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"True or False: Because of the Time You Spend Caring for Your Mother…" By Joanna Theiss

True or False: Because of the Time You Spend Caring for Your Mother,

You Don’t Have Time for Yourself

The time you planned to meet your one friend who still lives in town for one drink and your mother’s tears trickled down her face like snowmelt. The time you didn’t take a shower because the sound of running water made her think of drowning. The time you bought fresh greens and sauteéd them to garlicky unctuousness and because they were not Stouffer’s chipped beef, she knocked over the dinner tray and swiss chard transformed the carpet into a Jackson Pollock. The time you went for a bike ride and as you coasted under maples oozing with sap, shifted gears under the fee bee call of chickadees, you didn’t feel guilty and the time right after that when guilt held its sharpened blade against your neck. The time the home health aide quit because he didn’t do crazy. The time she had a nightmare that you tied her up with ropes and threw her into the sea. The time the new meds made her vomit in the footwell of your car. The time you looked at her and saw her as the mother she was, joy and summer, handing you a popsicle made of frozen strawberries and orange juice, telling your friends to call her Susan, thus bestowing a respect on them that teachers, priests, store clerks, didn’t. The time you looked at her and knew she was seeing you as the little girl you were, knock-kneed and sure, talking to yourself while bouncing a ball against the garage door, the same garage door that is now opened at a broken angle so that the house and its defects smirk at anyone masochistic enough to visit. The time you told her you were driving out to Whiteface for the panoramic view and she heard you say that you were thinking of jumping from it, letting the wind tangle in your hair, letting gravity and granite dissolve you like an easy-to-swallow gelcap, and she heaved herself up from her chair and said she’d tag along if you wouldn’t mind the company, said she’d like to be reminded that there are such things as mountains, beyond the rose-papered walls of the house, beyond the way time, like shale sliding from bedrock, has diminished her, and the way time will continue on as if she never was.

Joanna Theiss (she/her) is a writer living in Washington, DC. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in publications such as Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Bending Genres, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fictive Dream, and Best Microfiction 2022. In a previous life, Joanna worked as a lawyer, practicing criminal defense and international trade law. Links to her work are available at

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