Everyday I cry.
My mom whispered this in secrecy to my aunt on the phone. I could hear her sobbing quietly, but it just became louder and wild. I tip-toed to the kitchen door to listen. But this was typical of my mother; she’d drink most nights and annoy everyone around her. Yet on the days when she couldn’t handle all her pressure, and surely couldn’t cry to me about it, she’d dial one of three only women who are close to her, and cry. Maybe she was just drunk and I should have ignored it, or maybe I should have actually listened, empathized, and understand why she is so tired of living. And for the first time, I took some notes.
My mother works at a sweatshop near my house. She does not call it that, of course, especially since it took her several years to find a job. However, her work is ironically concealed behind a small auto-maintenece shop; the boss warned all the workers to say they work in a furniture factory. She manufactures jewelry parts- tiny crumbles of expensive rocks into things. This requires much precision, even though my mother has shitty vision and a lifelong hand disorder. Once, she burned both of her hands; they bled and blistered through layers of sticky, yellow flesh. And she still went to work the next morning. This past September 3rd, my mother and I went to grab a burger and some fries in memory of my father, who passed away six years ago on that date. As we walked to the diner, my mom insisted that we stop and check out the Tiffany and Co. boutique. This was abnormal behavior from my mother; she never really knew the value of brand named bullshit. So we walked inside, security guard at the door, jewelry shielded by glass. I saw an ugly pair of earrings priced at $20,000, and an ugly white couple shopping for an engagement ring. I mumbled in my head, “yep.. that’s gonna turn into a divorce.” My mother was walking around trying to find something. Then she suddenly called me. “Soozahnahh! Aree Stehg!” We saw a necklace pendant with mustard yellow stones in a ghetto-looking flowery shape. They only cost fifteen grand. “My friend made this!” She exclaimed, glowing in excitement and pride. “And my I made this one!!!” Immediately I walked away, speechless. I wanted to scream and smash the security guard and customers faces into the crisp glass. Eight dollars an hour, no benefits, horrible conditions and unfeasible labor for a 57 year old mother? And they made $20,000 per shit my mom created per hour? Fuck them. My eyes watered, I smiled, and said “Let’s go.”
And she has been the primary provider of my broken family. While no one in my life now knows this, as of now my family is financially… well, broke. My mother would not tell me this either; she always tried to hide our tight budget to give her children a good life after our father passed. I started noticed repeated decline recently, when my every day coffee shop visits, trader joe’s grocery shopping and vegan fast food fat-ass-ness had all come to a halt– and that is where all my money was spent. Not only that, we are currently out of food. And trying to maintain a healthy vegan diet now seems impossible, although I will always be vegan. We don’t have fruit, except tiny badass Fuji apples from our tree, no decent bread except Lavash, no produce except unripe tomatoes and cucumbers, peanut butter and old jellies we grabbed from diners and meat and cheese. So I learned to cook. Last night, I made couscous with nearly rotted vegetables and salad with apples and nuts; let me tell you, this food was bomb. And my mom always says that a good cook can create the best food with the least, and most random, amount of ingredients. There is an upside to everything.