My Last Day

Five months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve seen her. My mother, the giver of life, who has given me no life, but one I wish to never look back on. My birthday was last month, and at thirteen, my heart hurts, but I can’t express it to anyone adequately. I didn’t get a card or a call; I heard no murmur from that end of town. It seems that she’s forgotten my entire existence in less than six months. She’s mad at me for leaving, as if my attempted suicide and subsequent removal from her life were my fault. I’m to be blamed for all of her hurt, so that she may forever play the professional victim.

The first day was the hardest, my arms were raw and my throat was swollen. Suicide was not anything I’d looked into before, I said no goodbyes, and I was not prepared. I didn’t know I wanted to die, I just needed something to change, some sort of end to the means that she had created for me.

I began like I had before, with a dull knife that I found in her end of our travel trailer. Grating against my wrist with the knife resulted in a scrape similar to that you’d get from a tree branch. She had locked me in for the night and disappeared to the north end of town, and I was stuck. Our fight from that evening clouded my thoughts with anger and disillusionment, I still can’t remember what started it.

There were so many arguments and screaming matches between us by the time I turned twelve, I finally believed her when she said she didn’t love me the last time. My father already told me he hated me and my grandfather had proven I was worth only the worst kind of comfort, there was no hope for me to have any kind of family.

With the guidance of my adolescent rage, I punched the window by my bench-seat turned bed. I used a broken shard to slit my wrists. Obviously, I had no concept of how the vascular system works, because I’m sitting here, writing this. Blood made the glass hard to grasp, but I was determined. I made shallow cuts, horizontally, up and down my forearms, then I cut my throat. I passed out after that, either from pain or blood loss, I’m not sure which.

My alarm for school woke me up the next morning, filling my stomach to the brim with dread. Reflexively, I turned the blaring alarm off, not yet realizing how much pain I was in. My mother had come home at some point, drunk, high, or both and fell asleep without checking on me. If she had, maybe she would have reacted, or maybe she did see me but couldn’t bring herself to do anything. I really can’t say if either is more harmful than the other.

My clothes were sticky, my blood had clotted overnight and so each of my raw cuts had adhered to the cloth. Showering was my only option, I had to go to school and try to hide what I did from her, I couldn’t handle her calling me stupid for hurting myself again. I haven’t consciously attempted to end my life since this, because of the nightmares I still have from watching myself pull my skin off to remove my shirt and pants. Turning the water on as hot as I could scalded me, but that pain was soothing in a way that the pain I had caused myself was not.

I found one of my mother’s ex-boyfriend’s hoodies to cover up with, I had no bandages and so the loose material rubbed against my wounds every time the school bus hit a bump. As soon as I got to school, my best friend from early childhood found me, I don’t know why she was there at that moment, but I’m glad for it. She knew something was wrong without me having to say a word, and a painful hug led me to drop my sweater, to show her exactly what I had done to myself the night before. She and another friend took me directly to the school counselor’s office and the police were called. I was driven nearly an hour away, and now, pictures of my raw body are hidden in some filing cabinet filled with closed cases.

Most of the next few weeks are still a blur. I was placed in a temporary foster home because there were no open families in my small town. I stayed with them for a month while the friend who found me rallied her parents to foster me. They went above and beyond to acquire me, throwing me a birthday party as a celebration for the process being done and over with. I was in limbo from October 10th until mid-February. They were my home for nearly two years, but that’s another story.

When I wrote the entry at the beginning of this essay, five months seemed like a long time, then I went two years without seeing my mother, once that went badly it took five years for me to go and talk to her again. After another bad experience I waited until this last year to contact her.

My recent trip was entirely surreal. Everything was exactly how I remember it, with a pervasive scent of mildew adding to the decor. My childhood dog was a living skeleton, tied up to a tree outside. My mother made me chicken and dumplings, the only meal she had cooked for me when I was a child. She asked me to come home over and over again, as if the last decade hadn’t happened and I was still the blonde little girl she once loved.

I still miss my mother and I do so wish that I could go home to something that is more than just a figment of my imagination.

Blind Sense

I don’t remember the way she smelled; if it was sweet, or old and musty. I remember, vividly, how she used to sing with incredible confidence and the way her blonde hair turned to spun gold in the sun. She might have smelled of Chanel No. 5, if only she had stayed living her old life. Perhaps, the earthy scent of horse might have clung to her, or that could have been obstructed by her damp and mildewed clothes. I can remember the smell of her sickly sweet high and the way it lingered in the travel trailer, so that I might get high too. Occasionally, she pretended to sober up, then the trailer would smell of dog shit and rancid waste, as the tenacity of her withdrawals eventually took hold of her, causing her to forget I even existed. The grassy scent of overly dry weed permeated the days of my childhood, her sunbaked haze leaving me to sit alone in the garden, smelling ripe tomatoes as if they were roses, escaping into the realities I explored in novels. She could have taught me how to be a woman, since she rarely had a job. Instead, she was always busy losing her mind with men who could never quite remember her name. I remember the pungent scent of their unwashed bodies, writhing with a mutual passion that I wouldn’t learn for years. There was always movement with that musky smell, and I can still feel the way my body moved in response to what I should never have been witness to.

 

My paternal grandfather smelled of Old Spice Original, a smell I still associate with manliness. His Ford smelled of dirty oil and wood chips from the mill he worked at everyday; he spent two hours on the road to get to a job he loathed, maybe his overt discontent is what caused him to do what he did. A roaring engine down a long dirt driveway always meant a few days of feeling loved, or at least that is what I thought it was. I did not know that the events of my life were not normal until I told a friend about my latest weekend at my home away from home. I told him about the bribery that took place to get me into bed, not knowing that I was a prostitute for my own grandad. I was eight when I began looking for words to describe my situation, eventually finding molestation, then exchanging that word for rape, a more apt descriptor for the devastation of my life. Learning the word incest sent me to the hospital, and I remember the smell of salt water as they treated me for asthma, as the doctors fought for reasons to explain my inability to breathe. They wouldn’t claim I had PTSD until I was twelve, after an attempt at suicide ended with me in a psych ward chanting “just breathe” under what little breath I had left for over a week because I had no concept of anxiety other than when it gripped my throat in its vise. Perhaps, that is why my memories of those early years are closely associated with smell, I was moved about from place to place at such an astonishing rate I had to remember my home by its essence. Unfortunately, when I catch the scent of home on a whimsical piece of wind, it never reminds me of my mother, for I don’t remember the way she smelled.