We walk slowly to Loft. Everything in the store is 40%, which is one of the reasons I shop here. Mom and I head towards the back of the store and I rifle through racks. I pull three pairs of capri pants off the rack, grey, navy and black. This should be a good color palette to get me through the Spring and Summer. The line to the fitting room is long, and Mom is patient, so we chat; and she gets me caught up on the desi happenings in the Twin Towns. So-and-so has a baby. So-and-so is getting die-vorced. So-and-so moved.
When my turn comes I drag Mom into the fitting room and try on all the pants. I am delighted to fit into size 6 pants and buy all three.
“I have no food at home. Mostly because I have no kitchen,” I say to Mom. “No problem. Anything is fine,” she replies. “Pizza?” I ask. There is a really good pizza place a block from my apartment. “Sure anything,” she says. “It’s New York slice, so we are going to order one slice each,” I explain as we walk along. “Fine. Are the slices big?” she asks. “Ah, yea,” I reply. “Then I want one,” she says quickly. “I know. What kind do you want?” I ask. “Whatever you get is fine,” she replies. “Oh, okay, so if I get beef as a topping you’ll eat that?” I half-tease with sarcasm. “Sure, if you are eating beef, I will too,” she replies and laughs. It is our little joke. She always says she will get whatever I get. Then I say beef. And she agrees, basically daring me to order it.
I settle her at the table. She has already produced a $20 from her purse before I set my Loft bag down. Clearly she plans to pay for the two slices and plain tap water. I kinda chuckle at getting tap water. When my brother and I were little my parents used to take us to McDonald’s for fillet-o-fish sandwiches. They were actually fine with us ordering hamburgers. I am the one who self-imposes abstinence from beef. Partially to be a good Hindu, partially because I did not grow up eating beef so it makes my stomach sick.
But anyway, we used to always ask for Cokes at McDonalds. And our parents always said, “no, we have Coke at home.” (Which was true, but we wanted Coke right then and there. And this was before the Super Sized drinks with refills; this was when a soda was a lot of money). We would press, “please, please can we have a Coke.” “No, but you can have a milk shake,” they would say.” No we want Coke,” I would argue, advocating for my brother (since he was younger) and myself. “You can have milk,” they would say. “But we have milk at home,” I would pipe in when I saw a flaw in their plan. Oof, and then would I ever get a dirty look. It was the one that said “if we were at home, you’d get a tight slap across your little face.”
I used to think it was because they were cheap. But they did let us have milk, so either milk was less expensive or they just were being good parents and not filling us up with sugary badness. As an adult, I now drink water at restaurants because I have gotten thrifty in the recession. And Mom cannot drink a whole can of Coke, so we would have to share and I only drink Diet Coke, which she won’t touch. So water it is.
Mom and I finish the pizza and walk the short blocks to my apartment. We get into the building and she sizes up the stairs. “There are 50 of them,” I say to Mom in reference to the stairs. I count them every time I have lug heavy things or carry groceries up the stairs. She nods. “Give me your purse,” I say. She nods again, gives me purse and says, “You go first, I’ll come slowly.”
It takes her twice as long to get up to the apartment as me. I have the apartment door open and a chair for her to sit. She comes in panting and wheezing. It alarms me. I try to stay calm, like it happens all the time. Even though I am totally freaking out over her health. She sits down for a few minutes, catches her breath and nods. “Okay, so where can I keep my things?” she asks and surveys my teeny tiny apartment.