For me, bonding with family lives a very fragile, and limited existence. It is a transition between myself and myself again with the memory sandwiched in between a brief intermission. I don’t know when to expect bonding to occur. Though, for the most part, it has been at the end of my day when my fatigue catches up to me. I curl on the sofa and grab the remote. Then she yells out my name.
“Shams! Go do some shopping for me, and walk to…” The voice begins to drown itself out by the weight of tasks lined up for me. My mother is poignant and ready with her choice of words, knowing that I would be available only for a limited time. Why would I volunteer to cook, clean, or fold laundry, anyways? I rather watch Netflix. But my guilt often thrusts these moments forward. I tell myself I don’t spend enough time with my mom babbling on about my awkward walking or my hairstyle. It’s my job, as her son, to provide her an outlet for all her anguish. Or so it seems to me, as I have guilted my way into believing this.
But up I go, out of the sofa, and walking miserably on the street. These sandals hurt my soles. They have awkward ridges and frayed plastic bondings that irritate me every 7 steps. When I approach the store, I come across little items that trigger’s another episode of conversation. “You should really find a nice girl to get married together.” Or when I reach for the Goldfish crackers, she yelps, “You can’t get any fatter because you look eight months pregnant.” I don’t know why I draw ire from my mother for everything I do, but I’ve been told that its a sign of affection.
The supermarket across the street continues the so called family moment. We browse aisle to aisle as I lug the cart filled with items that feel randomly at first but coincide perfectly once together. My mother notices a new fruit imported from Mexico and declares, “Maybe we should buy it. I’ve never tried it.” I don’t care much for fruit or for the laborious shopping. I agree with her to try and move on. But she is persistent in the cross examination of the fruit. The sticker shock leaves her a reminder to not think big; we simply don’t have the money for it.
At the register, the monotonous checkout lady hands the bags over to me. I scoop the plastic handles on to the ridges of my fingers. Then I lug the shopping spree home. It’s a journey filled with much grunting. Everything seems to take longer when I walk with my mom. She goes on about my hygiene, height, or attraction to girls, all while framing the ultimate argument as to why am I not living her set ideal. I’m exasperated by the conversation already.
Back at the house, I’m cooking up a small storm. The kitchen feels like a sanctimonious place to relish in some silence. Except for the clanking of dishes and utensils, we don’t talk. The fire on the stove is ablaze. Mom and I let the aroma of the foods sink into our nostrils as I turn spatulas and spoons. My mother shows her mastery of shifting pots and pans, cutting up onions, and dousing the right amount of spices to make the fish come alive. I maintain my sights on the boiling pot of pasta.
My dad comes barging in to the kitchen at the smell of tomatoes and mushrooms. “Is Shams cooking? What is he cooking?” He asks so innocently as if the little boy in him never left Bangladesh. But of course, he maintains a hidden agenda. He aspires for a taste of the food. He sits at the table in the kitchen, patiently waiting to be served. The demand in his poise is apparent. I’m annoyed by this.
Cooking fatigues me. I hand over my spatula to my mom and proceed to cleaning all the dishes. One tiresome task for another. My mother continues her affectionate conversations. She finds a way to sandwich compliments with critique with a finesse I am envious of. “You don’t go outside enough and then when you go outside, you stay out too long.”
I can’t stand these conversations anymore. After cleaning the dishes, I grab a plate of my pasta and recline on the sofa again. The sofa feels nice with its microfiber under my toes. At least this pasta is good.