Blue

A Memoir

The once pale blue is darkening and turning purple.  Pink streaks across and blends with the white of the clouds.  It is impressive how the light in the sky can create such works of art. To create—now that is a thought—

“Nedi!”  My sister calls from the opened door.

I turn and look towards my sister.  The light from the apartment is shining from behind her and she appears as only a silhouette.

“You’re going to freeze out there…come on in.”

As I walk closer, the shadows lose their strength and Millie’s features become clear.  She stares at me with concern.  “I’m fine.”  I reply before she can say anything more.

I start removing items from the grocery bags.  Ground beef.  Yogurt.  Milk.  Bread.

“Stop that.”

“What?”  I stop with a loaf of bread dangling from my fist.

“That.  Go do it…I’ll take care of this.”  Millie outstretches her arm and at the end is the box.  It is mostly white, except for the big, bold blue letters that spell out e.p.t. “ Over 99% Accurate—The Error Proof Test”.

“I can do it later.”  Even as I speak the words, the knot in my stomach twists tighter and I feel nauseous.  Millie stares back, set and determined.  “Okay…okay—I’ll go.”

Snatching the box, I walk directly to the restroom.  Although the package is small, it weighs a ton.  The future is hiding in this little cardboard box.  My future.

Entering the small bathroom I lock myself in, walk past the mirror and sit on the covered toilet.  I am afraid to look at myself.  I know what I am going to see—a small, frightened little girl.  Granted, I am not that much of a girl at twenty, but I suddenly feel like I am way too young.             

A baby.  I can not even begin to grasp what that reality would mean and how it will change my life. 

A reel of film begins to play in my mind, projecting all of my hopes and aspirations.  I am walking across the stage to receive my Doctorate degree.  I am a highly successful writer, who travels all around the world.  I have achieved fame and fortune.  As the images flicker, I notice that a child is never in any of the frames.  No baby.  No man.

Yes.  I would need a man for my predicament.  James is his name and he entered my life a mere six months ago.  He is decent and sweet, yet immature and the complete opposite of me.  Our relationship is already showing signs of trouble and now I want to add the extra hitch of becoming unexpected parents.

Do I want James in my life forever?  Whether we stay together or not, he will be the father of this child and will be around one way or the other.  Honestly, I can not answer that question and it scares me.

That is it.  I can not do it.  I am way too young.  I do not even have any money for Christ’s sake—I make minimum wage.  I am terrified.  What kind of mother will I be?  With my mother as an example it can only be a disaster. 

An abortion is the only option.  It is my body.  My choice.  I can live with my decision.  Right?  I can knowingly end a life?  My baby’s life?

A sob escapes my lips and tears fall freely from my eyes.  I am so stupid.  The one time we did not use protection.  It feels so good…don’t stop.  Please, don’t stop.   Idiot! 

Hold on.  I am getting ahead of myself.  What if I am not pregnant?  I have always been irregular.  This is me being super, super irregular.  I am getting all worked up for nothing.  Just take the test.  You’ll see…it will all be all right.

Breathing deeply, I wipe my face and decide to hurry and find out.  No point in any more speculations.  This is it.

A gentle tap on the door makes me jump.  “Hey…how’s it going?”

Opening the door I smile and Millie seems surprised.  “You’re not?”

“I don’t know yet.  We have to wait five minutes and then check for the blue line.  One line not pregnant…two lines pregnant…one and a half line—go to the doctor.”

“That’s not very accurate, is it?”  Millie marches in and starts reading the instruction booklet. 

“I’m just telling you what I read.  Nothing is foolproof.”   Then it hits me.  Life is not foolproof either.  You never know where it will lead, no matter how many dreams you have. 

“So, what time will it be ready?”  Millie asks while holding the cream, plastic stick.

“Is it blue?  Are there two lines?”  I swear I feel my heart stop beating. 

Her eyes glistening with tears, Millie simply says, “Congratulations.”

I am crying.  It is blue.  My life is no longer my own.  There is no decision.  I know.

Knowing and doubting are two different things.  For nine months I doubt.  James is supportive and loving, and yet I doubt.   As my belly grows larger so does my fears.  Can I be the mother I want to be?  Can I be responsible for another human being?  Am I going to ruin its life? 

Before long I am lying in a hospital bed and a contraction stretches my swollen belly tight.  The pain is unbearable. 

“Breathe!”  

An eternity passes.  What am I doing?  I change my mind. 

“Okay…now push!”

Pain rips through me and I cry out.  This baby is going to be the death of me and then when I can not tolerate the pain any more… instant relief.

“It’s a girl!  A beautiful baby girl!”

Tears are flowing as I am given a tightly wrapped bundle.  Gently I pull the blanket away from her face and discover perfection.  All the questions and all the worries disappear as my heart fills with an overwhelming love.  

I have found my life.  I have found my reason for being. 

Nothing could have prepared me.  I had no idea that when I was waiting for the thin, blue line to appear, I was actually waiting for my life to start.

Technicolor

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.

Talk to Me

A Poem

Seven days ago, I died. Now, nobody will talk to me.

I know what you are thinking.  It is impossible to speak to the dead.

But I refuse to believe it.

I never got to say good-bye. It was just a regular Monday.

I was driving to work and then they were pulling me out of the crushed car.

I knew my life on earth was over and I walked calmly back home.

There I waited and observed my husband and daughter comfort each other.

Their love for me is immense and so strong that I could feel it wash over me.

Yet, they did not talk to me.

The last week I have seen many loved ones come and go.

They tell stories and laugh. The share memories and cry.

They all know that I never feared my spirit’s release

and that I want them to remember me living.

Still, no one talked to me.

I stood around. I moved among them. I whispered in their ears.  They smile.

But they said nothing.

Today, my ashes are released over the river I love so much.

I can feel a part of me join the gentle current.  Freedom lifts me.

Then a tiny voice stops my ascent.

She is talking to me.

“Mom? I don’t know if you can hear me—but I wanted to tell you that…

that I am so lucky to have had you.”

My heart feels heavy and alive.

I find myself standing in front of my beautiful child.

I resent the time I will not have.  I miss the moments that will never be.

I caress her moist cheek and say into the wind,

“You will always have me. I love you.”

She smiles. “I know. I love you, too.”

Joy lifts my spirit and this time I rise quickly.

I know as I look down at her…

She will always hear my voice and

someone will talk to me.