling.
“For once, I tried to be happy…” She managed to say, in between.
I wiped a teardrop off the bottom of my eye. The slivers fell off, to the floor.
"It's okay, Ma. You’re enough." I said, and tightened my arms around her.