I dread teaching irony. My students were always confused and I was constantly trying to come up with a unique way of explaining irony. The best example I had of irony was dramatic irony – Oedipus Rex, his Mother, and gouging his eyes out. One day it was storming outside and the snow was piling in drifts along the side of the brick walls of the University. I said to the class; ‘“What lovely weather we’re having today.” I chuckled when the students just stared at me as if they were staring at a blank TV screen or a blank phone. I chuckled and said, “Hey, this is irony.” One student cleared her throat then raised her hand and said, “What about Alanis Morissette and that irony song? Was that irony or was it just unfortunate events?” I became professorial and said, “Well, that was just unfortunate events. None of that was really ironic. I mean. meeting the love of your life and discovering he’s married or she’s married. That’s not really irony. It’s unfortunate but it’s not irony.” The students nodded but most everyone went back to staring at their laptop or their phones and I droned on about Oedipus Rex and the eyes he gouged out.
I had been searching for my mother for most of my adult life. Actually I started when I was sixteen and my father couldn’t provide a decent answer for why she left our home or why she left me. He couldn’t explain anything. In an age of social media, you would think it would be easy to find someone or at least it would be easier. She probably had a new name and a new haircut, a new hair color even or maybe even a new wardrobe. I remembered sweaters, long skirts, and plaid things. She looked church-going, solid, as if she would always stand by her children or rather a child.
Deep in the winter, with the cold birds cawing came a knock at my door. A woman stood before me. She had glorious long blonde hair and a long cashmere coat.
“Alfred?” Her voice I knew well. I had been dreaming of that voice for years and years.
I won’t bore you with tedious details of tea and toast and talk of snow and winter and all the myriad inconsequential things that people chat about when they’re new to each other and they really are dancing around the main issue, the real issue. I wanted to ask Mother why did you leave? Why did you leave?
But there was something in the curve of a face. It was a freshness, a youthful glow…she hadn’t really aged. She was lovely in that long blue cashmere coat. She wasn’t quite beautiful but she was lovely and something in her look made something chime deep, deep in the bareness of my heart She placed her hand on my knee. At first, I thought she was wiping a crumb away from the toast but then she gripped my knee and I knew in that depthless way that there was a connection. I felt loved. I felt loved. I was in love.
Mother was between husbands. She was recently divorced and still had no other children other than me. I asked her to move in with me. A week later we began a sexual relationship. It was still in the middle of winter and she had crept into my bed and under the fluffy quilt.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
I nodded emphatically as I felt a stiffness grow between my legs. My mother had become my lover. I was besotted. I wanted her like no other woman before. I wanted all of her. I wanted her essence. I was seeking her soul. I couldn’t quite reach it. It was like a fine piece of china high, high up on a credenza. Even if I had stood on a step ladder I still wouldn’t be able to reach that fine, lovely, bone-white precious ceramic with the elaborate design that followed the curves of my heart.
One chilly morning, not long before Christmas, I woke up and went into the kitchen where I retrieved a butcher knife. I cut my heart out. I placed it in a blue velvet box – the same color of blue that matched her cashmere coat. Bleeding, I stumbled to the bed and stood before her with a box.
“What’s going on Alfred” she asked.
“Open it,” I said.
“Alfred there’s a gaping hole in your chest.” She was astonished and I could hear the tremulous fear.
“Open it,” I repeated.
And so she opened the box where my heart lay cleaved open, aching, throbbing and with blood still dripping.
“You grew my heart for nine months and now it is yours, it is all yours, I am yours.”
“Oh Alfred, I did not grow your heart. You were adopted. You are not mine and now you took your heart out of your body and offered it to me like some weird Aztec ritual. It is not my heart. It is yours and yours alone. It belongs to another mother.
I dropped the box, stumbled, fell against the wall, and then with blood-streaked hands I clenched my fists and cried terrible tears of destroyed love and treacherous motherhood.