the year

The day he turned 15, she was attacked by wolves in the parking lot of her son’s therapist.  The drive had been long, and when she looked in her rearview mirror, she found her son staring out the window, holding his hands praying.  She stepped out of her car when the wolves overtook her son.  Men were fixing tires and changing the oil in the nearby lot, but they couldn’t hear her cries over their noise.  A woman waited in her car but didn’t appear to want to help.  People were ordering their lunch in the McDonald’s drive-thru but didn’t seem to see.  

The biggest wolf, the one with the pale eyes, came from behind her and snagged her shirt while the other two clawed at her arms till she bled.  She danced around the lot for what seemed to be forever, but they had just wanted to play with her, they were bored.  Or maybe one had heard a voice and convinced the others of its scheme.  Perhaps they just had their usual bad thoughts.  

She walked into the therapist’s office holding her bleeding arms.  Her face collapsed into her trembling hands, and she cried out of exhaustion.  She left forty-five minutes later and drove north to eat crap food while her son sat next to her and turned 15.  The year where most young blossoms are getting permits and going to movies with friends.  The year of growth and possibilities.  But she sat grieving as he turned another year older yet seemed to stay the same.   

The year he turned 15 – every sound hurt her ears.  The lawn mowers, the closing of doors, that chip bag, her spoon against the bowl slurping up Rice Chex.  Even the gorgeous birds had a way of gnawing at her brain.  Some of the bird calls would make her wince and moan.  One day she chased blue jays out of the coconut palms; their territorial sounds stabbed at her eardrums.  She watched them soar up to the clouds with their excited calls.   Good riddance.  Then she’d go back to her hell to make her coffee and there she could even hear the sound of her forming tears. 

The year he turned 15 – they made it a habit of keeping shoes by their back door for sudden escapes.  Run quick, they did.  The neighbors probably thought they were playing chase, but they were running from his frenzy, his fury, his fuming, his fists.  Those fists that always landed on her arms.  Arms that became swollen and purple mixed with an odd charcoal gray.  But she had stopped reaching for the ice.  It was the year where toasters flew off the counters and where doors were torn off hinges as if by Hulk himself. 

She’d listen attentively and say all the right things, but she’d still get new marks by the end of the day.   What was wrong with her?  Would she ever get it right, this business of raising her complicated, miserable, yet beautiful son?  She still loved him though, and on a good day, she would play with the back of his hair.  Golden, wispy, slightly curled up hair.  She’d think.  Why is it dread instead of joy, looking at this man that’s still a boy?  And wonder.  Is love even enough?

And then mid-way through the year, he came after her with such rage, her arms abandoned her.  They were tired of the pain, so they just simply ran away.  It wasn’t her choice, of course, she had loved her arms.  It was all those desperate words and his sheer brute-force.  So she stood around with no arms, and when he went ballistic, he had no choice but to go for her face.  And by this point – she wished she was far out in outer space, floating about only hearing the sound of her heartbeat.  It would be a familiar sound.  

That year, she went half dead and was almost unrecognizable.  She stopped marveling at the black butterflies that slowly fluttered past.  And when the swans tried to drown each other, she didn’t interfere; she didn’t shed a tear.  She stopped buying orchids; they just didn’t take her breath away as they had.  She lost her spark – the whole damn world made her mad.  She chose to swim with the sharks than heed the lifeguard’s warnings.  Watch its shadow cruise past then place her broken hand on its fin and tell it to swim.  Look up to the blazing sun, be amazed and give everything up to Him.

 

 

she’ll be right

Please forgive my wandering mind, but I want to go to Australia.  Forget about the long flight, and watch the kangaroos with their dangling arms cross the street.  I want to smile at the way they say my name, Sheila.  Have an old Aussie take my scarred hand  and whisper, “How ya goin’ luv?”  Nod back.  If you only knew.

I want to go to a place where I can drink wine at lunch guilt-free.  Tour a vineyard near the coast and dream about buying an old villa.  Befriend the locals and whip up a mean spaghetti alla carbonara.  Watch my prosecco sparkle in its glass, and toast to the year I never had.  Listen to them laugh and think.  Isn’t this nice.

Go to a place where I bow to show respect, and I’m admired for being tall.  Drink loads of green tea and feel uber-relaxed because of all that L-theanine.  Touch the translucent screen with my fingertips, close the shoji.  Slip in the futon and sleep like never before.  Learn how to play the shakuhachi and delete the Deuter station on my Pandora.  I don’t need your music anymore.  Be so relaxed that I’ll defy gravity, so I’ll float and swim in the clouds.  And I’ll feel sorry that you can’t join me.

Go to a hidden forest and have the moss stain my vision green for days on end.  Hum the song “The Misty Mountains Cold” as I walk around for hours in sacred silence.  Go for a month-long stay in Bora Bora.  Be greeted with fresh pineapple, and then graciously tell them that I’m allergic to pineapple.  But I’ll dream of eating pineapples when I sleep over the water and grow delirious with their sweetness.  The glass sea will be so breathtaking that I’ll forget how to cry.

Go to a red house with a pink door bathed in sunlight.  Walk inside, leave the door open, and not faint when I marvel at its beauty.  Flowers will adorn the counter and tabletops.   Heavenly bulbous flowers that would make the Queen of Hearts jealous, or at the very least, she’d want to know my secret for growing such massive flowers.  I wouldn’t tell her though.  She’d have a tantrum, but I would only laugh.  She wouldn’t; she couldn’t ever phase me.

I want to walk through the house, and run my fingers along the patched gossamer blue walls.  I’ve missed you.  Smell the lavender you sprayed a moment ago.  Hear the cardinal that always pecks at the door.  Poor thing, he’s confused, because the house is red.  Notice how much the carpet of pink around the pool has grown.  Wonder how the flowers fell so gracefully in the laps of the worn ballerina statues, and I’ll admire their patience.

Please forgive my wandering mind; I just want to be hopeful.  It’ll be different this time.  I close the pink door and pray.

momentary

Do you remember the seashore?  Do you remember the water?  How it cooled us, held us, renewed us that day on the shore.

That day where we escaped what we’re going through and just focused on the crests of foam breaking down as it came in twos, chasing each other; only to be crushed by the bigger waves that almost always followed.  It always seems to follow.  But for those few hours – we pretended that it would not.  We closed our eyes and felt the sun soothe us, we calmed our trembling brains.  We breathed in the salt air – tasted it on our lips.  Breathed it in again and held our breath.  Is this what peace feels like?  Stillness.  Roaring in our ears.

Opposite of  being lost in the fire where our whispers turn to shouts.  Remembering all the battles, but the scars we’ve lost count.  Fleeing from the panicked, pale creature with the crazed blue eyes and drowning out the threats to die, his sighs, the cries.

Perhaps that is why I liked it there,  I’m nothing compared to that vast place.  In that place, I was only between the sand and the sun;  I wasn’t an emotional stress ball for my autistic son.

That day, I reclined and watched you play in the water.  The sun sprayed off your back and you looked happy.  The possibilities were endless and you sang with the mermaids in my dreams that night.  I watched the seagulls choreograph a flight to the violins that played in my head.  Those beautiful violins.  Is this what mercy feels like?  Those moments, that place.

 

 

snippet of her

She could have been the mother of a dozen girls; all with raven hair and cheeks dusted with the pale pink sheen that left her countenance ages ago.  Lovely, airy, gentle girls with names like: Polly, Emmaline, and Mae; with giggles in the morning, books in the afternoon, and Rooibos tea in the evening.  They would love her and show her affection, and she would know they cared.  Know that she was their mother.  Unlike how she felt today: invisible, worthless, stranded, and forgotten.

She could have been the mother of an army of girls with pigtails and curls, petticoats, and dolls.  Stupid, perfect dolls with porcelain skin and fingers, so delicate she would hold her breath to touch, just to touch their dainty fingers.  She would cry herself to sleep not knowing the wedded and domestic future of her unborn, imaginary army of girls.  Cry over grandchildren she would never see, never love, never hold.  She would mourn this loss over and over until her heart broke into a million tiny pieces, scattering and chasing each other  while blaming themselves for the break.  If only her heart had been stronger, tougher, maybe she wouldn’t have failed so miserably.

This mother, this very same mother, looking past her broken son, in a puddle of his own urine, with stained straw hair and with eyes, seemingly so dark, she couldn’t see the blue.  With eyes that pained her with every blink she could scarcely look at him as he waited on what she did not know.  She could have been a good mother if only her son could have given her a chance.  But it escaped him, he was lost in his own world.  His world filled with chaos, destruction; senselessness that cruelly clashed with her idyllic, impossible thoughts.   Her impossible thoughts.  

They would never understand, she’d think.  This mother with guilt so alive it walked beside her clutching her hand, would collapse under impossible pressure countless times.  She would drown daily with not a life guard or life preserve in sight.  They would just look at her with disapproving eyes – eyes that didn’t know the story.  The story of love and hope that in one minute would turn into duty and despair.  They would not know the doctor that said her son was haunted by ghosts or know all the medicines, the little colorful pills that turned against him and caused him rage.  They would never know the pain, not ever, even if explained.  She was sick of explaining.

This mother would crawl into bed and pray for forgiveness.  This woman would dream of her army of girls, all fancy and sweet, singing lullabies.  These tiny angels would dance with ribbons of pink and peace would overcome her until she was reduced to tears.  She  would feel happiness in this dream;  this gift, this blessing of a dream.  It was always enough to give this woman a fragment, a drop of hope that the next day could be that day.  That day where she would reach her son and her son would live in her world.  That day where neither anxiety nor frustration dwelled.  That day where her thoughts were not so impossible and laughter cradled, rocked, and soothed the both of them, mother and son.

She didn’t need an army of daughters – she just needed her one son.  

My one son,” she would cry and release to the air.  That had to be enough.