Wesley, how about you? How is your mother doing?”
He looked down. His fingers began to pick at the hem of his maroon jacket. Nearly two months had passed since he last spoke in the group. The other people sitting in the circle looked at him.
“About the same.” Wesley cleared his throat, then gave his usual report. “She still gets up in the middle of the night and tries to leave the house. She hasn’t figured out how to unlock the door. That’s good. Most of the time she recognizes who I am, but sometimes she gets upset when I try to get her back into bed. She screams at me. I’m surprised the neighbors haven’t called the police yet.”
A few people snickered.
“Dad passed away ten years ago from a stroke, but she still thinks he’s at work and will be home any minute. She looks out the window day and night.”
Wesley folded his arms in front of his chest and sighed.
“She thinks I steal her things. I can her hear right now: ‘Why do you keep taking my watch? You can buy your own! I’m going to call the police if you try taking it again!’ She gets so upset. She just doesn’t remember.”
People in the circle nodded in sympathy. Someone offered, “I’m sorry. My mom does the same thing. Sometimes I get so angry that I scream right back at her.”
There were more murmurs of recognition.
“Who’s with her right now?” someone asked.
“The housekeeper. She’s been with us for about fifteen years. She comes on Monday evenings. That’s how I can come here.”
“So you get a clean house and a break from your demented mom,” someone commented. People quietly laughed.
“I’m all she’s got now,” Wesley said.
The support group ended about twenty minutes later. An elderly man who recently joined the group put his hand on Wesley’s shoulder.
“You’re a good son. I wish my kid was as dedicated to his mom as you are to yours.”
Wesley reflexively turned his shoulder away, but smiled at the old man.
As was his habit since he joined the group nine months ago, Wesley took a cup of coffee with him for the walk home. The cup was empty by the time he reached his studio apartment.
After unlocking the three locks, he stepped inside. First he took off his shoes and jacket, then he put the cup next to the pile of mail on the table.
“Yes, Ma, I’m back.”
Wesley turned the bolts in the three locks. His foot nudged the stack of old newspapers closer to the wall. He sat down on his unmade bed.
“No, Ma, I didn’t take your watch.”
He peeled his socks off and tossed them onto the heap of clothes spilling out of his closet.
“No, Ma, did you hear what I said? I didn’t take your watch. I have my own watch. See this? This is my watch. I only have one watch.”
He grabbed the remote control and turned on the small television across the room. While rolling his eyes in annoyance, he pushed the button to increase the volume. The laugh track of a sitcom roared through his empty apartment.