"Ma, I'm home."
"Jason, is that you?" I hear her call from somewhere in the apartment. The bathroom, if I'm not mistaken.
Our apartment consists of two bedrooms, one bathroom, a tiny kitchen and tinier living area. It's on the third floor of an ugly orange building in a forgotten part of town, not particularly dangerous, but not lined with white picket fences either. It's not close to any malls, churches, schools, or parks, but the bus comes by regularly, so we get by. The two guys and a girl whose bedroom shares a wall with our kitchen are very likely growing some sort of illegal plant, but I've never been invited inside to find out for sure.
In such a small place, cooking smells easily overwhelm the already limited fresh air. I sniff, realizing that the whole place stinks of onions. "Ma, what are you making?" I call out.
"A casserole." She calls back, like she does every night.
And, like I do every night, I sit down on the dingy green sofa and switch on the television. It doesn't have a remote, but the room is so small that if you lean far enough, you can reach it from the couch. It awakens with a pop and a hiss.
I flip a couple channels, finally settling on something a little less boring and stare at the screen, unmoving, unblinking.
My mother emerges from the bathroom, wearing sweatpants and a housecoat. "How was your day at work?" she asks, taking her casserole out of the oven. She gets two plates and two forks and starts spooning out some onion-potato mush, which actually smells okay.
"Good," I say automatically. I never tell her what we actually do at work.
She hands me the plate and we eat and watch TV, not speaking. American Idol comes on, and my mom says she wants to vote for the young Country singer, but she never really picks up the phone. She usually starts to snore around when CSI: Miami comes on, which is well enough because she doesn't like blood so much.
I yawn and eventually switch off the TV. I sit there a moment, listening. My mother's snoring is quiet and even, her head back and mouth open slightly. A neighbour bangs on the wall, and sirens call in the distance.
This is my life. This is the real meaningless existence. I think about suicide again, realizing that I don't even care enough to make the effort to end it. That, and I don't have the guts. And maybe, deep down, I know could never do that to my mom.
I drape a blanket over her, change into my pajamas and go to bed, wondering how I could make my existence less meaningless. And also wondering how my mother is going to get the smell of onions out of that sofa.