It’s mother’s day.
You’ve been gone nearly a year and I still can’t figure how to love you. I promised myself that someday I’ll be able to think of you and smile, but I have yet to get to a point where I can even think of you without being angry. Or sad. Or feeling sorry for you. I feel awful because I mean, it’s not like you didn’t try. You just didn’t try hard enough. It’s not like you didn’t love me - you just loved your fantasies more. And most days I feel like for as long as you let him hurt me, hurt you, well, it doesn’t really matter how much you loved me.
I’m so fucked up, mom. And I don’t know if it really is your fault, or if it’s just easier for me to blame you.
I want to love you, and I mean that. And I’m sorry I couldn’t even bring myself to say it even though it wasn’t true, so at least you’d have had the satisfaction of hearing it just once before your coma faded into dying. It’s just so hard, you know?
I think I might have loved you when I was little, in that way that all little children are wired to love their mothers. What I wouldn’t give to have that back.
I don’t know when or if I will be able to love you.
But I think I am ready to thank you.
Thank you for trying to be someone to me, even after I pushed you away as violently as I did. After every vile thing I said to you and all the times I, out of anger and resentment, made you cry yourself to sleep, you still woke up the next morning and tried again. That counts for something.
Sincerely (very, very sincerely),
There is a woman living above us who cries at night.
Always during the quietest hours, like she’s waiting for the right moment. Her sobs seep into the atmosphere like the sound of swaying trees - gentle sighs and haunting moans. Nothing too dramatic - just this aching, insistent mourning, profound in its subtlety.
It’s been nearly every night since we moved in. It’s become as normal as the sounds of traffic outside and as routine as the pair of ravens who announce themselves out the window at 6:45ish every morning. She’ll start up at round 1AM and fade in and out for the next three hours. Sometimes me and Nix just stay up and listen.
“What do you think is wrong with her?” He asked a few days ago.
“That’s how my mom would sound after I’d tell her I hated her.”
“Did you tell her that every night?”
“May as well have.”
I told my mom all kinds of awful things and I remember hearing her through the crack in her bedroom door at night, just like this miserable woman above me. Crying every night, like she just watched the universe die in the reflection of her own eyes.
The first time I saw her I was outside waiting at the bus stop when she came and shut her second floor window. She looks like she could be a really old looking 34 or a really young looking 55. She’s got dark, thin, limp hair that looks like it used to be worthy of a shampoo commercial - like flowers, long after their prime. Weak, wilted, damp. And her eyes sort of droop like hound dog eyes, trapped in perpetual melancholy. I hoped she’d look at me so that maybe I could smile and wave at her and try to get her to smile and wave back, but her gaze stayed fixed on the fog. Then she sunk back into the darkness of her room.
It’s Jonathan’s birthday.
21 years of survival. Wicked shit, man! Congratulations on another year of getting by. You’re getting better. You really are. Maybe you don’t believe me now, but in ten years you will.
Hope you had an awesome day with everyone.
We’ll meet up soon.
Melinda came into my hospital room this morning. Nixon had just left - he was gonna stay but I insisted he and the rest of our friends go find themselves some breakfast.
“Back already?” I’d been about to say when the door pushed opened. Then Melinda poked her head in - always, always, always covered in a gray knit cap, dark curls tumbling from underneath - and I felt the air get sucked out of my lungs. Closing the door behind her, she leaned uneasily against a wall.
“…Hi.” She said, and I stared. “Um… I’m sorry.” One of her hands clutched her purse like she was trying to keep it from escaping. “Maybe I shouldn’t have come. But, uh… I had to. Are… are you okay?”
It was involuntary, but I felt the angles of my face shift into one of those “wtf?” faces people make when someone asks a dumbass question.
When I didn’t answer, she said “Well I just figured I’d ask. Just, listen. When I heard what happened… and that it was because of me… I had to come see for myself that you were all right. And I had to tell you that it’s my fault Nixon was keeping things from you. I asked him to do it. Please don’t be mad at him.”
“….I know. He told me.”
Man, her eyes lit up when I spoke. Not in like a gleeful way or anything, but I think she was relieved. Like she wasn’t expecting me to sound the same. She came and sat next to me where Nixon had been sitting for the night, but she shifted the chair away a little, and pressed herself against the backrest.
“I shouldn’t have asked him. I knew he’s your best friend. I knew you guys don’t keep anything from each other. Really, Madison, I should have known better than to-“
“Jesus, Melinda, would you shut the fuck up?”
Her eyes went big and black and she forced her mouth shut.
I said, “The shittiest part about all this isn’t that you told him to keep it a secret, or that he kept it a secret. Hell, the shittiest part isn’t even the fact that I accidentally hung out with a serial killer-slash-rapist. It’s the fact that you were right. Nixon was right. I mean…I can’t imagine what I’d have done if I knew you were still thinking about me. If I knew you still…” I swallowed, then sighed. “If I knew you still loved me.”
Tears welled up in her eyes and I could see her willing herself not to let them pool over.
“You thought I’d stopped???”
“The last time I saw you, you were running out the door screaming for somebody to help you. The last time I saw you, Melinda, I was seconds away from…from becoming my father. From hurting you. How could any girl still love me after that?”
“Gosh, Madison.” She wiped her hand over her face, then massaged her temples. “When someone hurts you, no matter how badly, you don’t just STOP loving them. Love doesn’t just go away. I mean don’t get me wrong - after what you did, there’s no chance in hell that we’ll ever get back together. But I’m always gonna love you. And I’m always gonna wish things were different.”
I nodded. “Me, too.”
“…I’m really glad you’re alive.”
“Madison, can I…” shifting around uneasily, she picked at her fingernails. “Can I tell you something?” I started to answer, but she interrupted. “You have to promise to listen. Don’t cut me off. Just, just hear what I have to say.”
“…Of course. Go ahead.”
Then she smoothed out her blouse and said sternly, “I think you and Nixon should be together.”
“Melinda, what the fuck!”
“Hey! You promised! You promised you’d listen!” So she took my hands in hers - probably knowing that her skin touching mine was the only possible thing that could get me to shut up. “Look. I know how you feel about the idea of it. I know you think it’s weird because he’s your best friend and-“
“Not to mention that I’m not gay, but I don’t guess that’s relevant.” Sarcasm.
“…He loves you, Madison. And I think the reason why you’re always such a dick to him when he tries to take care of you is because you don’t want to deal with the fact that you love him, too.”
Lowly I said, “Get out of my head, Melinda. I don’t need this right now.”
“But that’s just the thing. You do. You need Nixon. And you need him to love you the way I can’t. He’s good for you. When you’re with him, I know that you’re safe. I know that he knows how to care for you and if there’s anybody on the planet who can save you from yourself, it’s him. So when I heard you ran off… and that he wasn’t with you…I feared for you life. And with good reason, apparently. And I knew that the only way I can ever rest easy knowing you’re in the best hands possible - in the hands of someone who can lift you up when you’re at your worst, instead of having to run away to safety - is when the two of you are together like you’re supposed to be.”
That’s when things started to hurt. I mean, the physical pain had always been there. But it wasn’t until Melinda said all this shit to me that my insides started to lurch and my chest suddenly felt hollow and my whole body throbbed to the rhythm of my heartbeat.
She wasn’t done, though.
“And Nixon needs you, too. You’ve never seen him when you’re not around. You’ve never seen him when you’re in danger. It changes who he is. I mean it changes all your friends, just because that’s how you guys are, but Nixon especially. These past few days it’s seemed like everything good about him just evaporated. There was no pride, no compassion, no optimism…all of those wonderful things that make Nixon Nixon…they leave with you. He needs you. And Madison, I know you’re not gay, and you’re not bisexual, but neither is he-“
“…Right. And…maybe he’s your exception. Just…think about it, okay? I promise, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Just try it. Give it a week. Talk to your therapist about it.”
“…You can go now, Melinda. Thanks for coming.”
And then she left.
I’m in the recovery room. Steven and Julius and Franky are knocked out on the couches in the lobby. Nixon is leaning forward in his chair next to my bed, resting his head on my pillow. He’s asleep. We told the doctors that he’s my adoptive brother so they wouldn’t kick him out when visiting hours were over. One nurse caught on, though.
“Brothers don’t look at their brothers the way you’re looking at him.” She’d said to Nixon. He stammered and stuttered and tried to argue but she shook her head and said, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell.” Then she left.
Everything hurts and I don’t know if it’s all in my head, or if my body really did take that much of a beating over these last few days. It’s all a blur, really. Or at least most of it is. I remember sweating and being horrified and I remember asphalt and smoke and not being able to hear anything over my heartbeat.
Apparently I stumbled out into the street from a raggedy-ass motel room, clutching at strangers’ jackets and begging them, “Help me, call 911, please… he was gonna let me die, you have to help…” After being stepped on and over by most passerby, someone - a 55 year old woman named Margaret Angler - finally stopped to help. When I came to in the hospital, I got to speak with her.
“My brother was a drug addict.” She told me. “When I was fourteen, his body was found in an ally. He’d asked people for help but no one stopped. I saw my chance to make things right, and I took it.” I was too tired to thank her, but Nixon did it for me. He hugged her and cried on her shoulder and she cried, too.
That Murphy Mouse kid? He was a serial killer and rapist. I say “was” because he’s dead now. He’d prance around the US on janky buses, traveling until he found himself some fucked up kid like me, befriend them… he’d OD them on heroin or meth or whatever he could get his hands on and then rape them and leave them to die.
“Ugh… Murphy Mouse, this shit is wack, man. I’m already coming down.” I remember lying stretched out on my back in the twin bed - it smelled like piss and mold.
“Oh, word? Don’t move, bro. I’ll take care of you.”
I heard him shuffling around and I felt his weight sink in next to me, followed by the stinging slide of the needle piercing a vein.
“There you go.”
I knew right away things weren’t quite right.
“Wait…what, what did you just shoot me with?”
“Shhh.” I felt his weight shift as he reached over me to turn the lamp off.
“What are you doing?”
To be honest, I don’t remember much after that. All I know for sure is at some point I remembered my pocket knife and I shoved it through his rib cage as hard as I could. I honestly wasn’t trying to kill him. I just needed to get away. I have welts on my wrists where I was restrained. Bruises on my lower back. Red rings around my throat. His DNA was in me. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet but I’m sure I have years of PTSD to look forward to.
“Self-defense” should hold up pretty nicely in court. I mean, the DNA they scooped out of my ass is the same as was found at like 13 other murder scenes, and the same as was found on two other survivors. Maybe I’ll get to be like a hero or something. Maybe the president will shake my hand. Maybe I’ll get a medal and get to be on talk shows. That’d be kind of cool, right?
I’m typing with one hand because Nixon still hasn’t let go.
I dunno what he thinks might happen if he does. I guess maybe he fears I’ll run off again. Get myself killed for real.
I feel kinda sick thinking about it - just how close I came to really dying. Not just dying… not suicide or an accidental overdose or a freak accident… but being killed. At the will of someone else’s insanity. Without any control of my own. Just fear and regret and pain.
I wish I could remember what it felt like to kill him. As sick as it is, there’s always been a red-hot rage inside me that feels like it could only ever be satiated by taking someone’s life. Finally I’ve been able to do it, but all I can remember is how the blood looked on my hands. Not the sound of metal sliding through flesh, the vibrations of the blade sliding against his bones… or the way he might have gasped. The blank look I imagine he got in his eyes.
I missed all of that.
I can’t recall ANY of it.
I remember fear and pain and blood and I remember how cold and rough the pavement was when I collapsed in the street but that’s it.
I wish I could remember it all. Every second of it. And I guess that sounds kinda fucked up, but considering that I’m probably going to spend the rest of my life having random, debilitating memories plague me in horrifying fragments without any warning… I just wish I could deal with it all now, you know? I feel fine now - I guess this is how I deal with shock - but what about tomorrow? Next month? Jesus fucking Christ. This ain’t gonna be fun.
I didn’t know how else to contact you. Please don’t be mad, but I had Steven hack into your blog. I can’t have you going around thinking that I was boning your ex girlfriend behind your back.
I ran into Melinda about a month and a half ago on the way to the metro station. All we did was talk about you. She wanted to know how you were doing. I told her that you were finally getting help. She wanted to stay updated, so we exchanged numbers and every week we’d met up and I’d tell her all about your progress. I wanted to tell you, Midge, but she made me promise not to. I mean considering what happened, can you blame her for not wanting you to know she was still thinking about you? On the day you found out, the “dinner” that we were supposed to get were some hotdogs at a freaking park. That’s it. That’s all. We were gonna meet up at a park, eat hotdogs, I was gonna tell her that you were finally starting to mellow out a little, and then we were gonna go our separate ways.
I would never intentionally hurt you, Madison. I never wanted to keep things from you. When she asked me to keep this a secret, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. She was scared for her life with you in it, and she deserved not to be. I weighed my options and I decided that keeping something from you was better than having you snap and hurt an innocent person.
I’m sorry. I should have told you. I should have told her I couldn’t keep this from you - my loyalties have only ever been to you and I honestly can’t believe I betrayed you like that. Even if you did snap, even if you did lose it, I could have stopped you. If there’s ANYBODY who could have stopped you, it was me.
I’m sorry. Please come back. I don’t know this “Murphy Mouse” kid, but somehow the thought of you prancing around with junkie strangers makes me a bit uneasy. Please? We all want you back. We want you safe. Even if you don’t wanna talk to any of us - especially me - just please come back. We’ll leave you alone. I’ll move out of our apartment. Just come back.
They reported me missing.
I’ve seen the fliers.
“Have you seen me?”
Height: 5’ 1 1/2”
Hair color: Red
Eye color: Light brown
Last Seen: Baltimore, Maryland, 10/10/12, wearing a dark gray cap, black hoodie, and torn jeans.
If spotted, do not approach. Call 911 or [Nixon’s #]
I’m honestly not completely sure where I am. When I left I just walked. Blew all the money in my pocket on buses going nowhere or everywhere. Been sleeping in bus stations. Hospital lobbies. I know what state I’m in - it’s not Maryland - because of the license plates everywhere…
I don’t want to be found.
My threat still stands.
If I see any of you - if any cops recognize me, whatever - this pocket knife is going straight into my throat.
Stay the fuck away.
I’ll come back when I’m good and ready.
I’ve been paling around with this kid called Murphy Mouse. He said, “The name’s Murphy Mouse. Not just Murphy, and not just Mouse. Gotta say them both together.” I dunno exactly how old he is but he could be like twenty, twenty one. He’s got stringy blond hair that reminds me of Eli, and his cadence of speaking reminds me of Steven. His eyes are sad. Like open seas are sad. But he smiles a lot.
“Where you headed, micro-man?” He was sitting across from me on the last bus when we met.
I looked up from under my hat.
“This bus don’t go to nowhere.”
“You runnin’ from somebody?”
“It was either this or stick around to watch my folks kill each other.”
“Yeah, man. So what’s got you? Don’t nobody just be travelin’ on these jank-ass buses ‘cause they visiting auntie and uncle or nuffin like that.”
“I just needed to think, I guess.”
“Yeah, I feel you. Who you leavin’ behind? A mom? A dad?”
“…Just some friends.”
“Damn, buddy. You got it rough.”
“…So, I have this ex girlfriend, right?”
“Ah, here we go.” He kicked his dirty sneakers up onto the seat beside me. I thought it was kinda gross but I kept quiet about it. “What, she cheat on you or somethin’? Goddamn, can’t trust bitches no way.”
“Nah, it wasn’t like that. She dumped me ‘cause I’m insane.”
“What kind of insane?”
“Batshit insane. And I mean honestly, I don’t blame her. No one does. We were good together for a while but…I wasn’t good for her. And I guess maybe in the grand scheme of things she wasn’t good for me, either. But I loved her, you know? More than I’ve ever loved anything. I ain’t been the the same since it went to hell.”
“So you left ‘cause of her?”
“I left ‘cause my best friend was seeing her behind my back.”
“Oh. Shit just got real.”
“You’re not kidding. And I didn’t know what to do, you know? There was this huge fight and we were shouting at each other and shoving back and forth and he kept telling me that he could explain, and you know what, dude??? I honestly don’t give a fuck if he was boning her or just giving her a ride to work every morning. Fact is, he knows how crazy I get. He knew what it would do to me. And I mean even if it was just something platonic…it’s the secret, you know? The fact that I didn’t know. And I weighed my options. It was either ‘leave’ or ‘do something I’ll horribly regret.’ So… here I am.”
“…I’m Murphy Mouse, by the way.” He touched the brim of his cap
“Fo’ sho’. Not just Murphy, and not just Mouse. You gotta say them both together.”
“…Cool. So uh…bad situation with your parents, huh?”
He huffed, then placed his feet back on the floor.
“Dad ain’t right in the head. Mom wouldn’t come with me.”
“Did you ever call the cops?”
“My dad is the cops.”
“…My dad used to be like that.”
The bus hit a bump and jostled us around a little. After we settled, I said “Yeah, he’s in prison now after he tried to kill my mom and me. I managed to call the cops on him and they busted down the door right before he smashed my face in.”
“Dang. That’s like some Criminal Minds shit, right there.”
“I know, right?”
We laughed. It was sick.
“Your mom doin’ okay now?”
“Oh. Nah. We stopped talking and then she died.”
“…Well I guess I’d better keep in touch with you, huh?”
I laughed again. “I’m Madison. Madison Delaney.”
Finally, we shook hands.
“Where you from, Madison?”
“DC and Maryland. DC, mostly. You?”
“Yeah, I been on the road a while.”
“Do you know where you’re headed?”
Murphy Mouse shrugged. For a while he was quiet, and stared out the window. The sun was coming up and it looked gross, obscured by stains and blotches on the glass.
“…I think I’m almost there. But I been sayin’ that for miles. Yo Madison, you need someone to team up with?”
There were so many reasons why that would be a shitty idea. I mean…weird-ass sketchy guy who doesn’t even have a real name? Not exactly the type of person I should be ‘teaming up’ with, right? But since when have I ever been concerned about making good decisions?
“That’s probably better than goin’ it alone, huh?”
“That’s what I’m sayin’, man.”
“You think we’ll be okay? Out here? Out there?”
“I dunno about ‘okay,’ but maybe less-bad. You ever been low, Madison?”
I wasn’t sure, but it totally seemed like there was some fine print in his tone. Implications. Something coded and covert.
“I think the better question is when was the last time I was high.”
Then he lowered his voice.
“…High on what?”
“Depends on what you got on you.”
Murphy Mouse grinned.
“Madison, I think we gonna be real good friends.
I’ve been feeling kinda okay lately.
Not super-duper awesome or anything, but…okay.
Neutral. Like I’m doing a backstroke or something, right on the water’s surface. Or, maybe that’s a horrible metaphor considering I can’t swim, but still.
I’ve been good to Nixon. I haven’t blown up at him or anything. I haven’t overreacted when he’s told me that I need to chill out or take a walk. I dunno what’s different or what changed. But there are times when I interpret that kind of stuff as him thinking I’m crazy or wanting me to shut up, and then there are times that I realize he’s just looking out for me. Trying to keep me and everyone around me safe. And I mean, he loves me, right? Why should I expect him to act any differently? Why should I expect for him to just sit back and let me set my life on fire?
I called all our friends. Told them I’m sorry for being such a dick lately.
Steven said, “You good, shawty. Just glad to hear you doin’ better.”
Franky said, “It’s about goddamn time. We’ve been so worried about you. Why didn’t you call sooner?”
Eli said, “It’s okay, little Midget. You just needed a little time, is all.”
Julius said, “You don’t need to apologize. I understand. I was never mad.”
Marco said, “So you’re doing better, then? Can I come visit you guys?”
The situation between me and all them had gotten…sick. And not “sick” in the way that means cool, amazing, awesome. “Sick,” like broken families are sick. Except usually in those situations, I guess - or, I know - everyone is sick on some level. But this? With my friends? It was just me. I never really talked about it, but Nixon made them promise not to speak to me anymore. Not until I was “better.” Not until I swallowed my pride and got the help I needed. He saw the damage I’d done to my relationship with Melinda, and I guess he knew it was only a matter of time before I wreaked the same havoc on everyone else. Reluctantly, they all agreed. And even though it hurt like a motherfucker, I guess it really was for the best.
The seven of us all got together casually for the first time in nearly two years - the only other time we’d all seen each other was when my mother was dying. But there we were, At The Pipe, by the old playground, just like old times. It was great. For the first time in a really, really long time, I was Madison again. And oh man, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so grateful to be alive. I know that sounds cheesy as hell but it’s true. This past week or so has been proof that the rest of my life doesn’t have to completely suck. Granted…it’ll probably suck most of the time because that’s just the psyche I got stuck with. But if I can remember that days like this - smiling, laughing, making jokes and not minding being the butt of someone else’s joke and talking way into the early morning hours - are possible, then…
I think I can deal with the suck.
I think maybe the suck won’t be so suckish in the long run.
gallopingtowardfreedom started following pencilaway
Madison says hi.
Jonathan also says hi.
And Steven says hi as well. :)
Grief sounds so intimate to me. It’s weird as hell. It sounds intimate, genuine, and honest. And those three things are so hard to come by in people. In retrospect, maybe that’s why I’d hurt my mom so much. It was easier to believe her when she was sobbing and screaming at me than it was when she was taking my hand, telling me she was sorry, asking me what I wanted for dinner. There’s so much room for deception. I could just never take her word for it. So I’d spit vitriol at her.
It’s easy to fake happiness, love, affection. But to hate someone is to be real.