Story Slam Winner Zoe Rose: "Mama, the Moon, and Me"

Spirited was one word for it—for Mama. For when I’d have to try talking her off of the moon, for when she’d crash back down to bed for weeks on end. There’s another, clinical, word for it. I suppose I prefer to say that she’s got spirit.

Cuz that spins it as a sort of whimsy, you know? A light word to dance the disease back into a corner. Because Mama isn’t sick, of course—she’s just a woman with some fancies.

Here’s some of the fancies: a dog, a cat, six cats, lottery tickets bought on credit card, missing the exit home to end up stuck in Tennessee, brand-new men that don’t mind daughters, metaphysic plots scrawled on the back of my homework, midnight gardening.

Midnight gardening, alright, is a little funny. Some nights I’d get up to shake off bad dreams and I’d see Mama on the patio, pushing the potted plants around, an Ohio State cap tucked over her little head. Sometimes I could even smell a recent spray of Banana Boat. What’s she think she’s gonna get, a moonburn?

I see her getting caught up like this, and I get some selfish thoughts: how dare she chance passing this on. If she does, it’d be the only thing she’d leave me. I love her, but I’ve been turning the lights back on since I was eleven. I’ve had the clear head and all, at least, but I get nightmares about the day I don’t.

But apparently, she’s always been like this. She’d get these little waves when she was my age. Petty cycles of boyfriends and daytrips. People could’ve called her a free spirit, then. Can’t speak that in truth, now. Her fluxes have grown, grown high and low and confused that its children haven’t yet taken flight. I’ve always been the straight-steady, the sturdy, the stoic. I came from my Mama, yes, but I’ve been carrying on like my Daddy ever since. I’d even rather be my Daddy—close over and never crack at anything at all—than ever reach for the heights that she gets.

But I still get shame on Mother’s Day. I could call her—I could always call her, I know her number as well as 911—but it’d be that cliché of cutting open old wounds and I know that hurt’s never gonna heal, anyhow. I hurt her too, and I deserve to ache like this until I’m too old to recall even my own name.

I try staying quiet when it comes to mom talk. When people ask, I don’t say much. When people press, I say one word and suddenly they’re the ones who go quiet.

I’m not staying quiet, now, I guess. It’s somehow fine to put it on print, but not out loud. Even then, it’s okay if it’s out loud so long as it’s planned from print. I don’t know what would happen if it didn’t come out planned, if I just opened my mouth and started talking and maybe never be able to shut it back up again. But I’m Irish on her side, and I’ve got shut it up in my blood. And I could probably shut it up forever.

There has not been a word between the Me & Her since the last Big Blow, and I really don’t know if there’ll ever be any more words again. But sometimes I see her up there, on her highs in the sky, and almost smile.

I can pretend she’s happy riding like that, right?

This piece won the October Story Slam at Midtown Reader. Follow Zoe Rose's Youtube channel here.