Flash fiction: Any Way you Want It

Any Way You Want It

by Maria Riegger

I opened the front door to my apartment and immediately began opening my mail.

Oh no, I thought when I saw the red Hallmark envelope. Another greeting card from my mother.

She insists on marking every occasion, from Halloween to St. Patrick’s Day, even though we’re not Irish.

“Did you get my card?” She would ask me in about a week.

For her, it’s less about the message and mostly about keeping up appearances.

“Why does everyone insist on keeping up with the Joneses?” I mused out loud. “Everyone expects you to have a huge house, change your car every two years, have the right job, the right partner, take the right vacations — “

I sighed. ‘Right’ according to them, of course. What’s better? To be miserable but have ‘status’ or to be happy and not have ‘status?’

Nobody should have to think about the answer to that.

I opened the greeting card and glanced at it. I hesitated, then placed it on my kitchen table. My apartment didn’t have a formal dining room. I always thought that those were a waste of space. How often would it get used, anyway?

My mother called me occasionally, just to see how I was doing, but we rarely talked about anything substantive. That was how I preferred it.

I leaned against my kitchen counter and shook my head.

Sorry I only live in an apartment, I thought, that I prefer to travel rather than be house poor, that I don’t have a gaggle of children, that I stay in most nights and read to feed my brain instead of go out and engage in vapid activities with superficial people, who live cookie-cutter existences.

I pretend to straighten an imaginary tie and have an imaginary conversation out loud.

“I’m John, and this is my wife Jill, and our son Jack. He just got into Harvard. Well, hello, I’m Tom, and this is my wife Tracy and our son Tim, and he just got into Georgetown. Cue the debate over whether Georgetown is an Ivy League school. Who cares?

I turned around and reached into the cabinet for a glass, then filled it with water.

The other day my mother asked me why I didn’t get a bigger house with a bigger yard. I asked her why I needed a bigger house and yard. She couldn’t answer.

But the answer for her was clear. She wants me to have a bigger house because she wants me to have a bigger house,so that she can tell people, my daughter lives in a big house.

I pursed my lips, frustrated. To her, a big house is a sign of status.

I’m an embarrassment to her. That’s why she doesn’t talk about me at parties.

Oh well, I don’t care. Why should I? I don’t go to parties. I smiled, even though there was no one to see.

I don’t have a fear of missing out. I don’t have a fear of rejection. I have a fear of living a monotonous life, without experiencing anything, without creating anything.

I live life any way I want it.

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