My mother made it three nights at her new job. Three nights. She got the soda prices right away, she told me. She never stopped, never sat down, she said. But there was something going on. It had to do with the high school. They wanted to prove it wasn’t them, it was her. She’s just stupid. Too dumb to be taught. Too dumb to learn. 

You’re not dumb.” I forced out. She’s not. There is nothing wrong with her processing except that she’s usually too busy processing false information to pay attention to what’s going on around her. When she doesn’t respond right away it’s not because she didn’t understand the question, she’s weighing her options and fitting it into the matrix of the world she’s created. How can this question hurt me? Who else has asked this question? What is really being asked? Where is the hidden code? I imagine her sorting through the answers to those questions before she can reply.

Three nights. Earlier today I’d told my psychiatrist how impressed I was with my mother’s ability to get this job, show up, and go back the next day. Maybe it’ll be good for her. I’d said. She can’t anticipate who will come in, what will happen. She’ll have to learn to deal with stuff as it comes up. Dr. Merion agreed that it would be a good measure of how much my mother can tolerate and give her the chance to practice facing difficult situations and working through them. I had hope that she could expose herself to enough shit that she could start to negotiate having a child in the real world. I had hope that my younger sister could have her mother back and I could have my life back. I hoped so much but I must have known because I wasn’t surprised when my mother said she no longer worked at Edgartown Pizza. I must have known, that’s why I asked the question. She hadn’t said anything about her new job in two days. Not even a complaint. That’s probably what triggered my suspicion.

Three nights was enough time for my mother to ruin her chances of a new life. After her second night she told me about the “crazy stuff,” that goes down at the pizza place. “This woman, I mean, every time she bends over you can see her entire tattoo on her back! I mean what’s that about? So I just gave it right back to her. I said, ‘Did you know that every time you bend over, everyone can see your whole tattoo?’ You have no idea the shit that I deal with. No idea.” When she mention, upon her third telling of the tattoo tale, that the woman was her boss I think I just started counting down her time there.

The thing is, when she came into my store after her second night at Edgartown Pizza she looked complete. She was wearing her Edgartown Pizza t-shirt under her new, second-hand, North Face jacket. She looked like she’d worked an eight hour shift and was proud to have put in her time. Tired. But accomplished. I felt so happy for her. I felt like she could be happy. It breaks my heart to know how she must feel now. Another failure. Another trap. Another step away from the woman she used to be.

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