Uvula, uvula, uvula

From Pathetic Life #1
Tuesday, June 28, 1994

With Maggie gone, probably forever, the next special guest star will be my mother, who's arriving on Friday.

Mom knows 12-year-old me better than anyone in the world, but she doesn't know the 'me' I am now, and that's mostly been my choice. I keep my distance, literally in this case, because, well, Mom is a little much.

Fate certainly could've dealt me a mother much worse, and she and Pop raised me well. We just don't have much in common beyond the shared memories.

She's devoutly Christian, but to me God is only a fairy tale, and not even a fun fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood.

We disagree about everything that matters to me — what's funny and what's not, what matters and what doesn't, politics, non-religion, right and wrong, civil rights, welfare, war, drugs, premarital sex, or any kind of sex, and the list goes on and on.

And Mom is — what's a polite word? — inquisitive. She always wants to know more than I want to tell, and she's not an impartial observer of me: She has an opinion on everything I do, never keeps her opinions to herself, and has a natural knack for using whatever inside knowledge she has about me to make me feel guilty or embarrassed.

You want examples? In every phone call planning her visit, my mom has found a way to bring up ex-girlfriends of mine, and my weight, and that I dropped out of high school, and something or other stupid that I did as an adolescent or in my 20s, and her Republican politics, and how much she misses me, and that I should call more often...

And why did you leave Seattle? And are you dating anyone in San Francisco? And are you safe from all the AIDS going around?

That's why I don't call very often.

You want more examples? Well, check back in a week, after my mom has visited and left. I'm pretty sure she'll make me mental while she's here.

♦ ♦ ♦

My own backstory, for those who aren't me: In 1991, I left Seattle with no destination in mind, and surprised myself by settling in San Francisco. I'd thought I'd end up in Los Angeles, but L.A. turned out to be boring, and boring is what I wanted to get away from.

Since moving to SF, I've made almost no effort to keep in touch with Mom, or with anyone else in my family, or anyone from that life. Nothing personal against the people left behind. Some of them are terrific and none of them are monsters, but leaving them behind was the point. I wanted to start over from scratch.

Here I am, three years later, and it's an improvement. I'm not happy, but I'm happier than I was.

♦ ♦ ♦

Doc Howser says I'm not contagious any more, and I felt well enough to go to work today. I sit near a guy named Louie, one of those rare people who doesn't annoy the hell out of me. He's the closest thing I have to a friend in San Francisco, so today we talked about my mom's visit and how I'm almost dreading it.

Louie says I'm keeping too many secrets from my mom. "It reminds me," he said, "of when I came out to my mother. She wasn't even shocked. She just said, 'Well, of course you're gay, we all know that. Pass the lasagna'."

He says I should come out to my mom, not as gay since I'm not, but as who I am.

I haven't kept our differences a secret from Mom, but I always instinctively change the subject when she invades my mental or personal turf. I don't want to hurt her feelings, and also don't want her stomping on mine, but maybe I should stop sidestepping stuff. Let my freak flag fly, as the kids say these days. If Mom can handle it, great, and if she can't handle it that's her problem.

Well, that's what Louie suggests, anyway. Is he right? I think he's right. Maybe he's right. Maybe whatever nosy questions my mother asks, I should give her an absolutely honest answer — or at least a warning that I'll give an honest answer if she wants one. I don't think her response would be, 'Pass the lasagna,' but I ought to give her the chance.

I've given her chances in the past, of course. I've opened up with her now and then, and always regretted it. She never has anything more helpful to say than, "Take it to the Lord in prayer."

But maybe she's changed. Maybe I've changed. Maybe we've both changed. Maybe neither of us have changed, and maybe I was nuts to agree to this visit. I guess we'll find out on Friday.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Tonight's dinner came in a bag from McDonald's. Lukewarm crap on a sesame-seed bun, with fries and a triple-thin, watery strawberry shake. It was the first meal I've eaten in a week without wincing in pain every time I swallowed. My uvula remains swollen, however.

Uvula is a cool word. It sounds sexy, doesn't it? Uvula wasn't in my vocabulary until some lady in Doc Howser's office said uvula to me on the phone. I looked it up afterwards. You should look it up, too, and then we can all say uvula to each other. Uvula, uvula, uvula.

Added up what I spent for Doc Howser's medical inexpertise, and the price tag was too much. Monthly payments to Kaiser Permanente since February, plus a co-pay both times he very briefly saw me, adds up to hundreds of dollars, not even counting the prescription. For that price I could've seen an MD without insurance, maybe one who's past puberty, who might have asked me to open my mouth and let him look inside, and diagnosed strep throat on the first visit, not the second.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Here's how your fate gets thrown to the wind: If Doc Howser would've looked inside my mouth, he might have diagnosed my strep on my first visit, two days earlier. I'd have started my regimen of antibiotics two days earlier, so I probably would have recovered two days earlier. I would've seen Margaret at least once more before she left, and maybe we would've had the open-heart conversation I was hoping we'd have. Maybe we would've kissed, with skyrockets and fireworks in the background and a score by John Williams. Maybe Maggie & I would've lived happily ever after.

You really fucked things up, Howser.

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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