The beige clothes that were piled on top of each other, hanging from Carlotta’s left arm, looked from afar as a little spark of calm colors, when in fact her mind was the opposite. Walking down the streets that she had seen throughout her life, every little detail seemed obscure and distant, as if her surroundings required an exact amount of attention to let themselves be seen. The new shoes her mom had given her last week as a birthday present made an uncomfortable sound at each step Carlotta took, and while she walked fast she couldn’t stop regretting choosing to put them on for the first time on that exact day. Her boyfriend Charlie had suggested she should use them for once, just to give her mother the pleasure of seeing her with them when she walked into her childhood home and she directed a top to bottom examination of her outfit, as it had always been. Carlotta’s mother, Miriam, had always looked at her like from a far away tall chair covered in velvet, making just enough little movements and expressions so as to make her daughter know and feel her thoughts behind her eyes. She had received a nice compliment about her new shoes from an old lady at the subway station as they both her and her boyfriend waited for the train to come without saying a word. Charlie was reading her fifth book of that week, and Carlotta was reading the date on a newspaper a man was holding next to her: it was the 14th of November. The compliment came so fast at her that her reflect was to just smile and try to not look too worried when she realized who told her that compliment. The lady could have been her aunt, a long lost relative of their mother she would probably never see again. She said goodbye with both hands to Charlie, who liked to wave both hands as well when saying goodbye for the day.
She knew she would only have time to be with her mother from 12 am to 1 pm, and she told her that, but even then, her mother was persistent in her efforts to eat lunch with her only daughter. The apartment was being renovated, they were making a new bathroom, turning her old childhood bedroom into an office/guest room and building a new bookshelf that covered the entire left wall of the living-room, after the last one had collapsed on top of all the vases her grandmother bought on her trips to China. The men working in the house had just left to have their own lunch break, and Carlotta went up the stairs trying not to fall on top of the just dry-cleaned clothes her mother asked her to pick up on her way there.
“Thank God you’re here.” Said her mother in a calm voice as soon as she opened the door.
Carlotta walked in and as soon as she saw a surface nice enough, she dropped the clothes wrapped in plastic.
“Don’t treat them like that!” Her mother complained as she rushed to get them with her nice smooth hands with her nails just done at the salon, Carlotta could tell.
When Miriam came into the living room again, now with both of her hands on her neck, she looked at her daughter from top to bottom, so fast that Carlotta almost didn’t even notice.
“Those shoes, Lotta darling…”
They sat at the dinning table, and as Carlotta was taking her coat off and hanging it on the chair, Miriam made a little sound. Her hands didn’t stop moving, as if she was preparing to jump as soon as she saw a threat. Carlotta started thinking what could she had done to upset her this time; maybe it was wearing the shoes without any nice clothing, maybe it was the way she had been holding the dry-cleaned clothes…
“He’s fine, he’s finishing his post-grad thesis right now so whenever I look at him, he’s reading.”
“Does he read while you’re having sex too?”
Those kinds of comments stopped surprising her since an early age. Her mother worked as a sex therapist after all, and since she had met Charlie and had a long conversation with him about Sex and Culture last Christmas while they both drank wine and got separated from the group of relatives chatting about family gossip, she would almost ask Carlotta more about him than about her own daughter. Miriam had been a big inspiration on Charlie and his decision on choosing Sex and Culture as the title for the thesis he was writing.
“He sometimes won’t seem that into it. I think reading and writing too much about a subject can make it seem tedious when transported to the real tangible word.”
Her mother took a sip of her glass of water, and her eyes were listening. But Carlotta didn’t feel like talking or saying anything else, she was hungry but containing her need to just run off to her own apartment. She hadn’t felt that way in a long time, at least not around her mother, but as her father passed away what her mother represented saddened and worried her as if just being around her was a reminder of her mother’s mortality and her own as well. Sometimes she would find herself fantasying and working about having a family and kids, and then realizing that she just wanted something to calm her down and make her stop thinking about herself. Being around old people made her sad for them, and maybe a little new born would put things in their place.
“How was it?” Asked Charlie as soon as he saw her come into the kitchen, smiling.
“It was nice and calm, as always.”
Charlie smiled to himself and kept looking at the pasta cooking to see if it needed more sauce. Carlotta leaned over and hugged him from behind. She wanted to hide her eyes from the light onto Charlie’s back. His body was warm and her hands were cold from walking so many blocks instead of taking the bus.
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