Mum is on speakerphone as I get ready for the gym. I’m trying to find a sports bra to wear but they’re all dirty, so I have to pick one out of the washing basket and spray it with deodorant. She’s complaining about a recent clothes order in which none of the jeans fit. I tell her she should get them tailored, but she can’t be bothered. There’s a lull in the conversation and I know what she’s about to say—I can feel it prickling in the air between us.
“So, has that guy mentioned anything else about his Halloween party?”
“He’s gone quiet again?”
“Not quiet, but…”
“Do you think he’s worried about you meeting his friends?”
I scrape my hair back into the tightest bun I can manage. “Why would he be worried about that?”
“I don’t know, maybe he’s worried about what they’ll think.”
“He’s not embarrassed of me, if that’s what you mean.”
I try to think of something else to say before Mum talks again, but she’s too quick.
“He’s got a girlfriend, hasn’t he?” she says.
“Why would you say that?” I half scream and then hang up the phone, lie back on my bed, and stare up at the cracks running through my ceiling. It’s quite the reach. There are so many other reasons why he might have changed his mind about bringing me. Maybe it’s too soon to introduce me to his friends. Maybe he’s just forgotten. And yet now I feel there are all these secret possibilities shifting around behind my back, morphing into monstrous shapes.
I open up WhatsApp and send a long voice note to my group chat explaining the situation. I love telling my mum about what’s going on in my dating life. She cares about all the little details everyone else would find boring, like what the lighting was like and whether he waited with me until my bus came. But, you tell her a bit and then she wants a follow-up and another one. That’s not her fault; I’d want to hear the end of the story, too. But, when things go wrong, it’s like I have to relive all the hurt again through her.
Plus, she always sums up situations with blunt, brutal conclusions like “He was always threatened by you” that don’t feel true to my experiences. And then she’ll change her mind about these conclusions and form new ones, and we will keep on diagnosing and re-diagnosing until it’s actually weird how much we’ve both thought about this man. And sometimes she says things that make me feel so sad, like when, the other day, she said, “Oh, I just wish there was a nice man to walk you home.” I felt so tragic, like a cat hair-covered, flannel pajamas-wearing, Vampire Diaries-rewatching saddo, because only someone like that would have their mum pitying them in that way.