Let me tell you about your mother. For one thing, she is really quite hard to love. She is the kind of woman who buys single-ply toilet paper because it’s cheaper than all the other kinds. She does not care that it rips at your butt hole, that it leaves you raw and chafed. Her answer is to wipe softer, to be more careful. She cuts her toenails in bed, under the comforter, onto the sheet, guesstimating that, yup, that’s just about all the nail clippings I cut, got them right here in my hand. But she misses some of the nails, leaves them in the bed for days at a time. She listens to Mozart on the car radio and exclaims, “You know, I just love Beethoven. His stuff really speaks to me.” On rainy days, your mother forgets to take her shoes off before she comes back into the house, dragging dirty water all across the linoleum. Maybe she doesn’t forget, maybe she just doesn’t care. And, even if it’s just a little sprinkle, just a drizzle, she finds it necessary to turn the car’s wipers on full blast so that they start screeching against the absolutely, completely, already-dry glass. She claims she’s a “vegetarian,” but eats sushi any chance she can get. And tuna. Tuna fish salads, tuna fish casserole, tuna fish straight out of those disgusting little cans. If you say to her, “Troy, that means you are a pescatarian, not a vegetarian,” well, she goes crazy. She’ll just stop eating her California rolls or her tuna fish sandwich and ask for the check, won’t say a word to you. Sometimes, with your mother, you’ve just got to know when to let her be wrong. When to let her think she’s right. She’s the kind of woman that refuses to use tampons because she knows – just knows – that she’ll wind up with toxic shock syndrome. So, under the bathroom sink, she’s got all these big poofy packages of maxi pads. It’s real gross. Oh, and she’ll return vegetables and fruit back to the market if she gets home and realizes they are bruised or overripe. And in crowds, she’s impossible. She walks as if she owns sidewalks, as if her path is the only one that matters, as if the man in the nice business suit who is quite obviously in a very big hurry behind her has no right to the cement she is gracing with her presence. She purposely mixes up idioms even though she knows better: Go wonder! How’s it doing? Places to see, people to do. That kind of thing. And she’s the kind of person that likes Hot Tamales but not Mike and Ike’s. And, with Runts, she has to remove all the bananas beforehand, and spits them out if she happens to miss one in the crowd. When she’s around children, she loves to scare them with the Pop Rocks and Coke myth. She tells them that her younger cousin tried it once and had just – poof! – disappeared. When she takes a picture, your mother has to do one vertically and one horizontally. It doesn’t matter if it’s a picture of the Empire State building or her pet turtle: two ways per subject, absolutely no exceptions. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, she’s terrible with Buddha. That turtle starves everyday and swims around in its own shit most of the time. Your mother swears she’s the best thing that ever happened to that thing, but she pays less attention to it than she does to her own muff. Which, I’m sorry to tell you, can get absolutely ridiculous. I mean, I know it’s the 21st century and there’s a lot of pressure for women to be completely shaved these days, but, really, I’m not that much of a stickler. Just like to have things trimmed up. Just clean around the edges, near the important parts. But your mother seems oblivious to the fact that her hair grows at ungodly speeds. Sometimes it’s like a big bird nest and I can’t even bring myself to go through with anything. I’ll just sit there and say, “look, Troy, it’s just gross, ok?” She’ll get pissed. Look hurt. But she won’t cry. Your mother doesn’t cry. On principle. It’s just not allowed. ‘Strong women don’t cry’ is what your mother thinks. Which is an absolute crock of shit, but, well, that’s your mother for you. She can watch a movie, something pretty sad or moving like Dead Poets Society or The Last Picture Show or something, and she’s just stone cold. She’ll say it’s all “melodrama,” only I’m pretty positive she thinks that she’s saying “mellowdrama,” and that really bothers me. I never said anything, though. It’s another one of those things. Better to let her think she’s right.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a big, heartless asshole. There are things about your mother that are absolutely wonderful. She’s got two different colored eyes, and that’s pretty special. One of them’s blue and the other one hazel, this really great mix between brown and green. And you know how much I love eyes, right? So, I mean, that’s pretty wonderful. And she does a great job with pancakes. Really, I’ve never had pancakes better than the ones your mother cooks. She knows the secret. Pancakes aren’t supposed to be cooked all the way through. They’re best if you leave them a little gooey on the inside, a little bit of the batter still shloshing around. So, yeah, she’s real good at that, too. She’s an excellent painter. Could have gone to art school and done the whole fine arts thing if she wanted, I bet. She’s got this one painting she did of Don Johnson from Miami Vice where he’s strung up like a piñata and all these little Colombian kids are swatting at him with bats. It’s really something. And the kissing. I mean, Jesus. I didn’t talk about it before, but that kiss your mother gave me when we were on tour, out by the pool after all the fireworks. Man. I thought I was going to cum right then and there. Sorry to be so graphic, but it’s true. She’s got this way of wrapping her tongue around mine that just sucks up all nerve endings in my whole body and squeezes the juice right out of em’. It’s ridiculous. Anyway. What else? Uhm, she puts her hair up a lot, which I like. Shows off her neck. It’s not that special of a neck, but it’s smooth and she has a very defined throat. That sounds funny to say, “very defined throat,” but, really, look at it. It’s got deep shadows and two big circular nodules right where her collarbones meet. Really nice.

So, like I said, I’m not unfair. I’m not an asshole about the whole thing. Your mother’s swell. It’s just. Well. Your mother’s got a lot of things stacked up against her. A lot of these little sort of things that just don’t make sense. Like, she’ll play quickpicks over and over again but won’t ever go in there and pick out her own numbers. And she used to always try and convince me that smoking pot is better for your lungs than smoking cigarettes. Which may be true, with all the random-ass chemicals they put into cigarettes these days, but come on. The way she talked about it was just in this really stoner-like way so that when she was talking, saying words like “THC’s” and “quality dealer” and “I can trust Manuel,” all I could see was Shaggy’s head plopped up on top of your mother’s nice, well-defined neck. Oh, and then, this one time, I was talking about how much I hate Fleetwood Mac and how every time that shit came on the radio I’d have to stop the car and Al and I would wait till the song was over to start driving again and she goes, dead serious, “Wait, I thought Fleetwood Mac was a place in Ireland. Was this band named after some place?” And, when I, in horror, said, calmly, “No,” she got incredulous. She said, “Are you sure? I coulda sworn it was a place! In Ireland! Yeah, Fleetwood Mac, Ireland!”

So you can see how she was hard to love. You can see why I didn’t love her, I hope.

One day, early, before even the local news had come on and it was still infomercials and RonCo knives, I got up. It was still dark out and Troy asked me what I was doing, where I was going. I told her I just had the urge for donuts. Told her I’d bring some back. She rolled back over. She had this horrible way of getting all the sheets twisted up at night so that, in the morning, she’d look like a mummy from the shoulders down. I took her keys, got my things together, and left. I knew she wouldn’t report the car stolen or missing. She didn’t have the guts to think that I wasn’t coming back. In her head she liked to think that I enjoyed her much more than I did. But for those three weeks, holed up in West Lafayette with your mother, I experienced just about as much of normal, daily grind life as I could handle. Cheetos stuck in the couch-type stuff. Walmarts with McDonalds inside. And I planned to get the truck back to her, anyway. She was a great woman, your mother. Really pretty eyes and a kiss that could make any man an honest man. Just wasn’t for me. I didn’t have time for donuts. Or for a dry-eyed woman.