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Tell Me A Story

by Tina Wargo

By Tina WargoPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

I remember being in the kitchen or in the living room or outside on the porch when my grandmother would call. My mom would be on the phone for what felt like hours, but was probably 20 minutes. They’d talk while my mom made dinner or cleaned or sat on our outdoor deck furniture. I’d hear one side but I’d know the other.

“What was up with that?”

“I know. I know! Just don’t bring him around here.”

“She was always a kook.”

“I knew that would happen. He needs to live his own life, I keep telling them!”

She'd hang up. She'd make another call, or she'd take another call. Sometimes, both. She'd say the same things in different shades. She'd say opposite things in different colors. She'd agree. She'd disagree. And I'd listen.

I’d think, or I’d say to my sisters and my cousins, later, when I grew: How can they just talk and talk about each other like that? About their kids and nephews and siblings and parents? How can they have so much to talk about when nothing is going on? What are they doing it for?

And then I became older. Older, I believe, is something you become, not something you simply get. I became old enough to have a daughter of my own, which I didn't, but I could've. And I’d call my mom on the way home from the subway. Always, calling her just because I had some time to kill. The city girls’ version of “checking in while making dinner” or “had a few minutes as I'm cleaning up the dishes.” Always calling when I could’ve spent the few moments alone at the end of my walk, but instead, reaching instinctively for my phone, just to chat. Just to say things aloud and have her hear them. And she’d answer and she’d know I was on my way back to my tiny apartment that was filled with zero kids and she was already done with her dinner by now and we’d talk about my cousins and siblings and (step)parents and grandparents and ourselves.

I realized, some time later, years and years after I started to make and take the calls myself, that my mother and I had become her and her mother. Recently, I happened to be home-- home home; her home-- and I saw her through the kitchen window, sitting out on the deck, on the phone, and I pictured her there, only I was back on the slushed streets of Brooklyn and we said the same things all the women in my family had said for years, for decades, really. We said all the same things.

And maybe I ought to have been ashamed. But I was proud. I was moved, even. I thought: they were talking all those years for the same reason I need to talk now. They were telling their stories. They were trying to figure out each others’. They were asking questions that would be answered like new episodes in a series, like entries in a diary, like buds that would bloom, perennially or annually or maybe never again because the soil wasn't right and they were overwatered. If they didn’t set up the arc, how would it be resolved? If they never planted the seed, how would they know if it'd grow or if it'd die?

I am glad they wrote the first sentences, potted the first flowers. I am the climax. I am sprouting. Or, maybe, probably, I am the beginning of a new episode. Maybe I will pollinate. Will I have a daughter who will be a new act? Will she be a sequel? Who will bear witness, besides each other? And if it’s just us, will that be enough? Don’t they deserve more? Don’t we, who cook and clean and bear daughters and call our mothers, have stories too big for evening phone calls and walk-home catchups?

I am asking the questions so that they can be answered, sometime, eventually, in one year or in one hundred, when the plants have withered but the pot remains, when the show is over but occasionally, someone will quote it and everyone will smile. I am telling their stories so they can finally stop and rest. I am getting it down so that, although the phone will keep ringing and ringing, they will not need to answer.


About the Creator

Tina Wargo

Tina is a queer writer in Brooklyn, who uses Google mostly to image search 45-year-old women in suits, and Twitter mostly to report on her findings. She has a deep obsession with narrative, a CAROL tattoo, and, relatedly, a degree in film.

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