What Everyone Knows/What I Know
What everyone knows about her is that she’s a devoted mother and housewife. She jokes to other parents about being her children’s chauffeur and throws in an offer for their friends to tag along. She packs freshly cooked rice and pasta inside dented metal thermoses each morning before they go to school and doesn’t complain when the canisters come home only half empty. She sends out baseballbatsized home grown zucchini and gets homegrown apples in return. Her children’s friends come over and say as they walk in, “It’s so quiet. It’s so clean.” as they admire their spotty reflections in the dark marble countertop in the kitchen, and she stands next to the stove and speaks Chinese instead of English so she won’t seem rude while she makes baked cheese bagels for lunch.
What I know is that her cheeks have hollowed out, that she wears glasses to read the labels on prescription bottles and the screen on her smartphone, and that she limps and leans on my arm for the distance between the restaurant to the car to the driveway to the door. Her fashionable wool coat was purchased twenty years ago with the last paycheck that was really hers. She has handwritten notes taped on her desk saying, “I hate you. I wish you would go to hell” in black cursive ink. She shredded her old checkbooks fourteen months ago because “there’s no point in proving I paid for you two anyway, your dad will dispute it.” She has three blankets instead of one because the office gets cold at night, even with the heater turned way up, and they keep the mattress coils from poking too harshly at her back. What I know is that she doesn’t hug me, not anymore, and that the wastebasket in the office has an endless supply of used up tissues inside.