COORDINATOR OF M.D.R.
With a role in the M.D.R. department, you will have the opportunity to cultivate a meaningful relationship with your Mother. Time management skills are preferred, as she will remind you each day that your time together is short. You will feel there has never been anything longer. You will be regularly grappling with the inevitability of death and how to reach true reconciliation with your Mother before then. You will watch your Mother deny what she did mere seconds before and create an entirely new narrative, out of pipe cleaners and delusion. Willingness to abandon logic and a sense of right and wrong is essential to the position. You will learn how to distinguish lies from truth, as your Mother threatens suicide when you haven’t spoken in 3 weeks. Working with your therapist, you will learn that if she cannot get your attention positively, she will get it negatively. Even as you are saying cruel things to her that you’re not even sure you mean, (e.g. you don’t want to know her anymore, you never really knew her) you are still talking to her, she still has a hold on you, and that is what she wants. She will tell you she is going to end her life, TODAY. Putting everything on hold to indulge such statements is mandatory, and failure to do so will result in termination. Every quarter, you will be in charge of an investigation against your father. You will find no evidence of his wrongdoing, her bloody crescent moons gouged into his forearms and tender, yellowing bruises on his stomach and chest. You will file evidence under “Hurt Myself Gardening” and report to your boyfriend in tears, sure Mother Daughter Relations were not meant to be this way. You’ll make one-on-one connections with police officers called to subdue your Mother, and as they approach her you will watch the conversation from afar, her now the picture of innocence, teary eyed and just wanting her family, and as the police turn to you, you will see the questions forming in their eyes. Questions like, “Your Mother is Clearly Upset, Maybe You Could Give Her a Hug?” and “What Kind of Daughter Are You?” These questions must be answered and filed under “The Uselessness of Legal Action” and “It All Sounds Kind Of He-Said, She-Said.” You will receive bi-weekly packages in the mail, often makeup from your favorite store. Duties include: reading the card first (addressed to Baby Monkey Angel), feeling both grateful and victimized, sitting down in front of your light up mirror in a silky black robe, like a washed up actress, orbs of soft light glowing in your pupils, smearing pump after pump of fresh skin across your face, and blending, blending, hiding, until you look natural in the most unnatural way. We at the M.D.R. Department know how badly you need armor, protection, to make things look like anything other than what they are.
Please Note: the summary below may not include all the essential functions and qualifications for this position. For more information, we encourage you to find God and stop being so fucking accusatory all the time.
- Frequent employment of Doublethink: knowing how something truly happened but simultaneously rewriting the past to fit the Mother’s current narrative, and then forgetting any rewriting took place. (See Chapter 2 in the Employee Handbook: 2+2=5 When You Need it to).
- Familiarity with the Mother’s typical narratives, including: The Battered Woman, The Loving Mother, The Good Christian. Anything outside of these narratives will not be accepted.
- Relaying messages from your Mother to your father, such as “THIS IS SICK” and “WHERE HAS MY FAMILY GONE?” Messages will often not have your name in them, but are more meant for you than they are for him. Messages can be expected into the wee hours of the morning, and thus M.D.R. Coordinators are never truly off the clock.
- Participating in useless conversations with your father. Asking why he doesn’t fight back. Consideration of “Do You Want Me to Just Let Her Die” and “She Has No One Else” will grow tiresome, but M.D.R. Coordinators approach dead ends with both vigor and futility.
- Dreaming that you are standing atop an active volcano, steam hissing into the hot orange air, an angel or a devil floating there, holding your Mother and your father by the back of their necks, one in each hand, their legs kicking uselessly above the abyss. You will choose your father every time and as the figure releases its grip, your mother will fall in slow motion, wailing, “I love you, my baby.” She will repeat this, softer and softer, like a ghost, and as she disappears from sight, all around you will grow a terrible quiet.
- Holding your Mother at arm’s length, hugging through gritted teeth, sure that the sickness will escape her and soak into your skin, your pores open and waiting, her molecules mirror images of yours, evil chemical twins, connecting the two of you perfectly, infecting you, just as you always knew they would.
- Return of all correspondence within a week or less. Your Mother will not be ignored. This can get as ugly as it needs to get. Your Mother knows where your apartment is.
- Continuing to eat, though eating feels disgusting. To swallow anything else feels disgusting. You are too full. Promising not to eat. Beginning to eat moments after promising you wouldn’t. Feeling yourself get fatter, stronger in your ability to take up space.
Enrollment in a 4-year College, with a visit from your Mother during the first week. Folding laundry on the floor of the common laundry room and revealing inflamed needle marks in the crook of each arm, a few in the left wrist, with swollen, blue veins glowing beneath. Not responding when she asks what those marks are, adrenaline surging, as she turns to cover her eyes, a strangled sounding yelp released into the humid, heavy air, and now you are the one on the floor, you are on the floor this time, you are the animal, you are the one shaking, unworthy.
Ability to convince yourself during the day that Family Isn’t Forever. That some people are toxic and you should keep your distance from them. For your own protection. For your sanity. Breakdown of this conviction in the wee hours of the night, as you check your pulse, slamming in your neck, bright red beautiful proof that you are still alive, and only alive because of your Mother. Appreciation that she carried you for 9 months and let you rip her apart on the way out, simultaneous understanding that you would not do the same for her. Wondering if you could accept that she is just mentally ill and agree to see her occasionally, under the condition that she will not try to relay hateful messages to your father, that she will not condemn divorce as a manmade annulment of a Godly promise, that she will not assert that your father is still married to her, that she will not attack your therapist or your boyfriend for supporting you in your distance from her, that she will not spit on you anymore, that she will not spit on herself anymore. Realizing in the morning that your conditions will never hold up long-term, no matter how desperately she swears that she will respect your boundaries.
Ability to appreciate the days when she does respect your boundaries, when there is nothing but kindness, your Mother returned to the Mother you desperately need, the form she puts on for friends and police officers, when she knows consequences are coming, loneliness is coming, Family Isn’t Forever? and with her back against the wall, your Mother chokes on the mental illness, swallows it, and tells you your makeup looks beautiful, no sign of twisted thinking outside of the subtle lump in her throat. Fearing that others see these good days and don’t remember what preceded them. Fearing that the bruises will fade. Fearing that you yourself will forget it. Fearing that you yourself have been terribly wrong about it all. Fearing that you yourself really are a Satanic Bitch. Fearing that you yourself will be unprepared when your Mother splits in half again, one hand holding yours and the other pinching your cheek, lovingly, drawing blood.
This job description is not all-inclusive. The M.D.R. Department reserves the right to amend this job description at any time.
The Mother Daughter Relations Department has a long-standing commitment to upholding the meaning of family. Our contributions protect Daughters from the reaches of Satan, and you’ll understand when you’re older.
Tara Lemma facilitates educational travel and tutors students in English during the week, and she reads/writes weird fiction on the weekends. She is a new Assistant Fiction Editor at Barrelhouse Magazine, and she will be starting as an MFA candidate at Temple University this fall. Her work was previously featured in Lockjaw Magazine Volume IV. This is one of the only pieces of creative nonfiction she has written. She tweets infrequently at @ilovetaralemma.
Show Tara some love via PayPal at tara.lemma(at)temple(dot)edu.