By: Jazmyn Tyree
Inhale. Exhale. Slowly. Let your eyes fall shut. They’re heavy, right? Of course they are.
I know you’re tired. I get it. Work’s been tough on you, and it’s hard coming home to this. To someone that’s supposed to make you feel all warm and mushy like the porridge you used to eat for breakfast on those Sunday mornings at your grandma’s house in 1999.
But it’s not 1999, and this isn’t your grandma’s house. You know that, right?
This is 2009 in your mother’s kitchen at six am. It’s October and you’re fifteen. The porridge is cold, you’ve been zoning out for too long.
Been cutting school to hang out at your girlfriend’s house on the other side of town because her mom’s a nurse, she’s never home. It’s easy to meet her at the bus stop since it’s kind of, like, half way, she says. Take the 30-minute ride with your head on her shoulder while she drags her blunt nails across your scalp under your soft curls. She’s good to you, right? It’s fun cuddling on her couch, eating snacks, and watching lame court shows on channel 4 because nothing good would come on at this hour.
What’s her name? It doesn’t matter, I don’t think, but she is a sweetheart, and she makes sure you feel just as sweet, doesn’t she? I mean, what else can you do when Judge Mathis goes off and the sun is warm, those nails, purple chipped polished nails, doing that little drag again, but this time down your back, your hip, your thigh.
2009 is great. That girl is great. Going back to school at 2:30 to catch the shuttle bus home like the other kids with her clinging to your arm and laughing in breaths like the ones you’re taking now. It’s nice, right?
But what about when you get home? When Ma says the school called. Where have you been? What have you been up to? Is it her again? That good-for-nothing girl that always gets you caught up in the bullshit Ma does her best to keep you away from. She’s no good. You’re letting her use you, take advantage of you, turn you into a fucking loser. Useless and—
Wait, stop. Watch your breathing. Keep your eyes closed. Because it’s not 1999, and it’s not 2009.
There is no grandma, no screaming matches with Ma. No nameless girl from sophomore year.
You’re 25 now and figure maybe you should bring the kettle with you to the table and use instant porridge so it’s still warm when you choke it down and it settles in your gut.
I suppose that’s why it’s all so tough now, huh? He isn’t like that girl. He doesn’t meet you at the bus stop and take the 30-minute ride with you back to his place while he makes small, gentle scrapes in your hair, or cuddles with you on the couch while you watch bad day time tv. Or make you feel sweet like the Fruit By The Foot rolls you shared, waxy paper littering the floor in front of that scratchy brown sofa.
Is that why you don’t like porridge now? Why you always have toast or grapes or just lukewarm coffee that’s honestly too bitter for you to take?
It’s too much to bear, isn’t it? Where have you been? What have you been up to? The school doesn’t call anymore, but he sure does, tells Ma how distant you’ve been, how you don’t come home, and when you do, you might as well be gone.
He’s always like this. It’s not new. You walk in the door every night, kick your shoes off and trudge into your bedroom where you close the door, pretend he’s not barking from the other side. You’re tired, you’re tired, I know.
Ma’s done so much to keep you away from the bullshit life is so keen on throwing at you, and now you have him. He’s good, and you should be grateful. He’s not using you, not taking advantage of you. He’s the best thing that ever happened to you. Handsome and successful and—
Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Slowly.
You can open your eyes, you know. It’s probably gotten awkward now; I’m sorry.
I don’t like porridge either.
Jazmyn Tyree is a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Lindenwood University. If they’re not writing, they’re probably binge-reading manga or drowning in Spotify recommended playlists. Catch them on Twitter at @joosieis.