I still remember the deserted hallways of childhood, gutted rooms—emotional outbursts from a mother who had more of a relationship with a heroin needle than me. During her succumbed moments, I roamed the building peeling off chipped paint and wallpaper. Sometimes venturing outside to find the drunks huddled next to the fire, rubbing their hands while their deformed red-veined noses dripped. A junkie’s child—guilt slowly packing in arteries from the anger I felt toward my mother. For all I know, my father could have left because of her destructive behavior. But I didn’t want to think that way, since it would mean he deserted me too.
Adolescence blended into adulthood. I still search for parts of me I left in abandoned buildings—parts that built the armor coat I wear now. My relationship with my mother ceased when the drugs destroyed her body—chewing her from the inside out. Her body spread across the bed, eyes rolled back into her head, the color of dirty snow and marked by the incessant addiction that gnawed at her day and night. Sometimes I lay awake thinking about her troubled soul, wondering what pushed her toward drugs. Then anger sets in.
She was a mother—supposed to take care of me. My memories of her are like lemon drops—first sweet then they gradually sour. I wished her compulsions involved me.
Betty Baker’s mom did everything for her. Betty lived in a part of the neighborhood where the influential manicured their lawns and maids assisted with the household agendas. In the halls at school or outside, clean and sparkly Betty passed me with disgust on her face, appalled by my appearance and speech. If I ever overstepped the boundaries between us, she’d gather as many people as she could with her blazing words until an adult put out the fire. Betty did her damage—I became the dust mite of the school—an irritation to the rest.
Until freshman year when I watched Betty get into a Cadillac and disappear forever. Rumor had it that she knew the person driving the Cadillac. Those who knew her swore she'd never be associated with someone like that. Betty’s body was deposited in a corner of one of the many buildings I lived in—like a dust mite. I never shed a tear for her.
“Rocks don’t crack as easily as eggs.” This is what my first therapist told me the last time I slept with him. I think my distance finally got to him. He wanted the neediness of an orphan, not the coldness of ice. I went through the motions without offering up any part of me. I smiled when he indirectly insulted me and then went through the Yellow Pages for the next available therapist. Shrinks coexist with me, if only for when I need a little distraction from work.
Every inch of my home remains spotless while everything has its place and purpose. I fired several maids for dirty floorboards, dull brass faucets and uneven towels. Every dust particle, every uneven item makes my heart palpitate—my soul screams at the past. I don’t want my mother living with me—her filthy spirit contaminating things. My sanitized life is atonement for her sins.
But it’s the blackest of nights, when I sit in my car controlling the rush of excitement, when I feel the most pleasure. I stare into the endless blackness and methodically remove my rubber gloves, tossing them into a box. I step outside, place the box on the ground and set it on fire. The flames lick at the air as the box disintegrates. It’s the first part of cleanup. I can’t leave any evidence behind.
The kill is something that needs a before, during and after—a story told in my head. Afterwards, any connection to me is erased.
Short Stories and mysteries,Bea