Monday, November 1, 2010

Katie McMahon: the expensive bed that someone else is now sleeping on, with their own sheets and blankets and pillows and worries

She opened the door and her hair was blond and that’s when I knew she didn’t know what she was doing. Would she ever? Blue stripes on her white t-shirt and a gray sweater with the top button missing. She was always wearing some type of sweater to cover something up. I didn’t even know what anymore.

It was raining and she was selling her bed that I bought her, so she could use the money to a buy a cheaper bed, thousands of miles away. I didn’t know that she would end up sleeping on different beds and mattresses that lie on stained carpet floors. She would never get comfortable, no matter how expensive the bed. She would sleep, but only because she was human and that’s what humans do.

We would sit across the table from each other eating turkey sandwiches or chicken stir-fry. She would eat the rice or the tortillas and I would always eat both. She would start crying if I asked her too many questions, but then say she was okay. She was angry because I thought she ought to have certain things in her life to be okay: a good job, a nice apartment, money, maybe a husband or a boyfriend, and at least some plan or path to follow. She kept saying, “I don’t know,” and then getting angry because I thought that meant she was unhappy or disappointed in herself.

When I first met her, she was this tiny little thing and I could hold her in my arms or I could put her into the arms of other people. I thought she wouldn’t know the difference. Then, she started getting bigger and forming words into sentences and expecting to have conversations with me, but we had nothing in common. We took short car rides where we would sit in silence. She would cry loudly in her room at night and I would say nothing. What was I supposed to say? We didn’t even know each other.

We were both alone in that house. The more alone we got, the more we both tried to connect with each other somehow. We both liked movies. And pizza. So we started going to the movies or watching movies on TV and eating pizza on the couch. I would sit at one end and she would sit way on the other side. She would look at me sometimes from across the couch and I could tell she felt sorry for me. I felt sorry for her too.

Eventually, we started talking. I could tell sometimes that she was lying when she told me stories, and she knew that I was always lying whenever I said anything out loud. This is the way we related to one another.

I knew that she was going to leave soon enough, to go and make mistakes in other places. She had to find out what it was like to be alone and lonely, all on her own. And for a minute, I stopped lying and I cried because I didn’t know what I was going to do when she was gone. I could eat pizza and see movies alone, but lying over the phone just isn’t as gratifying. We didn’t even know each other that well yet.

By the time she came back, I couldn’t understand her again and she would just sit across from me all teary-eyed and frustrated. I would try to grab her hand and she would let me take it for a moment, but then take it away to nervously scratch her head for ten minutes. I would ask her the same questions and she would give me the same answers three times in a row. I just kept forgetting. Then, she would look around at everyone except for me and I would forget that I was even there.

I wanted to grab her and squish her into a tiny person so I could start over and get to know her better, but she already felt too far away. She was different now. She always apologized and said thank you and never asked for help, but took it when it was offered to her. I could tell she felt bad about selling the bed, but she didn’t want to stay anymore. Coming back was part of her list of mistakes and now she could check it off and leave again.

I told her twenty more lies before she left and she could only tell me two. She apologized for the rain. She let me hug her goodbye and take her out to dinner one more time, so she could scratch her head and drink glass after glass of water, until she shivered and said she was too cold to stay still any longer.

Katie McMahon is a lady who lives in the North Hollywood area. She has a bachelor's degree that she keeps on her bookcase and looks at sometimes. She is getting a master's degree to put on her nightstand. Sometimes she takes pictures which you can look at here:, but you don't have to if you're busy right now.


  1. Very interesting way of describing the mother daughter relationship. Having a daughter myself, this piece made me think and a little sad even.

  2. Lots to comment on here... but unable really to come up with the right words. This is a very thought-provoking piece. Wanting to "grab her and squish her back into a tiny thing and start over"... well, that just really touched me. I know that feeling, and will feel that way the rest of my life. You just expressed it better than I could have.

  3. I like that you thought it was a mother daughter relationship, because I tried to write it from the perspective of my dad. :) My mother daughter essay would be something like this: mom acts crazy, calls daughter fat, makes daughter feel shitty all the time, daughter acts crazy, they both are crazy.

    I think maybe it's not so much from his perspective, but my perspective of his perspective, if that makes any sense at all.

    thanks for reading it! :)

  4. Your perspective of his perspective makes complete sense. Like Marsi, this piece made me think. I like the distance of not knowing names or gender (of the parent). I really like your writings. And I"m a terrible commenter.

  5. That makes complete sense. It is funny what the mind assumes!

    Writing from another perspective is interesting, I think. Great job!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.