I worried that my mother would hang up. Over the previous year, I’d been distant with her, but I knew she was the only one who would understand the fears that had been bubbling inside me, for years. I worried she would ignore my questions, or even pretend that her outrage about my premarital sex was more important than what I was asking.
Instead, she told me about how, when she was a teenager, she saved up pocket change for Harlequin romances. “All I wanted was to figure out how to feel like those women,” she told me. “When your father and I first got married, him touching me would light me on fire. But sometimes, if he moved too fast, if he tried something new, that fire just became pain.”
I knew exactly what she was talking about — pain that suffused into every pore, suffocating the good. “I get panic attacks when that happens,” I told her.
“I did too,” she told me.
For her, divorce wasn’t an option — culturally or emotionally. It wasn’t something that would fix anything. “So your father and I talked through what felt good and we figured out a way,” she explained. I told her that I loved her. I wanted her to apologize for giving me the same pain that she herself had suffered. But my mother stayed quiet.
The Skype clock showed that I had one and a half more minutes left, and I told her that. “Talk soon, okay?” I said, our signature goodbye. “I hate everyone else too,” she said, unprompted. “Those women on TV who love sex, who enjoy it. I hate them too.” I knew what that last part was supposed to be — the closest thing to an apology my mother would ever be able to make.
“Damage” is as good as everyone says it is, if not better. Stop what you’re doing and read it now.