She was raped one night by a few men. Her childhood was lost way to young or more accurately never progressed as the tragedy killed any chance of adulthood. She found drugs and the freedoms of pleasures as she sought to bury her pains by creating an illegal smile. She was pretty, almost a model but not good enough. She met a young doctor with money and married him as that’s what girls like her do. She had it all figured out and her future was set.
The demons of the past haunted her, and her mind left her long before the security and comforts around her would follow. She became pregnant the doctors told her that she drank too much, was and is way too unstable to have a child. They recommended she needed to abort the baby. The doctors were right, but she refused. Maybe that’s all life is…a refusal to die.
She stopped drinking and fought the depression and nine months later I was born. Because of her persistent nature and stubborn attitude I was conceived teaching me at a young age the value of life. It took a strong stand by a strong woman to create me –creation is easy just ask God; it’s the follow through that matters and that’s when the work really begins. My mother was never a worker.
I grew up on the floors of AA meetings listening to fellow travelers tell their tales of woe over fresh coffee and stale air. I was in first or second grade, and I met Officer Friendly in my class that day. That night I met officer friendly at a meeting and they had to explain to me I couldn’t tell anybody about her attendance. I never told anybody. I listened day in, and day out, about the horrors of life and it’s destructive nature. One day at a time of course.
Dad was gone six years later and money was tight it was just my mother and I versus the world. She tried. She really did. When things became too tough and too routine she gave up. We had no money so she sold her body and her soul so that I could eat and have Nintendo games. There were years where things got better and even times they seemed like they were headed in the right direction. But the crash came fast, and it wasn’t pretty. No crash ever is.
I didn’t understand the madness -- how could you when it’s all you know. It was just me and my mother --what wasn’t normal was perfectly ordinary to me as the weird was my environment. Months without electricity, living in filth, strange men visiting my mom’s bedroom, Bob Dylan’s music, fights with God, and fights with each other was a typical American Family in my own distorted view of the world at large. I lived on an emotional rollercoaster for most of my childhood changing as quickly as the Chicago weather and often with a few key pieces of track missing.
My mother locked me up unjustly in a mental ward. Week after week went by and I became very mad. Mad at the world, mad at my mother, and mad at myself for reason I couldn’t even conjure up. Maybe I was supposed to be violent like the rest of the boys locked up with me? I wasn’t. Perhaps I should have been suicidal like everybody else. I wasn’t. I up until this point in my life was happy. I was confused and I lost my temper and they locked me in the padded room. For most of my life I thought I was the problem and my mother was my salvation but being a fifth grader locked up in a mental ward staring at plush red walls puts everything in perspective. I was misled and lied to, and I wanted to make it right. Shortly after I got out, things started to become clear as I had just come face to face with; real crazy, real bizarre, and the real broken toys nobody wanted to talk about. I was indeed one of them but I was misfiled and more of an observer then a participant. A month and a half of my child hood locked away on the fifth floor of that building.
Four years later after losing everything including a place to live I said good bye to my mother knowing the end was near; I was way too selfish trying to pass high school while trying to be a kid to do anything about it. The last few months were difficult. We first lived with a Viet Nam Vet who would have flash backs in the middle of the night drunk on vodka and smelling of piss too far gone to make the bathroom. I didn’t sleep for a few months as I locked the door to my room which consisted of an air mattress and a television set with a coat hanger for an antenna and a hard steal flashlight for protection. He would yell terrible things into the darkness fighting a war that was up until that point only real to me in a text book. Last I saw of him I got up to take my morning piss and that’s where I found him passed out in the bathroom lying in a pool of blood. He must have hit his head on the toilet as blood was everywhere along with a broken bottle of vodka. I freaked out because I thought somebody scalped him as his hair was hanging half off his head. Turned out it was a toupee and I was late for school.
I still remember the last time I saw my mother as my legal guardian. We had spent a few months living in cars but things were looking up as my mom did what she had to do to get us a little cash and rented a room in a sleazy hotel. It was one room, with a small side bathroom. We had two beds, a TV, our three cats, two dressers, a bible, and a TV guide. To me it was kind of cool living in a hotel and after a few weeks in a car during the winter it was top shelf. We’d been there for two months and my mother seldom left her bed. I left to hang out with friends and avoided a kiss from my mother who was now growing facial hair having given up on all grooming. It was a face of depression, loneliness, and desolation I can never forget, and never will.
My best friend’s father girlfriend took custody of me as the details of my mom’s disappearance were never clear. I lived with them and visited my mother occasionally at different nut houses throughout the Chicagoland area. White sterile walls, interesting characters, orderly’s, nurses, medicine time, strait jackets, rocking, tapping, patting, petting, crying, and laughing. I’ve seen it all and often was able to view it with a smile. A human monkey exhibit and my mother was the ring leader. She always had everybody working for her. One of the first movies I remember watching with her on the brand new VCR when things were better was ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’. It was always her favorite.
I started to hate to visit her. I vaguely remember my mother telling me she volunteered herself to get electroshock therapy. I remember it was a big deal to her and she was scared. But I didn’t understand what it entailed, and unlike some of the fun crazy houses she had been living in this one was scary to me. I wanted to get out. I did. Next time I saw my mother she was a zombie and a shell of who she once was. She was no long the woman who fought for my life. She was now an empty vessel with no captain and no wind. I thought she was gone, and I was free of her, something I was starting to crave. The depression was out of her eyes but so was everything else.
I saw her less and less and soon I found myself in college starting my own life. My mother was doing better and despite frantic phone calls that would end in her hating me or loving me so much she couldn’t hang up, I kept my distance. She was living on her own with two other ‘roommates’ in shared outpatient assistant living program. My 21st birthday rolled around and my mother insisted I visit her. She hugged me in a way I simply can’t describe. No words regardless of how perfect could convey the feeling of that hug. It felt like it lasted forever and now in hindsight I wish it had. I pushed her away not know what she already knew. She gave me a ring of black onyx, a few hundred dollars (which was a lot for her), and Furby. I brought my friend along as a buffer and quickly rushed away.
I missed a call from her in the middle of the night a few days later. She left a message on my machine that she was going to go on a vacation for a few weeks in Wisconsin. It wasn’t uncommon for her to drift and vanish for a month or so. A few days later in the middle of the night my phone rang and it was the police they wanted to talk to me in person. I knew what happened. She was dead. I called the morgue to see if I needed to verify the body as the police told me I would. They told me she was in bits and pieces and there was nothing to identify. In many ways my mother was always in bits and pieces. She stood in front of the midnight train and SPLASH like a bug on a windshield it was over. She always had a style that I still admire. Happy Birthday ma I do really miss you.
The person who thought me life was worth fighting for, also taught me that if the life isn’t worth living if the situation is that bad it’s ok to check out early. Last year at this time I was extremely depressed and suicidal. But the year of ’09 was approaching fast, and 9 is my lucky number. In symbolism nine represents the end of a journey. I struggled through the remaining weeks ready to face ’09 with a smile but on January 1st I was laid off.
11 months of no responsibility is a dangerous thing for a man seeking out the meaning of his own life. For years I buried my problems in my work and just pressed on. Now with nothing to do at all the only thing I had left was my own madness to face. My grandfather was dead before 60 losing his mind in the process. My mother was dead by the time she was 50 losing her mind in the process. Now here I am facing family history while wondering what my purpose is. It’s a heavy task and a scary sentence I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
I sniff the toilet paper after I wipe my ass just to have something real and revolting to react to. Life has become insanely dull and uninteresting. I felt death on the toilet the other night after accidently taking too many pain pills and it was the worst thing I’ve ever felt and the most frightened I’ve ever been…and it’s all I’ve been craving since. I was depressed and alone at the end of ’08 and I find myself in the same situation at the end of ’09. It all changed, yet it all remained the same, just as it always does. Life goes on but why and for whom?
Given my failures and faults I know where I am in life. I’m a good talker but my limited education will always limit my abilities to climb up a professional ladder. My body and my sadness will keep me alone for a very long time and in many ways I understand it’s actually what I want, and the very solitude I’ve always sought out. I will only be what you think of me and nothing more. So whatever your thoughts of me are is actually what I am; today, tomorrow, and forever. So what does any of it really matter?
I still don’t know what the meaning of life is all about. It’s vain to even seek that answer but really it’s all I got left. I’ll keep faking that smile everybody knows, and hiding my sadness in an effort to make everybody else feel better. I’ve been doing it all my life since somewhere in the past I remember my mother telling me, “people will always like you if you make them smile.” It’s just lately I’ve lost my touch and she to dead to ask what will happen if you make them sad.
Bring on 2010. I hope I find whatever it is I’m looking for. The world seems out of touch just as I’m touching back down onto another runway on my life’s flighty journey. I hope I make my connecting flight.