Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome Back

She paused as she opened the door, shocked by the almost empty room.

What had happened?  Where was everyone?

She'd been away too long.  There was a time when this room was packed with people trying to be heard.  Now there was a smattering of people hanging aimlessly around, muttering among themselves.  Their whispers droned like overworked bees as she made her way to the bar.

"You back?"

She reached for a bottle without replying.  There was a time when  she knew exactly what to say; now she could barely string together a coherent sentence.  It was the voices.  They had stopped speaking to her. She used to think their incessant chattering would drive her mad.  Now the overwhelming silence made her want to blow her brains out.

"You've been gone a long time.  Maybe some people don't want you back."

She surveyed the room.  This sedate group probably wouldn't.  But then she never cared much for an audience.

"I'm not back for them.  I'm back for me."

She hoped that didn't sound too self righteous as she turned to look at him.  He'd gotten grayer, the lines around his eyes deeper.  He knew about the voices.  He knew what it was like to have that eternal gabbing between your ears, but it never seemed to bother him.  Though she had noticed that even he had slowed somewhat in the last year or so.  A sad smile appeared across her lips.

"This used to be home.  I'm dried up, I need to come back and start over .  I guess I'm pretty pathetic."

He poured them both another drink, then held his up in a toast.

"Not pathetic, darling.  Only human."

He clinked her glass.  A  warmth began to well up in her as the whiskey burned down her throat.

It was good to be back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just Enough

Most children don't leave home until they leave for university.  Her kids left home earlier to go to rehab.  She thought she'd be used to it by now, her third child packing for an extended stay in an eating disorder clinic.  She wasn't.  She still felt like a failure.

She turned the faucet on as a cold wind howled outside the kitchen window.  Hot scalding water filled the sink as she began scrubbing the pot.  It was pointless to make meals; they sat uneaten on the plate while she and her daughter sat together in a heavy silence.  Her hands turned bright red in the water while she worked on a particularly stubborn clump of tomato sauce.  Her fingers began to tingle and sting but she wouldn't pull them out of the burning, sudsy water.  A depraved thought flashed through her brain;  cook the flesh off her hands in punishment for being a bad parent.  Not one of her children had been exempt from some sort of mental illness, whether it was an addiction problem, or self harm or now starving themselves.  She needed to make some sort of penance for her sins.  A mother was supposed to protect her children from the pain of the world.  How do you protect them when the pain is internal, not external?  She rinsed off the pot and dropped it into the dish rack.  Her fingers throbbed and ached.  She shut off the water and just stood there looking at them until she felt a powerful presence behind her.  She glanced over her shoulder and saw her daughter standing there.  Good thing she's inside, that wind out there would knock her over.  She put on her mom face and smiled.

"All done packing"?

Her daughter mumbled her reply.  God, that child was always mumbling.

"We can watch some tv if you want"?

The girl shook her head no,

"I'm kinda tired.  I'm gonna go to bed.  Tomorrow's gonna be a long day".

"Ok.  Love you.  Sweet dreams".

She had turned back towards the sink when she felt the bony arms encircle her waist.  She tried not to jump at their frailty.

"Love you too, Mom".

The hug evaporated as quickly as it had materialized.  She felt her breathing quicken as tears filled her eyes.  It wasn't much, that hug, but it was just enough to convince her that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't quite such a failure as a parent after all.