Environment

The most familiar sight through my childhood before I figured out that I didn't need to go home as much as I did was Mother sitting in the adjacent living room, channel surfing until she finds a reasonably entertaining movie in some language that Daddy and I didn't understand. In ninety- eight, we moved out to the middle of nowhere because Daddy said that he wanted nothing to do with those damn 'migrants that were flooding Toronto and that it was too hard to get a job. Well, Mother came as one of them and looks nothing like me or him or the rest of the town and Daddy, the eccentric, married her anyways. Whenever I pointed that out, Daddy would smack me on the head and say that it's different and that she's different and that we love her. He said it so many times that I guess I actually believed him. Anyhow, we never let her use Pay-Per-View to find her movies again, it's too bloody expensive, and Daddy was tired to driving around to find new movies that she haven't watched or wasn't sick of yet so one Christmas, Daddy bought a monster satellite from town just to get the channels that have the movies. Even though I was glad to get a billion new cartoon channels, I thought that Daddy was spoiling her. He said that it's okay, that the costs will even out and that he loved her so much that it doesn't matter if it didn't. Then he left her, without a custody battle I might add, for a bleach-blond 20-something who worked temp at MickeyD's and didn't look different. All I remembered that day was that my teacher was wearing this god awful strappy dress that pitifully attempted to vacuum pack her mother-of-three body and that I wanted to throw up like crazy.

After that, Mother spend days sitting in the living room surrounded by tissues in various stages of saltiness. When I wanted to be good, I would stay real quiet and let her fall asleep, eyes and lips pinched into squiggly lines. She opened up a flower shop after she was done crying about Daddy to make ends meet, and decorated up the place so nice that it surprised me, considering the broken-everything state of the house. On the wall behind the counter where the cash register was, she hung up a fake- looking paper that said that she had a BA in some history class. It would have been pretty impressive if it was real-I know that someone like her can never be good enough for university- or maybe had some relevance to the flower-selling trade. She made me work weekends with her and sometimes after-school and let me keep the tips. Her main customers turned out to be these two newly-wedded men whose marriages were still in the romantic pre- children years, a old woman who had an unconscious-looking husband, and, of course, Daddy, who would show up every so often to get flowers for MickyD. Mother cried the first several times, but I was glad to use this time to see him even if he didn't talk much.

It was quite the controversy in town. The neighbours despised her for tainting their street twice and never let me baby-sit their darling curly- topped kids. Everybody except for her customers hated her, probably no thanks to me, and blamed the disturbance on Mother which was funny because even I knew that Mother had nothing to do with it. She could never have held Daddy down with that face and figure and horrible cooking; can you believe that she never learned to cook? She somehow got it in her head that brains is where it's at and men actually want a good conversation from his woman when he got home, not some love and a decent meal. My classmates, being honest for once, told me this in earnest but swore they'll never hold her against me. So I took the egg throwing and T.P-ing impersonally.

Mother was afraid the awkwardness that swarmed the air as soon as the jutted angles of her face appeared in markets, and well, she should be, she was so ugly, no wonder Daddy left her. Because of this, she enlisted me to do the shopping and most of the other chores that involved leaving the safety of her house, which I hated and to spite her I'll buy shoddy merchandize and flirt and make out with the bagboys who swiped smokes for me in return for favours. When I went home, Mother would inspect the groceries and sniff my hands and neck for the smell of smoke or weed or my boyfriends' cheap cologne which was often there. To punish me, she would make us eat the crap I bought but I would weasel out of it by eating dinner at a friend's. Sometimes, I'll stay away for more than a week.

People pressed me for info on the progress of their legal settlements. Knowing absolutely jack shit about it, I would tell them stories about mother, her being the town curiosity and all. Real or not, it didn't matter: I created the craziest, stupidest mother on earth who burned Daddy's clothes and smashed his tools. Suddenly I was popular at school and when that got old, Mark F. asked me out. I said that I'd love to.

Mark was not as beautiful as I had hoped my first official boyfriend to be. He had freckles and a set of half glued-on teeth, the original set broken from playing baseball. Thank God for his father's dental insurance or I would have been never be able to look at him. The first time I saw him naked was when he tried to tattoo my name on to his lovesick arm with some Indian ink and sewing needles. Funny how he screamed. I was his first, you know, and he was mine and we clung to each other like nothing else. During class he would write long stupid letters to me, about Zeppelin or Crimson or some other old drunkards that looked surprisingly like Daddy. He told me about how the Beatles got real in Indian, discovering the cheap richness of Zen and Nirvana and reincarnation. They felt more than we do, he wrote. It's because of their mixture of religion and drugs . So to feel like they do, and also because he had nothing better to do, Mark grew into the habit of snorting coke particularly when I was with him which wasn't so great 'cause I had to feel his limp dick half way through. I couldn't get him to quit but I loved him anyways.

Mother hated Mark but she couldn't stop me from going to him. I can't tell you how many times I heard "bad example" spewing from Mother's machine gun mouth. Every time I left the house to see him, she told me to never come back. Tired of her yelling, I took to living at Mark's place. It wasn't so bad, he had his parent's basement and they could never hear us through the walls and floors and roaring Zep tunes. She couldn't control me. She couldn't.

But we could hear their yelling. At night we heard every single problem that his family had over and over again and it drove Mark nuts. One day after school, Mark and I saw Mother in the supermarket, shopping all by herself. She looked at us and smiled sadly, forming those squiggly lines again. We rushed back to Mark's house. After a night of rampant sex and kisses and hearing shouts of why-the-hell-are-you-still-talking-to-that-man and don't-you-dare-touch-me's echoing through the house, Mark said I love you and, fuck, let's leave this place and go to TO where the fun and love is.

So it was decided, we loved each other, etc. and we were going to run away.

We had agreed to meet after his work shift ended at nine at the bus terminal. It was winter and cold outside, but where I was, it was warm. I pressed my face against the window glass, foggy from the communion of breaths. I had decided to go early, I didn't know why, Mark was always late, even for something big like this. One of the newly married man that was a regular customer at mother's flower store recognized me. He looked at me thoughtfully. Maybe Mother had said something about my leaving home to him. Looking impatient, he dialled into his cell phone, trying to get somebody, his wife?, to come and drive him away from this warm circular space. I had nobody to call except Mark and somehow that made me sad. I took my bags of my shoulders and thought: blisters. I went over and asked him for a ride back home. He said yes. My last concern was ditching out on Mark. he was thirty minutes late anyways.

I got home at around ten expecting Mother to welcome me in her arms. Hell, I was gone for nearly a month, she had to have missed me. Instead I hear the sounds of moaning-the good type- coming from her bedroom. I went to the living room and turned on the television and started to flip through the hundred plus channels. Some talk show was on. I didn't understand it; it was Mother's language. I raised the volume until the sound of the unfortunate-looking show host filled the air around me. The moaning stopped.

Then Daddy crept down the stairs. He called me by every pet name that I had ever heard.

Then Mother came down wrapped in a bathrobe, skin flushed like the roses in her shop.

Then somebody said that everything going to be okay; give Daddy a hug.

Bullshit, I thought, but gave him a hug anyways.