My former mother-in-law so loved her sons. She had pet names for each of them, by which she still referred to them even when they were adults in professional careers. There was The Smart One, The Handsome One, The Strong One, The Creative One. The perfect quadrumvirate, “the boys.” They adored her.
Her husband called her mother, as if he were a son in an incestuous affair. And he did adore her, too.
They adored her so much, that they kept her all to themselves. Driving, this she was not allowed to do. A mandate of the father, uncontested by the boys. Walking out on their country road, this her husband eventually granted, as it made her slimmer and better to look at.
One day, she sighed, and left the house, telling her husband she was going for a walk.
It was a bright day, sunny, spring and warm. Unwitnessed, she walked into the path of an oncoming car.
It is late fall, so there are no leaves on the trees. There is a dusting of snow, and I can see that there were a couple of mountain bikes on the trails earlier. But there is no one in the woods now. I know that, because I can see deep, deep into the woods, through the empty trees.
I run, hard. It is very cold. My face is numb. There’s a brisk wind, and it cuts through my clothes. So I pick up my pace again. I begin to flush with warmth.
I do not have that strained watchfulness that I must maintain when I run in the spring and the summer, eyes scanning the dense brush, constantly, for any human form. Any man. Danger.
I just run.
At this moment, I am free.
My brother’s transition from boy to man was marked by fierce and deliberate verbal assaults on his mother.
“You’re a cunt,” he would scream. “A fucking cunt!”
These assaults went on into his twenties. Then they stopped. Not because he regretted the assaults. But because his entitlement was now secured and did not need constant reinforcement.
Now, ten years after her death, he only speaks of her fondly.