I was building a nest for my afternoon writing session. I made hot tea, rearranged my body pillows, pulled out a throw, opened the blinds, turned on the lamp, and situated the computer on my lap-when, shazam. Great balls of fire I saw it out of the corner of my eye, its foul antennae’s twiddling about as it perched on the side of the door. How did it get in? Did it crawl through the crevice or flatten itself under the door frame? The little disgusting creature that keeps reappearing in my life. I loathe Cock-Roaches-let’s just call them as they are, forget the nicer version, “Water Bugs!” They’re freaking nasty, ugly, unpleasant disruptions in my life.
I didn’t’ hesitate; I quickly toed it to the kitchen for my homemade pesticide/ counter cleaner, a combination of hydrogen peroxide and Fabulouso. The dogs sensed the wrong, trailing behind. I grabbed the bottle, aimed and started spraying it with such a fury as if my life depended on it. (Once, Susan witnessed this sort of event and she said she’d never seen me move so fast.) In between spritzes, the dogs kept putting their noses in and out of the mix trying to sniff out what was going on. They’d startle and jump back, “Why don’t I own a cat?”
Finally, The sick-shell fell but not to his death. My tide of evil down pours continued squirting his legs and dot eyes. Finally, sicko paused, but I knew better, I went against my gut and ran for a paper towel and plastic bag. I came back and found his moist grave empty. “Shit, I know it couldn’t have gone too far.” I bent down and looked under the couch and saw the vile form peeking out from under the heater. I doused him again and he fell in back into the river of poison. I didn’t want it to come to this because it hurts me way more that it hurts them, but I had to do it. I threw the paper towel over his dead-bug pose and stomped on his crunchy ass. I knew it was over because I felt the ever telling squishing after cracking the roach chip in half. I paused to let the dizzy, (let me throw up in my mouth) sensation pass. After I composed myself, I made a mitten with the plastic bag as if I were picking up dog dung and gloved up the carcass in its paper death suit. Triumphantly, arm out, and face distorted, I headed to the trash with my killing; on the way I thought to myself, my mom is like a cockroach I can’t get rid of.
Let’s own it, everyone’s had a visit from a cockroach a time or two. It doesn’t matter how good of a housekeeper you are or how many days a week you have a cleaning service, an insect the size of a small rodent will always appear. You can call the world’s leading authority on pest control and no matter what types of cancer causing agents are sprayed, or which power pellets are put out, the roach is forever mutating into a class of species capable of roaming the earth clouded by a radioactive gaseous tomb.
I’ve lived on the sixth floor of a high-rise in New York City and still had a roach or three. I didn’t know the suckers could ride elevators or climb the hundred and nineteen steps to my apartment. It was on the corner of Park Avenue too, how in the world did cocksecs get to Park Ave? They tricked and eluded me with their cleverness; their fantastic four skills of flattening, flying, speed, and intelligence seek me out. I’ll put up a good fight, but they’ll continue to arouse slumbering squeals that giggle my children into hysterics, and send the fuzzy, four-legged friends running.
The troublesome pests like the problems with my mother follow me wherever I go. My issues with her are the night sweats in every one of my relationships, and even more so in my love-life with a woman. It’s what I believe to be like (the author mentoring me,) Darin Strauss say’s when discussing his relationship with his wife, in his book “Half A Life,” his memoir of an accident he was involved in that ended up killing a girl named Celine. ((“The accident and its aftermath became not simply mine but part of our relationship. Celine was the way we communicated. What a horrible fate for a ghost. She was absorbed into the thousands of things that were part of us.”)
The shadow of my past, lingers over my present like the netted veil of a widow and no matter how hard I try I can’t escape my fate. Every hurt place is founded on my relationship or lack of one with her. It gets in the way on such a highly primal level. The way I learned to deal with the rage of her mental illness involves a complete and utter encapsulation of my emotions. My interior becomes rigid and devoid of anything, it becomes a hard, empty place of self -preservation. My armor becomes impenetrable whenever I feel threatened, or susceptible to the pain I felt as an emotionally abandoned little girl. The residual is like a crusty reminder of intense fear of death and the sharp sting from feeling unwanted or seen by my mother.
My mom left a few messages for me this week that pressed upon Susan things about me I wasn’t able to voice. My mother’s venomous lashing ripped at her core. The morning after the scathing voicemail’s, Susan left a message for me, “I’m feeling a little raw this morning. I pulled into the gym parking lot and felt a wave of sadness. Babe, I’m so sorry your mom did that to you.” She’d left me at home sleeping in the early hours as she drove to work in the dark. I didn’t have the kids the night before so she’s spent the night. We didn’t talk much as I was still trying to process what had occurred. This was unsettling for her because it’s rare, very rare that I’m quiet about my feelings, or anything for that matter. We mindlessly watched a few of Showtime’s series before bed. I rolled on my side away from her, as she tickled my back and talked about her own memories. She smoothed her fingers up and down my skin in a soothing rhythm while she spoke soft, kind words. “Do you want to talk?’” No, I’m not ready yet. The blinds were slanted up and I could see the trees in the neighbors yard blowing. I just want her (my mom) to go away. Why won’t she go away? Susan remained silent and rubbed me until I fell asleep.
Earlier that day while I was in the shower, (one of my favorite spots to reflect) I was remembering a time when I wished my mother dead. I thought, She’s miserable, I guess the bottom, (impetus for change) for her, is death. I didn’t want to deal with her anymore, nor did I want to watch her suffer. I recalled composing an honest eulogy about my experience with her life. I’d read it at the funeral. I’d talk about the real her and how she’s probably be better off dead because she hated herself so much. It would be honest and loaded with striking truths like the chamber of a gun. I’m sure I would mention her mental illness and how it had vacuumed out happiness from her life. I thought about bitterly throwing earth on her descending casket as I cursed her for not giving me what I needed, and for not ever getting better. It was all that drama and then mixed tears.
I stood watching the water pool in suds around my feet thinking how awful of me to have belittled someone’s life. Who did I think I was? I was only a side effect recipient of her tortured soul. She’s truly suffering and that made me feel shameful about my hateful thoughts.
As life, Murphy’s Law, God, The Universe, or what have you would have it; my shame was put to test. I got dressed, and headed out the door towards an appointment. The phone rang , it was my mom, of course. She’d called twice over the weekend and though I tried calling back, I’d never gotten her. She’d left some message about wanting me to bring the kids to see her. To which I silently scoffed.
I answered the call knowing I only had ten minutes. Hello? Shannon, I have been calling you! Well mom, I had the kid’s call you back on Sunday but you didn’t answer. Her voice rose, I’m getting tired of this Shannon! I have a RIGHT to see my grandkids! My chest bowed up and I felt my heart shrivel. I was harsh. Don’t go there, you are pushing me away! She started in on a loud rant, a bellow from the past that instantly caused my finger to hit, “END CALL.” I was sweating and my hands were shaking as I rolled the window down. Immediately I turned off the ringer and put my phone away. My chest was heaving and my breath had thickened. I hated her in that moment.
After my appointment I checked my phone, five missed calls. I knew what I was up against but I couldn’t stop myself. It was like watching yourself fall and you know you can’t save yourself before you hit, and then you jump. I braced myself and pressed play.
Here words were blurred and the typos represent her words exact: Her pitch and volume start low until she escalates beyond return.
“Hey Shannnnon it’ your moooam I have called you and you have not returned my call which takes EXACTLY ten minutes and I’m livid that I cant talk to my grandchildren and that you cant come up here on Sundays knowing I don’t have a car now, and I don’t understand it. You need to explain it. I’m starting to drink vodka, extreme amount and I’m getting pissed off at you because you have no god damn regard about my feelings toward my grandchildren which I feel I have a great impact on them and I believe you need to bring them up here to see me. I’m your mother Shannon.”
She rattles her numbers off. “Monday. 12:50PM.” Click.
I inhaled before playing the next message. My stomach started hurting and I was visibly shaken.
“Let me tell you one damn thing, I’ve asked you nicely to come see me with your grandchildren, my grandchildren. And let me tell you another thing, I have rights. I will see my grandchildren. I have rights. And I will go to court to see my grandchildren. Don’t fuck with me Shannon you selfish little bitch. I’m tired of thinking about what you want to do. I worked two jobs as activity director and leasing agent and had three children and a sick child for two years. (BTW, I wasn’t even living with her then and her jobs lasted a year or two and then her other kids were taken away from her.) And an ex (Her third husband she married twice.) who wouldn’t PAY UN like Jack who was extremely good to you and didn’t run around on you, and you chose the gay lifestyle. Let me tell you something, I have a great interest in my grandchildren and I’m tired of your bullshit about a three-hour drive when I drove eight, nine and ten hours (But not for me.) get, man up and get a fucking grip and you better call my ass back cause I’m tired of your fucking selfish shit. 12:54”
I pause, angry and laughing at her delusions. I exhaled this time trying to shake it off. Play.
“And another thing. Your hanging up, you need to face that issue of your issue and issue of talking to your own mother. Maybe I should have run-away from your ass and taken the money my parents gave me and aborted you in NEW YORKK. I sacrificed my college for your fucking ass bitch. Monday. 12:57PM”
My blood pressure was out the sunroof. The color from my face dissolved into nothingness until my cheeks flashed hot, burning, red. I didn’t take ownership of robbing her of her college degree. I knew better than that, I wasn’t the reason. And I didn’t feel guilty for being alive either. I was on high-security lockdown, a level five of five. Yes, she brought me into this world, but I didn’t make her do it. And this wasn’t the first time she’d ever threatened me or tried throwing the abortion tipped arrow.
I needed more. What else did she have for me? Why? I don’t know. I wanted to see what she would try to use to get through. Game on. Play.
“And another thing I didn’t want to tell you I didn’t want to burst your bubble but at eighteen that was a lot younger than you than you when I had you, before you had your children your god damn daddy told me when you cried to, “%&&*$@@@$!!” (Here she’s going after my dad, using him as weapon against me.) How do you think that made me feel that’s why I divorced his ass because he was so fucking cold and didn’t want to hear you cry which was is normal for a baby and I had to bear the burden of listening to his shit and which you never had to listen to from Jack and worried about how’d he feel that’s why I left his fucking ass because I wanted to protect you and this is what you’re doing to me? Have mercy, Jesus Christ Shannon.”
I was sickened by her and was reminded of the embedded dark insanity squatting in her mind. My heart was pumping angry blood causing my lips to curl up and nostrils to flair out. My fists were clenched and my toes were pressing into my shoes. The skin on my face was pulled back and my ears hummed. My abdominal muscles were pulled in and my whole body was rigid. The sun was heating my car as I turned the key. I let go of my breath and tried focusing on what was to come. How do I make myself feel better? I knew this would happen again. She let me down. All my pop-psych bullshit, all my self-righteous, “What we expect in others causes our suffering.” Stuff kicked me in the mouth as the boiling air escaped. I tried finding peace, but I was too numb for anything. I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t I act in love and end the cycle of my own insanity? I haven’t been able to change anything, including my reactions to her. I’m still a teenager with my rebellious attitude and “thinking only of myself ways.” Even writing this, and quoting her is for me. I’m truly scared to think what she would do to me if she only knew. Maybe it’s time I start sending them. Perhaps the only way I’ll ever be able to talk to her is through the safety of the page. We’ll see, but I’m back to writing her eulogy, wishing for her to go away. I don’t want to do this anymore. Something has to change, I can’t breathe. I need to construct a hatch door out of my heart. To Be Continued.