I cried and screamed. Why did you dooo that?

It's a paper towel, he said. It wasn't doing anything. It's been there since we moved in. Why was it there anyhow?

Silence. Gaping mouth, quizzical face. A squint, as squiggly lines doodly-doo across my vision. Flashback!

They'd both helped us move in, a hot humid weekend in August that made me wild and tropical and happy, my mother slow and languid and miserable. She rode with the two of us, and my father drove his brand new truck with his brand new girlfriend all four hours to college with my stuff. No one knew why he'd offered to help, but he had. Later, at the new apartment, I would mock him, and he would overhear me and leave, and I would never hear from him again. Pity.

Mother had helped set up the apartment. Her way. Or the highway, I suppose, it had always been the way of things. The kitchen had become her special project; she unpacked every box and placed the utensils and dishes we had bought into the drawers in which she felt they belonged. At that point, to me, they did belong there. God himself might have knocked on the door and informed me quite seriously that the spatulas must remain in the second drawers, with the Saran Wrap in the bottom drawer. It would have all been the same to me. It was an order from above, completely out of my control. I was to defend the chosen order of things to the death.

And later, cleaning up from the first dinner cooked in the first apartment, I moved to throw away a random paper towel which lay, folded neatly in half, on top of the microwave. Don't throw that away or the microwave will get scratched! entered my left ear as a shiv, making my mind and back rigid with automatic obedience born of years of love and fear.

Scratched? I asked...I somehow, dumbly, couldn't believe that a microwave from Target could get scratched. It was white...who cared if...if...

Just don't.

End of story, end of independent thought regarding any paper towel which might have existed on the microwave. Like all the fetishes and ritual objects stuffed into the home of my childhood, the ancestral dwelling of our tiny clan, they were divine, not to be touched by the likes of me. Chaos it seemed to the naked eye, that house, but to her mind there was an order. To me, that was the only order that mattered. But DO NOT touch the vitamins. Or the remote controls. Or the recipes. Or the cookie tins. Or the cabinet with all the Tupperware containers in it, dust of the ages collecting on their antique lids. That cabinet couldn't be touched anyhow; if I were to breath on it, it would spill out onto the floor. She had a magic touch with precarious piles, my mother did.

But I digress. Squiggly lines. Fast forward to December.

Well, my mom put it there... I murmured, and looked around as though she'd show up to applaud my valiant defense of her paper towel. I...guess...so it...wouldn't scratch the microwave, I stammered.

The microwave cost $60, you know you don't care about it. And she isn't here.

More gaping, then chagrin. A rousing bed-jumping session ensued, during which we screamed NO MOMMIES! and threw pillows at each other. The bedframe broke, and forever after everyone thought I had broke it having wild sex. I should be so lucky.

But I am lucky. My mother still calls, and loves as fiercely as ever, but she can't see me scratching the crap out of my microwave. That truly is freedom.

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