A Short Story
“It’s your fault!” She was shouting. “Tonight I will be dead and it is all because of you!”
“Mom, please stop–” It could not be happening again. There had not been an episode in months. I could have noticed a few signs in the past week if I had not been so distracted by my time spent with Justin.
Justin. The simple thought of him eased the pressure building in my head.
“Why stop? What? Are you afraid of the truth? You are a worthless piece of shit! Did you know that?”
My stomach tightened as the words she spewed struck me. I felt something inside break. Whatever it was it felt warm and spread quickly. I turned and walked out of the bedroom towards the small bathroom across the narrow hall.
My mind recalled the past few months and the promises made. A new beginning. Far away from New York and the people who had caused the two of us so much pain. For most of my fifteen years I had cared for my mother, watching her rise with euphoria only to spiral into darkness. Florida was going to help and I thought it had.
“Get back here! I am not finished with you…”
The bright light of the bathroom caused my eyes to squint and I fought back the overwhelming need to weep. Opening the medicine cabinet, I stared at a pharmaceutical array of bottles. Every condition and aliment my mother ever had or believed she had come with a prescription.
I started picking up bottles and scanned the faded typed words on the labels, as if I knew what the long names stood for. I gathered all of them in my arms. It was time.
Throwing the plastic bottles on the bed, I screamed as they crashed against each other, “Here! Shut up and do it already! Get it over with!”
Silence filled the cramp space. Astonished, my mother’s face on the other side of the twin bed, softened and her dark eyes scanned the bed.
“Oh? Is that not good enough? Hold on…” I returned to the bathroom and found a disposable razor and some bleach under the sink which I then added to the collection on top of the flowery quilt. “Is that better? Do you have more to work with now? Because I’ve had it…if you’re going to make me feel guilty—give me a good reason—kill yourself already and stop talking about it!”
All I could hear was the beating of my heart, until laughter drowned it out. Even though I could see her mouth, it did not register that it was coming from her. I was beginning to realize that it was not my mother’s laugh. It was foreign. It was the laugh of a monster.
My blood cooled in my veins and I shuddered involuntarily. At that precise moment I understood what I had denied all of my life. My mother was insane.
Wiping tears from her black eyes she continued to smile at me. “Oh, honey. I have to say, that out of all my children—you are the smartest.” Stopping as if to ponder that thought she added, “That probably explains why we don’t get along.”
My mother was quite lucid and immediately so much made sense to me. The manipulation, the melodrama and suicide attempts were all part of her game. I was merely a pawn on her chessboard. The new question that arose was why was she playing and to what end?
“You really are crazy.” The carpet beneath me was starting to shift. I was losing my balance.
“Now…don’t be ugly. After all, what is crazy? I mean…it can be defined in so many ways. It’s all a matter of perception.” Shaking her head slowly, “Maybe we should talk about this.”
She took a step closer and I stepped back. “Stay away from me!”
Turning, I ran quickly. I had to stay ahead of the collapsing floor. I could feel gravity pulling me below and I dared not look down, in fear that I would see the dark abyss. The colors were fading all around me. Surrounded in shadows, I fled.
I reached the door and welcomed the cold night breeze on my damp face. I must have started to cry. When? I had not noticed. Maybe I was crazy too?
I needed Justin. He was my foundation. The stability my life never had. He was the only thing keeping me from descending into my mother’s insanity.
I ran until I reached his door with the darkness pursuing me and knocked frantically. I needed that door to open and for him to be on the other side.
Justin barely opened the door when I pushed through and wrapped my arms around his waist. The ground solidified beneath my feet. I let his strength release my fear and I sobbed. He held me and waited patiently.
Gentle hands touched my shoulders and pushed me back. I looked up at his green eyes and felt an immediate distance between us. There was something new in his eyes.
“Nedi…you can’t be here now.”
I stood back. The abyss had reopened. “What?”
“I’m sorry…” For a split second I saw the warmth and love in his eyes, but then a strange coolness snuffed it out. “I don’t know what’s going on, but…it’s—it’s over. You can’t be coming around anymore.”
Now I was spinning without the ground under my feet. Justin’s eyes turned pale and all the colors around me muted. “What are you doing Justin? Don’t do this now. Not now. I need you—my mom…my–”
“Look. I know things are fucked up with your mom and all but, this is over. Go. Home.” He pushed me past the closing door.
I pushed against it and barged back in. “No! This is stupid! You love me! I know it. There is nothing you can say that could make me doubt it. So, cut this shit out—I just need to talk to you.”
“Stupid? You want to hear about stupid? How about a naïve, stupid little girl who gives her virginity to the first guy who tells her he loves her. That’s what I do—con, sweet young things to give it up and then when I’m done…it’s over. The sex was great and you were—what’s the right word? Ripe.”
No longer spinning, I was falling. My heart was not beating and there was no air in my lungs. I was dying. Yet, somehow I was still standing in front of the stranger that had invaded my Justin.
Suddenly, air filled my chest. With a loud gasp, a surge of energy spread through me and I ran. It was not possible. My mother. Justin. What was happening? My life had always been chaotic and I was constantly hanging by a thread, yet I had always been in control, able to stabilize my existence. Not anymore.
The wind was cold on my skin. My surroundings blurred. The tight, pinching sensation in my side caused me to stop. I could hear the cries coming out of my mouth and I could see myself shaking from afar. I stood outside of my body—detached. I was pathetic.
Then I watched as a dark figure walked towards me. “Nedi? Oh my God! Are you okay?” The body could not reply.
The question being asked, was by a girl that I thought looked familiar. I may have had one or two classes with her in school, yet could not tell you her name. She put her arm around me and informed me that being alone was a bad idea.
The girl led me to a house with music blaring through open windows. There were cars parked all around and people She walked right in and the crowd ignored our entrance.
I watched my pitiful shape slump down on a sofa. The people around me were indifferent to the tears streaming down my face. They were busy distracted by their own pursuits. The girl soon returned and lifted me off my seat. Insisting she knew what would make me feel better she led me into the kitchen toward the stove top. A long tube, that resembled a paper towel roll, was handed to me. The roll was placed over a pot that was cooking little white stones and wrapped in aluminum foil. Smoke was rising into the tube. What was the smoke? Better yet, what were the little white stones?
I never asked. My body inhaled the smoke and I was brutally pulled towards myself and slammed back into my casing. I started to cough as the smoke burned my throat and warmed my chest. At the same time the room began to clear. The colors were suddenly becoming saturated and bright and everything, from the tube in my hand to the girl next to me, were traced with sharp outlines. They were crisp. The world projected itself in brilliant Technicolor.
Sounds were loud and precise. Strangely, my skin could detect my clothes moving. It was amazing. I was alive and vibrant. The shattering world and the abyss were all distant memories. I laughed and it was bizarre to my ears. Was that my voice?
“Nothing like a little coke to make everything all better. Do you like?” My guardian angel asked me.
I smiled and answered truthfully, “Yes. I like a lot.” Then body and soul returned for another hit and all was right with the universe. It did not matter that my mother was totally insane or that my first true love had ripped my heart out. I was strong and whole, but the best part was that it did not hurt anymore.
Several hours later, I returned to find Justin waiting for me outside the house. One look and he knew.
“What have you done?”
“Like it’s any of your business.” I replied.
“Damn Nedi…what were you thinking?”
Through my euphoria I notice Justin is the man I love again. His green eyes were hurt and worried. Yet, I answered him coldly. “That was the point…I wasn’t thinking. And it was fantastic! How come you never told me how good it was?”
The pain in his eyes would have broken my heart if had not been protected with my newfound strength. “Because you taught me how it was destroying my life. You…you made me feel better than cocaine ever could.”
“What a crock of shit!” What was I saying? I loved him and yet, “You make me sick…one second, you’re pushing me away and then the next…you’re…you’re…”
Justin grabbed my shoulders and shoved me against the brick of the house. “I want you, but can’t be…so—the only way I know how is to push you away. I’m sorry—it was bad timing, but don’t do this to yourself. Please.” His hand caressed my face lovingly and burned my skin.
“Well…you don’t have a say in what I do. I like it…” My voice started to crack and my tears threatened to spill, but only for a moment. “It makes my life…better—bearable.”
I know he understood. “It’s an illusion.”
“Maybe. But the world is full now…full of color.”
Only later I remembered that all Technicolor eventually fades to black.