He could see his mother packing as he walked through the door. She had that worried look she got every time they moved, forehead wrinkled, bottom lip sucked under her top teeth. He hated when she was like this. He hated moving, but it seemed happen no matter how settled in they got. He hated feeling like nothing he had was permanent, nothing except living with this woman. He wasn’t even sure they were really related. Grandma had shown him pictures of Mom holding him in her arms, just a few seconds after he had been born, but that wasn’t proof of anything. As far as he was concerned, the person who called herself Mom was just some woman his father dumped him with before he took off.
Mom, if that really was her name, waved at him as he threw his keys on the counter. She looked like a homeless person in her faded tshirt and baggy yoga pants. “There’s pizza in the fridge, kid. Help yourself.” She taped the box she had been filling closed with a sweep of the tape dispenser. “Lots to do, and we only have a couple of days to get it all done in.”
This was their third move since Dad left town seven years ago. They’d been doing okay, he thought, everything seemed to have settled down until she’d gotten the letter from the landlord. That’s when the worried look appeared and she’d started pouring over rental listings again. The landlord had decided to not renew their lease and sell the condo right out from underneath them. Mom had fought back and lost, which seemed to always be how it went for her. Nothing went her way. And, when it didn’t go her way, it wasn’t hard to figure out that nothing would go his way, either. He walked past her without saying a word and threw himself on his bed.
“Hey,” She called after him. “I left boxes in your room for you to pack up what you can for now.” Her voice got louder as she got closer, and she appeared in the doorway, ponytail swinging around her shoulders. “What’s wrong with you?”
He sorted through the list of complaints he had against his mother. There were so many things that he could say. He hated how she dressed, how she sang to herself and sometimes everyone else when she was busy around the house, just about anything she did was irritating enough to comment on. She was what was wrong with him. Everything bad that had ever happened to him was because of her. His friends parents got high all the time, or spent the day drunk and like his friend’s mother, had a parade of men that slept in her room with her. These parents were great. They left their kids alone and went about their own business. His mother asked questions, offered to make him whatever he wanted to eat, fussed at him over his homework and paid attention. Too much attention as far as he was concerned.
“I’m mad.” He paused. “At you.”
“I figured that. C’mon, kid. It’s going to be okay. Moving sucks, but we’ll be settled in the new place soon.”
“I don’t want to be in a new place. You said, “one day, things will be different.” It’s always different, but it’s never better. ”
She sighed and for a minute, he thought she was going to walk across the room to hug him. Instead, she just shook her head. “It’s never going to be better, baby, unless we’re different.”