by Stanley W. McFarland
Dylan rubbed his mother’s bony shoulder. She slept, as she did almost all the time now. Even awake, she just stared off into space, showing less interest in the world around her than a fish in a fish tank.
“I guess I can’t pretend anymore,” said Dylan, “You’re not even here.” His mother’s shallow breathing didn’t change. Her skin was almost translucent. She looked like his Nana had, lying in a box long ago. The slight rhythmic movement of his mother’s chest and occasional twitching of her lip was all that betrayed the difference.
Dylan tried stroking her thin, white hair. Her forehead creased, but she slept on.
“Am I bothering you, Mom?”
She didn’t answer.
“Where are you?”
Dylan thought about all the times his mother had tried to reach him – the unwanted kisses and hugs when he was a teenager and much more interested in the music on the stereo than anything his mother had to say. He never had enough time for all the attention she wanted.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Damn! There wasn’t even a song in it. Harry Chapin already wrote Cat’s in the Cradle. The world didn’t need another. So what was he supposed to do with these feelings?
Other people had families – husbands and wives, children, even pets who shared feelings. Dylan didn’t have room in his life for that – he didn’t even have close friends. He had his music. A small circle of listeners were Dylan’s family as he uploaded his songs and videos. That was all he wanted in life.
At least it was usually all he wanted. He was looking at the only person in his world that loved him – knew the way he was and loved him. She was still there, lying on the bed, but she wasn’t there.
“Where are you, Mom?” he repeated. “What do I do now?”
She didn’t answer. She didn’t even twitch her lip or crease her brow as if she wanted to answer. She didn’t want a hug, a caress, an endearment – any of those things she craved decades before that Dylan gave infrequently and grudgingly. The woman lying before Dylan wanted nothing from him except possibly to be left alone so she could sleep in peace.
“So that’s how you felt all those years,” said Dylan. He wanted to be angry; to pretend that his mother was exacting payback from the cold, unaffectionate son that prized music, concerts, even damn TV sitcoms above her.
It was just pretend. Dylan knew his mother would never turn him away. So who was this person laying there?
An old Beatles tune ran through his head. – Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love. Could it be anybody? I want someone to love.
But it wasn’t true. He was hurting – much as he’d hurt others who were unfortunate enough to care about him, but that didn’t mean he needed someone to love. In the past such pain had driven him to relationships – relationships that ended with him emotionally abandoning a ‘love’ he no longer needed. It was cruel and manipulative, and Dylan had stopped pretending differently years ago. He’d lived alone for years – far better than adding more victims to crap up his karma.
You can hire a prostitute for sex, but who can you hire to love you through the blues?
Hmm, he thought. That kind of sounds like a country song.
Dylan got up off his mother’s bed and picked up the 40-year-old Gibson he’d written his first song with. He’d planned to play for his mother, but there was no audience here. Prostitute wasn’t a very musical word, and it wouldn’t look good in the title. Whore was too harsh. Maybe the tune would bring the right word.
He hugged the hard wood to his body. He ran his hand gently up the neck, and pressed down three strings to form a minor chord.