When I was seventeen, I lived in Texas. I’m sure I’ve talked about that, how I spent my gap year touring America—Salt Lake City, then Texas, then all round the south. I once asked my mother if she’d have come with me, had I said I was going. She said she would have, but we’d have done Europe, not America, and on her dime, not mine. She also said I’m an idiot, which is probably true.
Of course, I didn’t say I was going. I just picked up and went, and by the time I phoned home, I’d found a job and a place to live. My parents were miffed, but they gave me a year. I could have what remained of the ’96-’97 school year, then I had to come back and try college again. (They couldn’t have enforced that, but I did come back. I attended university for four years total—just at two different schools, in two different majors. I got an education, but not a degree.)
Anyway, none of that matters, whether I went to college, or why I dropped out twice. All that’s just context for something silly that happened while I was in Texas. My mother sent me a letter, and one of two things happened:
- Her hand got ahead of her brain, and she left out a word;
- She did it on purpose, to express her disapproval.
Option two is unlikely. She’d already told me what she thought of my travels, sternly and directly, and several times. I was the passive-aggressive one—I glued her mistake into a trashy collage. I’m in my forties now, and as you see, I still have it.
I wonder what would be different, had I mentioned my plans—had I got that cushy gap year, and not my broke-ass one. Did you know, my first job that year, I made $1.75/hour, plus one meal a day and a bean bag to sleep on? And that job was in childcare, so I had to touch shit. I could’ve had a shit-free year, and all Mother’s love, and what did I do? Not that. Not that.
Another silly thing happened that year: Mother sent me boots for my birthday, a nice leather pair. I opened the box with a knife and slashed them wide open. She’s never let me forget that. Last year, for my birthday, she sent a new mattress…and when she called to let me know, she told me not to stab it.