Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Seventeen and Invincible
Zalman Velvel
She was lying in the hospital bed, looking pale without her makeup. Her luxurious dark brown hair was now mousey looking, and her expressive hazel eyes were bloodshot.
She was a beautiful woman, a source of pride to me in front of my friends, but now she looked plain, like my friends’ moms, at least ten years older than thirty-eight. When I kissed her, her cheek was wet. She had been crying before I entered the room and knowing this made me choke up. I forced the feeling away. I was not going to show her that. Not me. I was seventeen and invincible.
“Where’s your father?” she asked.
“Looking for a parking spot down the street. The lot was full, so he dropped me off in front. Winter must be a popular time on Long Island to have an operation.”
“Why do you look so strange?”
“Mom, I don’t look strange.”
“Yes, you do.”
She angered me when she looked right through me, so I changed the subject.
“How do you feel, Mom?”
“Like they ripped my insides out.”
I winced, imagining what the doctor did in the operating room the previous morning when she had a hysterectomy.
“When are they letting you go home, Mom?”
“Do you want me to go home, you ungrateful, selfish child?” she asked, smiling at me.
“No, not really,” I smiled back. “It’s quieter without you.”
Now I was comfortable. We were playing our game. She was going to pick me apart and criticize me, and I was going to be twice as cruel in return.  This was one of the ways my Mom made me invincible.
“Your father doesn’t want me home, either.”
She began crying again and I looked out the window, confused. She was changing the game on me. I couldn’t take the sound of her sobbing.
“Mom … come on.”
“I’m not a woman, anymore. I can’t have children.” She lifted up the covers and shook her head. “I’m dead down there.”
She reached over to the nightstand and picked up her hand mirror.
“Look at me. I’m ugly.” She ran her hands through her hair and shook her head. “Your farther’s going to find himself another woman. A younger one. Then you all won’t have to put up with me anymore.” She picked up a tissue and wiped her eyes.
I continued to stare out the window until my father entered the room. He was six feet tall, and husky, but now he looked tired, older than his forty years. I didn’t notice it before, but his clothes were wrinkled and soiled, unchanged from the previous day because my mother wasn’t there to take care of him.
I left them alone and waited down in the lobby before this new game twisted my insides around. I was still invincible.


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