Visiting after karaoke night at Shaunessy’s, I find my mother loaded in the living room. Two used fentanyl patches sit on a DVD case on the coffee table. Foil-lined bags lie crumpled on the floor next to the sofa. She stares at season two of Weeds. Headphone cables run from her ears to my brother’s laptop.
"Karen," she asks me. "Do you think I look like Mary Louise Parker?" She is sipping jug wine from a coffee mug.
There are things I want her to be healthy enough to hear:
1. You don’t look a damn thing like Mary Louise Parker.
2. You’d feel a lot better if you stopped feeling sorry for yourself and act more like the 100 pound ball of threat who TASER-ed the vice principal the afternoon he paddled my sister.
3. You were the one who swore you’d never let yourself be defined by a label like "cancer patient."
At the very goddamned least I want her to be ferociously angry that I’ve been driving or to tell me to stop thinking of myself—that she’s the one who’s dying.
"Nah," I say, finally, deciding I’ve got to start somewhere. "Mary Louise Parker—that woman has a much better ass."
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