Friday, May 26, 2006
I shook my head. "No, thanks." She frowned.
"You are dismissing love?" Her accent was distracting. Heavy, Eastern-European, and I was sure she was putting it on, but she hadn't dropped character yet.
"No. I have love."
She chuckled, looking back down at the tea leaves. When she ducked her head like that, her double chin doubled.
"You think you have love. Your love is gone."
I was starting to get annoyed. She went on.
"Your love has been stolen. This you know. Your love is not yours anymore."
"What are you talking about? The tea leaves tell you my boyfriend's cheating on me?"
She started laughing then, and I envisioned myself punching her in the throat. Sinking my fist right into that soft double chin. But I shook my head, and I sighed. This wasn't fun anymore. I just wanted to go home. But she kept talking.
"You don't understand, child." I was starting to really hate the whole hokey fortune-teller bit. "The leaves only tell me about you. The leaves say nothing about others. Your love has been stolen."
An hour later, I was walking down the sidewalk towards the hotel when I heard a loud bang in the street, and people started screaming.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
My mom used to tell a story about me, the truth of which I can neither confirm nor deny. I don't remember it.
I remember Victor Cortez, a pale, fat boy. Thick dark hair standing out from his head. Gray eyes tilted up at the corners--eyes that would have been beautiful on a woman. Slack jaw. Jowly, fat face.
Victor was a bully. Pushed kids off swings, took lunch money. Pinned little kids down in the dirt on the playground, twisting arms until the victims whined and cried. He was in my class, but it seems like he was older. Held back a year already, and we were only in the second or third grade.
I look at pictures of myself from that age and I am astonished at how small I was. A little scrap of a kid with skinned knees and a tangle of blond hair. I always thought of myself as big, Amazonian, comparing my own long bird-legs to the short dark plumpness of my friends'. Victor was taller than me, though, or at least my height. Fair-skinned, which lent credence to his claim that his heritage was Spanish, somehow superior to the Mexican norm.
My mom told the story of picking me up from school, how I went from pale and quiet to breathlessly explaining. I told her I was sorry. I had done a bad thing, and I knew I was going to be in trouble, but I hadn't known what else to do. She wasn't the most patient of mothers, and I can imagine she put up with very little crab-walking on my part before she demanded the story already.
So, she said, I told the story. How Victor had a little kid pinned. A little kid I knew, a kid whose mom babysat me sometimes.
Seems like that was right. Seems like he was after lunch money or something, as usual.
The white kids usually seemed to get it the worst. I remember seeing more blond heads in flurries of brown fists than any other color. Never really thought about why. Just kept my own blond head down.
So the way my mom told the story, for some reason I got fed up that day. I walked over to Victor as he sat on the bawling child, and punched him twice in the face, fast. Blood pouring from his nose or his split lip before he could finish drawing breath. Victor horrified and starting to blubber, and I grabbed his shirt collar and held on, twisting, while I told him that if he told on me, I'd "hurt him bad," my mom said. The little kid already gone, ran away at the first distraction, and the thing was over so fast, apparently no one saw. But Victor was bleeding and crying.
I guess I walked away after that. My mom said I had a look on my face like I was waiting for the firing squad when she picked me up.
She said we went for ice cream when I finished telling the story. She left me at the lunch counter with a hot fudge sundae while she ran over next door, to the grocery store. Ran into Victor's mother in an aisle of the store. Victor's mother telling her, "Someone beat up my kid." My mom feigning surprise, saying nothing. Victor's mother saying he wouldn't tell who did it. My mom choking on laughter as soon as she could get away.
My mom loved that story. I hope it's true.
Victor's family moved away before we got into high school. He made me a card every Valentine's Day until they moved away. Red construction paper hearts and paper lace doilies. I can still picture the way he signed his name. Despite his efforts, we never became friends. I ignored him after that, but then, he never gave me any cause to notice him. Cards notwithstanding.
I don't remember hitting him, but I remember that Victor was a bully, then Victor was not a bully. At least as far as I could tell. Since I didn't have to worry about him anymore, I guess I just stopped looking at him. I barely noticed when he was no longer in my class.
I was, apparently, a little bit of a hard-ass. Hmm. Had no idea.
Swimming against this current would only make me tired and keep me in the same place.
First, Aaralyn suggested writing about "mysterious stuff."
Then there was the kid on the skateboard.
Then there was the church camp thing.
Then there was the ghost story.
It all built up, nudge after nudge until I felt henpecked by my own subconscious. When did my subconscious mind grow a beak?
I'm waffling because I don't think I've ever written this story, and I need to get it right. This is one of the important stories, one most of my friends have heard over and over. I keep telling it like I'm afraid I will forget it. But aside from brief mentions in letters, possibly an outline here or there, I've never come right out and committed this to a font, a structure, paragraphs.
I spent much of my childhood living in a very old house. The house was built for Lucien Maxwell, a major landowner in the Southwest around the time of the Civil War. The history around the house is a bit sketchy. Rumors make up most of its story, and I'll try not to repeat any of those here. To me, it was a house. I was a kid and it was my house.
These days, I toss the phrase around easily, "I grew up in a haunted house." When pressed (and it takes pitiful little pressing, I'm afraid), I'll trot out my One Ghost Story. Seriously. Grew up in a haunted house, but I have exactly one ghost story. Reason being, this story is the only one I can tell that happened in broad daylight, with witnesses, that has never been exposed as a prank. There is an explanation, I'm sure of that. I sure wish I could explain it.
The house is a sprawl of adobe. A white veranda wraps around the north and east sides, and the house spreads out to almost make an uppercase E, with the bottom horizontal bar missing. Twenty rooms or so. We were a family of five then, and we only needed half of the house. It was in a general state of disrepair when we moved in, so a quick fix was to seal off the half we weren't going to use.
The half deemed most unsafe was locked up. Almost every room had doors to the outside, and if those doors couldn't be padlocked, they were nailed shut. The windows were all nailed shut, even the windows that had been painted shut. My dad was thorough. He had to be; he had three children. I was seven when we moved into the house, which means my sister was three and my brother was eleven.
Those sealed-off rooms were like coveted jewels to us kids. We were sure there was treasure concealed in the walls. Skeletons under the floors. Indeed, in places, the floors were sagging and falling in. We skirted the holes carefully when we were allowed to walk through that part of the house, before the nails and the padlocks blocked us.
We didn't have a lot of time to play with the scary, run-down funhouse before Dad stepped in and played Mr. Safety. We had enough time to learn that when you walked through the breezeway into the first room in that part of the house, it was always cold. Dad credited the thick adobe walls, the lack of direct sunlight on the windows. He said the cool air was a good thing. But it smelled dank. Smelled of mold and mice and old, old dust.
It was rare for the three of us, me, my sister and my brother, to actually hang out together. It happened occasionally, though. That afternoon, we had a friend over from a neighboring ranch, a little girl my age. Our favorite game at that age was "stuffed animal war." Very simple, really. You gather up an assload of stuffed animals. You throw them at each other. Points are awarded for scoring direct hits on opposing players. Points are taken away for getting hit. Extra points are given if a player starts to cry, to shut the whiner up before they can run to a parent and ruin the game. You take cover wherever cover can be taken, and after you run out of stuffed animals, you kamikaze the opposing players, picking up previously thrown toys along the way.
It's a brilliant game, honestly. It's also how my mom's lamp got broken. I wonder if we ever told her.
We were probably playing that game, since we were all together. It's about the only game we could all enjoy. Zeke, the family dog, stretched out on the floor by the door to the breezeway as we distributed ourselves around my mom's bedroom. The door to the breezeway had a padlock on it. I was looking at the padlock, staring idly at the door, while someone told a story. I don't remember the story. It was interrupted, anyway.
My sister saw the dog first. Zeke was a very sweet, patient German Shepherd. Very protective of us, and already getting pretty old. He didn't see so well, or hear so well. But something had gotten his attention, because my sister talks about seeing the hair on the back of his neck stand up. She didn't know Zeke had hackles to raise, she says. We had never seen the dog get upset. But in no time, Zeke was pulling his lips back from his teeth and getting to his feet. Staring down the padlocked door like he and the door were sworn enemies, or more logically, like he could smell/sense something on the other side of the door.
I missed that part. Like I said, I was looking at the door with the padlock on it. Not looking to see anything, just staring blankly at what was in front of me. When the doorknob rattled, I jumped. Focused in. The doorknob turned this way, then that way, then rattled. A frustrated sound. The rattling got louder, became almost a thumping. Like someone tried to open the door like a civilized person, then became enraged when the door would not open. The door shook.
By this point, all eyes were on that door. The sun was shining on green grass right outside the window. The door was shaking, and the vibration seemed to spread, right out to the doorjamb, until it seemed the whole wall, the whole house, would shake down.
There was a sound like a roar. Like a pissed-off bear with a metal throat. Like someone had pushed a gas-powered generator up against the other side of the door and fired it up.
The sound broke the spell that had kept us all sitting still, eyes on the door, mouths open. As one screaming unit, we ran to my dad. White and breathless, we were visibly scared enough to get him to move quickly. He was out the door before we could even get impatient--and we were kids, so we were superfast to get impatient. He didn't even pause as he swept out the door, picking up the shotgun propped against the wall and barrelling for the breezeway.
The house is surrounded by lawns the size of football fields. The breezeway, which was on the other side of that rattling, shaking door, had a door on each wall. All were padlocked. My dad opened the first padlock and stepped into the room. Dust lay in a sheet on the floor. Undisturbed. No footprints, no marks. No sign of any recent activity. The french windows at the other end of the room were nailed shut. Through them, he could see out over the lawn. No people. No activity.
He walked the veranda, and he carried that shotgun for quite some time that day. I guess it was pretty obvious we weren't pulling a prank. But he never found a culprit. He questioned us thoroughly about it, then let the matter rest. Said it must have been a ghost, with a smile on his face.
So that's my only ghost story. It needs more work. I get all muddled up in the telling of it. There are too many odd details. The house itself is an odd detail.
There is always a feeling, most people say, of being watched in that house. Personally, I get a sense, walking into it, that if the house could hurt us, it would. It hasn't figured out how, maybe. Or it's saving up for something big. There was a time when I would have given anything to see it burned down and the ground salted.
There's a lot more to be said about our little haunted housey-house. But I'll leave it at that. I've rambled on enough for one blog. Thanks for bearing with me again! Editing will happen someday...
We stood with our backs against the wall, silent except for our breathing.
Each of us held two grenades, which means there must have been fifty grenades in that hallway. We all held them the same, one in each hand, pressed against our chests. Like Superman, ripping off his shirt. Frozen. With grenades.
Shockwaves from explosions outside rattled the scratched plexiglass windows. The hallway was unlit except for the windows. Dirt flew against the building, from the wind and the shock waves, and it sounded almost like rain.
No one spoke for a long time. I could hear my heart beating.
"Eyes straight ahead." A huge black man in fatigues stood in front of me. His voice boomed. He tugged at my hands. I gripped the two grenades tighter. They were heavy, reminiscent of baseballs. The hallway stank of metal and sweat. I could feel the ridges on the grenades digging into my palms.
I felt the man's hands on mine, but I was focused on a gouge in the wall across from me.
It's an easy way to stay motionless. Pick something directly in front of you and try to be like that thing. I was doing my best impression of a smudge. Except that I kept having to flex my arms. The man in front of me kept pulling on my hands. There was a jingling sound, and a click.
"Open your mouth." I swallowed sticky saliva and complied. Shit. This could not possibly be a good thing.
Metal touched my tongue.
A grenade pin. I was supposed to think it was one of mine.
"Eyes straight ahead." He was gone, except for the sound of his boots on the concrete floor.
The door opened, and a hand hooked my elbow. Outside, the wind smelled of dirt and smoke. I spat the pin into the dirt. Squeezed the grenades tighter as I walked.
Two grenades. Don't cook them off. Don't milk them. Think about baseball.
I changed into jeans before I left the office. I had a lot of work to do that night, and it was messy, dirty, sweaty work.
My sister's boyfriend's mom had died suddenly. She left a house full of unfinished life. It fell on her only child to tie up all her affairs while tending to his own life.
It's not an uncommon burden. Lots of us have dealt with death in one form or another. It's never easy, and when you have little to no advance warning, it can be damned overwhelming.
A small group of us banded together and tackled the house. We conquered the overgrown backyard. We sorted mail. We cleaned, organized and packed. We looked to my sister's boyfriend for direction, and on the days when he couldn't face it, we looked to my sister. She stepped up carefully, and we walked respectfully into that house.
The outside work was the easiest, for me. I have always been a fan of hard labor. Give me tree limbs to trim, a lawn to mow, a flower-bed to weed. Let me be filthy at the end of the day. I will be too exhausted to care about anything more than a hot shower and a soft bed.
There was lots of hard work to be done, and we rose to the occasion pretty well, if I must say so myself. We busted our asses getting things done.
The hard work was the easy part, though, and I was facing my own mother's impending death. I didn't quite know it at the time. She was sick, had been sick for some time, and we were all worried. The exhausting work I was doing at that house was a way to get out some of my nervous energy. I couldn't save my mom, but I could rake up all these leaves. I could clear off this porch. I could smash this old lawn furniture so that it would fit onto the trailer headed for the dump.
The group of people working on that house, we weren't trying to bond. We bonded anyway. Funny what pain and grief and exhaustion can do for you. Funny how you don't pay attention at the time, but when you look back and realize how very dark your life was, you can't help but remember the people who stuck by you, hurting and laughing and working through it, holding onto each other in an effort to stay standing. Keeping you on your feet.
I was driving home for another night of working on the house. 3905, we had taken to calling it. Call it by its street number so you don't have to constantly reference the person who doesn't live there anymore.
Four lanes of westbound highway, and I was working my way out of a snarl of trucks pulling trailers. My exit was coming up. I was already thinking of recaulking the bathtub at 3905 when the dog caught my eye.
The little red dog sniffed around the k-rails at the center of the highway. There was no median, just a breakdown lane, a set of concrete k-rails, then the breakdown lane for the eastbound side. The dog was on my side. Stranded in the middle of a busy highway. He lifted his head and flinched at the cars whizzing past.
My hand went to my blinker to signal a leftward lane change, but my mirrors told me I wasn't getting over. I was securely boxed in by trucks. The only way I could go was right. My exit was ten seconds away.
I knew it would be a mile before I could get over to the left, and if I pulled over on the right, I'd probably be just in time to see the dog get splattered. He would probably panic before I could get to him, or panic when he saw me.
Even if I could get to him, why would he come to me? Could I get him to come to me without freaking him out and getting to see his death very close-up? Could I even get him into my car, if he wasn't already dead? Then what would I do with him?
My exit came into sight. I told myself the dog was already dead. There was nothing I could do for him, and the most I could hope for was that he didn't suffer. Those trucks were flying, and he'd probably never feel a thing. There was nothing I could do that would change that.
So I did the only thing I could do. I burst into tears and cried all the way home.
I stayed off that highway for the next week. Call me a pussy, but I couldn't see to drive past that section of highway for a while. I've never been good at operating machinery while bawling my eyes out.
This is the story I tell when people tell me they think I'm tough, or a hardass, or what-have-you. I am a great big messy mush of soft tissue and tears. I'm just fond of chainsaws and sledgehammers.
"Don't hang up. Please, please, don't hang up." Muffled sounds of someone crying.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do, and I did the wrong thing. I always do the wrong thing.
"I don't want you to blame yourself. This wasn't your fault at all. It was all me. Entirely me. I fucked it up, and I'm sorry, not for me, but because I hurt you in the middle of all of it. I--" Breaking off, more crying. Big gasping sobs, breath in the receiver.
"Just listen to me. I'm sorry. I'm not coming back. You don't have to worry about that. I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry."
More breath in the phone.
"Are you going to say anything?"
I cleared my throat. "I think you have the wrong number."
This is not an urban legend.
No one was in the room with her when she died, but I can tell you what she did.
She ate some olives and changed the channel.
She folded her blanket.
I can even tell you what she thought.
She thought it was no big deal.
She checked the date on the calendar, because she had trouble remembering stuff lately, and she thought briefly about lead poisoning, and didn't lead poisoning make you stupid for a while?
She thought about calling a friend, but it was late, and she didn't figure anybody would be up and chatty at that hour.
The phone rang anyway, as if to prove phones knew what loneliness meant, leaped out at her hand, or seemed to leap.
She must have given the hand.
EDIT: Because I can't take credit for the end, and just in case some of you aren't quite the Frostophiles you should be: 'Out, Out--'
I timed it, but I was later led to believe that I cannot be trusted. So I will say fourteen minutes, but you can insert whatever number you like. I don't mind.
I left everything exactly as it was. Almost exactly. I stopped myself as soon as I caught myself fixing things. I'm sneaky.
I took a walk around the block and I never came back. I guess that's how it looks, anyway. I wasn't trying to run away. I didn't pack a bag, I didn't make any arrangements. I just started walking. Then there was a car, stopping, and I was riding instead of walking.
Then there was the wind in my face and the smell of the street. Flowers. Somewhere, there were flowers. Traffic sounds fading.
I don't really remember, but you asked me to explain, and this is all I have. I'd like a logical chain of events and explanation of motive just as much as you.
Well, maybe not as much as you. But I'd like it. It would be nice. There's a moth-hole there, where there might have once been something that made sense.
Maybe I just didn't find it yet. Maybe we'll just keep looking.
All the lights went out. All the lights. All the lights.
Except for mine.
I'm special and must be illuminated.
When the Ku Klux Klan lights a cross on fire, they call it "illuminating" the cross.
So I must be illuminated. Also, I look like ass.
Don't worry. I'm not on fire. That wasn't a cry for water up there.
The building's owner is whispering to me from another room.
Is jasmine pink? I picture it as pink. I might need to throw up.
All the lights went out. Except for mine.
I have worn myself out. It took longer than I would have expected, had I expected it to happen. I didn't. Expect it, I mean.
I've been trying for a very long time to put that part of myself to sleep. The splinter in my head that is vicious, probably rabid. The part that hates me.
Hydrophobia is supposed to kill you, but somehow, this has survived, still foaming at the mouth. This part, this splinter, was never a good dog. It only got sicker and sicker, and the sicker it got, the meaner it got, and the more it spread infection to the pieces around it.
One bad apple at the very bottom of the barrel, the bottom where it's dark and very hard to reach. Well, you know what they say about apples.
Maybe there are other pieces of rotting fruit laying around, but I never saw them, because this one hogged all the attention. It's hard to pay attention to everything at once. It's like being expected to notice your mother's tight-lipped silent disapproval while the bouncer at the bar has his boot on your neck.
Sorry, Mom. I couldn't breathe. I promise I'll feel guilty later, when I can. When the bruises don't take up all my attention. Maybe while I'm soaking out all the blood. That's always a good time for reflection.
The vicious little splinter has been working hard. Putting in all the overtime it could muster. But it was just a little premature, this last time. I suppose it meant to stage a coup.
That sentence makes sense because it's really all in my head. A bird bashing itself against the inside of my skull, panicking to get out. I never even realized splinters could grow wings, but I guess anything's possible. Birds don't win, when they panic and throw themselves against windows over and over. The windows rarely break. The bird usually does. I've saved a few, and I've been too late a time or two, so I think I'm right.
Seems like the splinter should have planned a little better. But I'm not going to criticize it. It's not dead. It's only sleeping. And I'm glad.
My head hurts, a little, and I'm a little--I think the correct term is "soul-tired." Flaccid from head to toe, and I know an infant who holds his head up better than me, but I'll have a couple of laughs anyway. I'll go to the movies and I'll offer up my opinions and I might even get in an argument or two. For the fun. But I'm gonna keep the noise down in my head for a little bit. No harm in peace and quiet, and I don't want to wake the little fella. It's kind of cute when it sleeps.
Screw South Dakota. Bareback because we're daredevils.
Well, that was a crying waste of a coat-hanger.
I don't want to speak too well or too clearly. I don't want to talk myself into a corner. I prefer to be a little vague. I suspend judgment. I can smell fraud, but it may be only the inside of my face that smells so burnt and dirty. I prefer not to speak clearly. I'd rather not react.
Insight: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation. Understanding, especially an understanding of the motives and reasons behind one's actions.
Clarity: Free from obscurity and easy to understand. Lucidity.
Strawman: A weak or sham argument set up to be easily refuted.
Let's just stop bitching about how much money New Orleans is going to need to rebuild. Let's just fork it over and shut the fuck up. Yes, I'm guilty. I left it alone for too long and now it's gone and now I can't even look at the pictures of what's left. My mom was dying, and it was days before I even tried to reach my friends.
I am working on the cat's trust issues.
The door is unlocked. He can leave anytime.
He paces the perimeter of the tub.
He chews my wet hair.
He rubs his face against the back of my head. He licks my hand, and when he bites, I pull away. He pulls my hand, without claws, to his head.
I pet him with wet hands, grooming him like a mother.
As close to Mother as I can be.
He waits patiently under my attentions.
He watches always, as if afraid I will disappear.
I hold out proof that we have a long way to go.
My grandmother used to tell stories from the newspaper. She read it every day, scouring it for stories of children abducted, bodies found, earthquakes and landslides and fires.
My sister and I laugh about it, a little, nervously, but neither of us will run over a box left in the road. She always told us people left babies in boxes like that. Or puppies or kittens.
I want my history erased.
I lived with my father when I was sixteen, which meant I had chores. You know, slop the hogs, harvest his breakfast, chop wood and stuff.
Fucker had to raise me Amish.
David Cross aside, my Da believed that hard work builds character.
Plus, since I was rather small and could fit into tight spaces AND I wasn't, usually, drunk off my tit, I got sent to do some strange things.
Like catch a chicken.
This lady wanted a chicken. It was the end of the season, the museum staff had all gone home for the winter, and they had left their animals. Again.
Someone came and got the pigs. The cats went feral, which was cool because they kept the rat population down, and the coyotes had something to eat other than MY cats. (Fuckers.)
Somehow it came down to one chicken left. A rooster, actually, if I remember correctly.
I came home from school to fresh orders--catch the rooster and wait for the lady to pick him up.
I was raised the old-fashioned way (it still hurts on rainy days), so when my Da said "Blah, blah blah, you're a bad seed, blah blah, DO THIS," I listened.
So I trudged to the museum to pick up the feathered piece of vermin.
Have I explained that this is a Civil War era museum? Covered wagons and shit? Staff dressing in period clothes and drinking cowboy coffee and pretending they're not mixing Coffeemate in?
Yeah. So I was sixteen and completely bored with everything life had to offer (except penis, but it was new then). I had to catch a chicken. I tromped around the grounds of the museum for a while, until I got the little guy cornered, and fuck if he didn't come flying at me, all big wings and claws and crazy chicken-parts.
I screamed and hit the dirt. The rooster escaped.
I tracked it down again, a little more carefully. This time, the thing just ran.
And it ran,
And it ran some fucking more.
I chased it around the covered wagons.
I crawled under the covered wagons after it, and got a faceful of dirt for my trouble.
I jumped over bales of hay.
I almost fell down the well, which would have been okay, except that it's not a real well. It's full of dead leaves and stagnant water. In retrospect, I might have come out of it smelling better if I had fallen in.
I chased the rooster through the pig sties, across the courtyard, back around the covered wagons, through the garden and all the way into the blacksmith's shop.
I finally got the little fucker cornered, again, in the coal bin. This time, though, I went in screaming. Apparently, my war cry was scarier than his.
He cowered in the corner of the coal bin, staring at me with those gross little shifty eyes, and I grabbed both of his legs in one hand.
He puffed out his wings and shit on my hand, but I was damned if I was letting go. I thought seriously about twisting his neck with my free hand.
Instead, I sat down in the driveway of the museum, with the rooster's legs clutched in one hand, my other arm wrapped around him like I was giving him a hug--so he couldn't beat me in the face with his wings--and I waited for the rooster-loving lady to show up.
It only took her about fifteen minutes to get there.
Half hour, tops.
Chicken shit washes right off the skin, but I never got the smell out of that shirt.
ps: Thanks, Robb.
The hiss of the oxygen in her hospital room was unreasonably loud. I slept in a chair next to her bed. My sister took the chair on the other side. I listened to my iPod to mask some of the hissing. Hiss, click, whoosh. Over and over.
James woke me up that night when I'd been asleep for maybe an hour. Vivaldi's Four Seasons was playing on my iPod, and I resisted waking up.
I woke up once in a motel room, months later, fresh from a dream in which I was the one in the hospital bed. I'd have to ask Joe what I said. I know I said something stupid. I know it took a long time to get back to sleep.
There's video of New Year's Eve, and we all looked pretty. Even me. My favorite footage of me of all time is on that tape. My sister was asking everyone in turn about their hopes for the new year. I was laughing when I said my mom could only die once, so 2006 couldn't be that bad.
I called my mom's sister as soon as I realized what was happening. She was staying at a nearby hotel with her husband and my grandmother. It only took her a couple of minutes to get to the hospital, but once my mom started to slip, her death happened very quickly.
So I think it was just the kids around her when she died. Her chest hitched for a minute or two, but I think she was dead before that stopped. They had already shut off the monitors. Probably the oxygen, too, but I don't remember.
Immediately afterward, there was the meeting with the chaplain, who gave us a list of funeral homes. Her organs could not be donated like she'd always planned. Cancer, chemotherapy. My aunt's husband asking me when I had called. Me explaining that I called as soon as I knew. As soon as I woke up. Wondering what they were worried they had missed. The moment of her death was not dramatic. She did not have any final words. She couldn't breathe, let alone speak. It was a slow suffocation. Oxygen on full blast, and did you know they can put morphine in that? I think it was morphine.
I have a trick for crying at work. I can hear when people are walking up, so I turn and rummage in a desk drawer. Or I drop something. Anything to avoid having to look at people with my eyes looking like a little pig peed in them.
It doesn't really fool anyone, but I work with very kind people who pretend not to notice when I fall apart just a little. They let me go home if I fall apart a whole lot. I don't fall apart a whole lot, a whole lot.
That time in the motel, waking up all freaked out, I think I thought I heard the oxygen hissing. Again, I'd have to ask Joe. I think I thought I couldn't breathe.
Get through this day, and that day, and bawl like a baby the day you realize your boyfriend is being an asshole and you can't call your mom and complain. Or you got the job, or you didn't get the job, and you can't tell her. Same reaction, different triggers. A rush of guilt every now and then, because hasn't it been a long time since I called Mom? Then, oh. Yeah, but her number is still in my phone. It's not going anywhere anytime soon.
I wonder if anyone has a renovation project this summer. I could use the exercise. Anything, really. Something to wear me out and pass the days. Free unskilled labor for hire.
Doesn't really end here. It just kind of trails off. Sorry.