Child

Sometime I think

Most days

The only real reason

I haven’t gone

Is because

I’m a mom

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The America We Live In: Explaining Hate to My Eight Year Old

It took a really long time for me to decide whether or not I wanted to discuss Charlottesville, VA in regards to racism, fascism, and Nazism to my eight year old. Until he got up this morning and I was about to read Percy Jackson as I usually do, ( I eat much earlier and he out eats me by about four times the amount so we get a lot of reading done at breakfast), and instead I started talking about racism and the Alt-Right/KKK gathering in Charlottesville, VA that ended in the death of one woman and the wounding of some nineteen others  due to a car plowing into a peaceful protest, on top of the two policemen killed.

This is not okay. It is not okay to come to a college campus and march with torches and promote hate, the same type of hatred many of our grandfathers or great grandfathers fought against in WWII. And they chose to begin this march on a college campus because the educated youth is who they need to target, or to get on their side. This hate is here in our America, being denounced nationwide by Democrats and Republicans alike. However, I felt it impossible not to speak to my child because the one person immediately not denouncing it was the President of the United States. Immediately, I felt his remarks lacked any real remorse or committed stance that this was racism at is core, terrorism perpetrated by the same people who are raving about our President. Violence on all sides? What the fuck? David Duke even specifically said he was happy about the President’s statements and how they did NOT call the Alt-Right out for being terrifying and malicious in their intent. In fact, it took two days for Trump to say anything remotely calling the rally what it was; which he almost immediately countered with a statement about the Alt-Left and their violence.

Wait a minute…The Alt-Left? Does he mean the peaceful protesters who were there protesting the KKK rally-I mean Alt-Right rally? Perhaps he means the protesters who engaged back in the violence the rally brought? However few who did engage, ultimately, what the groups stand for at their core are what’s making this such a high stakes discussion. There was a group Unite the Right, protesting the removal of General Robert E. Lee statue from a park open carrying guns and torches, and an even larger group protesting this group, protesting what was essentially a whole lot of members supporting white supremacy.

There was so much information, so much darkness, that I didn’t even begin to know how to talk to my kid in a coherent and eight year old meaningful way. When I started explaining, however, he knew more than I gave him credit for, such as Nazis are bad. He already knew, just from picking up conversation elsewhere, (not sure where because for a long time I kept politics out of the home–until the debates) that Trump was a bully. He knew about the Civil War and who freed the slaves, (albeit for maybe not the most altruistic reasons), and knew that there are people who discriminate based on how you look, who you love, and what your sex is (whether it be physical or otherwise). I don’t shy away from conversation with my son about “controversial” topics. So we discussed the America we live in, and the America we stand for, and what we can do as humans to promote the message of acceptance. It’s really more of an understanding, not just an acceptance, and certainly not tolerance, of how difference in ethnicity, religion, gender, sex, relationships, family makeups…how all this difference makes us human and amazing. I mean, ultimately, most of us want the same basic things: love, understanding, friendship, and meaning within our lives.

I did tell my child what went on and why and how it was handled by different people. He watched Seth Meyers reaction, which was maybe my favorite of the nighttime hosts. And he took it in and asked a couple of questions. And then he was hungry. He wanted me to read Percy Jackson and The Last Olympian, a story where it seems like the bad might prevail, but the hero always wins in the end.

We can’t bury the bad in the world, nice it over for our kids. This is the world they will inherit, and I would like my child to learn from the mistakes of the past. Ultimately, as Americans, I feel that we will be learning a lot about the formation of protest groups and the rally cry of the usurping of our rights. I have never in my life seen this amount people out to protest such things as healthcare as I have in the past few months and it is both sad that it needs to be done, yet hopeful that people are standing up and demanding to be treated better. I am hopeful that more people will educate their kids on what it means to be an American versus the innate hatred that comes with white supremacy, or any hate group for that matter.

Trump has emboldened hate groups. After the announcement that he was, to the chagrin of many, going to become the 45th President of the United States, I wrote this: Trump Gave Hate A Platform . I feel that it is still relevant, if not more so in the wake of the white supremacist march. Speak out. Educate. Explain. I am a single working mother; I won’t be at the marches or the protests, but I won’t be silent.

The Day The Darkness Comes

I’m writing again, working on something I found in an old composition notebook. (I have an obsession with these, specifically the black and white because black and white). It’s rough and I don’t normally ever work on anything chapter related. However, this was worked out in my head years ago. It’s dark and filled with angst because I myself am still filled with existential, (and I suppose regular old) angst. There is much editing to be done. I need to know if this is, despite not having all of the story revealed, even somewhat coherent. Really, it needs to be torn apart by someone who can edit, but I live with an eight year old and have become very awkward and reclusive. Read on at your own risk.

CHAPTER 1 – IN THE HOSPITAL

My mother’s dead and my father is gone. I am a ghost in this life, locked in this hospital, crayons, paper, and the night terrors my constant companions. I can’t remember the last night I woke up normal, the last morning I wasn’t strapped to a sweat soaked bed, my throat raw from screaming. I can’t remember the last day my skin wasn’t burning, the black tattoos etched into my skin a fire of movement, the parting gift my father gave to me before he disappeared. I thought the pain would end once the tattoos healed, but it doesn’t because these are not those kind of tattoos. They are never still, moving to different places, words that don’t make sense, new symbols forming and reforming from my back to my leg, my arm to my face, each one a new brand from a burning poker. And every night, the dream and the pain and the screaming until my throat is raw and I’m swallowing blood, spitting blood onto my pillow. It doesn’t matter how hard I scream, no one comes.

They tell me in this kind of mental hospital, someone is always screaming.

Nurse Betty gave me my first set of crayons when I arrived eight years ago on my eighth birthday. She said they could help me communicate better to the staff that doesn’t know ASL. She disappeared after that, the only beacon in this hell that is my life.

—-

The days are a haze of drugs, terrifying nonsensical visions mixing with the memories of happiness and family. I am a lifer here in this facility, someone commonly referred to as a lost cause. Dr. Strong thinks I don’t understand him beyond my lack of hearing, gave up on therapy years ago after having been unable to get me to interact with anyone. But I understand their lips, I know the way they look at me when I wander into the common room, as they watch me eat their tasteless food because I don’t want to have the feeding tube forced in me again, the way they shake their heads as I draw the characters in my dreams, the elfin image of an unknown girl filling pieces of paper, my father’s face and hands, my beautiful mother who used to make me pancake faces with blueberries and strawberries and bananas and whip cream. I draw her the way she was when I found her hanging from the beam in the garage, the tears still wet on her cheeks. I draw the monster in my dreams who is perpetually changing form, clawing his way out of a black vortex, teeth and tongue and black eyes hungry.

The people here think I am crazy; I know I am.

—-

Mornings are difficult, the way the two orderlies unstrap me from the bed like I am not a living person but a thing, the looks of disgust and the the conversations about me. I catch words like filthy animal, inhuman, fucked up freak; I read them as they discuss how some people should just be shot because what kind of life is this, the way we have nothing but crazy in our heads. Sometimes they discuss their sexual conquests, they talk about fucking the patients that are so zoned out on drugs they are unable to fight back.

These are the people taking care of us.

They are rough, but they don’t try anything with me. Names, a little bit of shoving, they make sure I get my teeth brushed and someone showers me sometimes, makes sure I put on clean clothes and take my pills. My body is kept alive.

I spend my days drawing in my room, living in my head. Nurse Betty initially gave me the crayons to help me communicate, but I wouldn’t know what to say even if someone tried to push past my defenses.

Nurse Betty gave me the only escape outside of my fucked up head I can count on.

—-

Every evening I am given a strong sedative in the hopes that I will sleep through a night. An orderly straps me to the bed, leather around my wrists and ankles, because they don’t take chances after the first time I tried to make the dreams stop. And every night I hold on to consciousness for as long as I can until my eyes close and I am eight again, tiny in stature and black hair mussed up every which way. My mother has picked out a red T-shirt with some type of cartoon character, green turtles that look human and hold weapons, black shorts and black and white sneakers. My mother is front of me in the middle of baking something, flour on her pale cheeks, white blonde hair pulled into a messy ponytail at the nape of her neck. She looks up at me with her green eyes and smiles and she is so perfect.

We are in the kitchen, a breeze from the open window over the sink blows hair into my eyes and I blink. Just a moment passes, and even in dream time it is too short the way the kitchen is gone and we are in the garage and my mother is hanging there, and I am watching my mother’s hands form the words I love you, her mouth turned up but her eyes filled with tears. And then my father is drawing on me with something and the doctors have told me it was my father tattooing me because that is what he did, owned a tattoo and piercing studio, but I am eight and this isn’t okay and he is terrified, murmuring words I can’t read off his lips, nonsense to my eyes and I am crying. There is a flash of terror on his face as he turns his head, and the momentary image of a swirling black void, the lack of oxygen and an arm, pale and scarred, long bony fingers with razor sharp nails like knives reaching out for me, slicing through my palm as I back away and run, older now, me as I am.

I am strapped down and I don’t know if I’m dreaming or awake, something sticky and painful in the palm of my hand, throat raw and I am coughing and it’s too much, bile and half digested food come up and I am choking on my vomit, turn my head as my insides come out until I can finally breathe, knowing someone is in the corner watching me, eyes glinting in the darkness.

CHAPTER 2 – THE GIRL IN THE CORNER

The lights switches on and I close my eyes from the sudden assault to my sense, steady my breathing, wonder when I am going to wake up for real. So many times I think I am awake just to wake up again and again in this nightmare. This is my life. This has been my life as long as the memories of happiness, the smiling faces and family fun unreal in my brain, just a few chapters from a book I read a long time ago.

My hand hurts and the taste in my mouth is terrible, the stomach acid burning my raw throat, the smell and feel of my sick in my mouth and all over the side of my face, in my hair, making me feel the need to be sick all over again.

I can’t be awake because her face is still here, is over me now, hair so black it is almost blue, pointed ears that are not real sticking up through the mass of her hair, abnormally large, round blue eyes and thin red lips saying something. Her face is so pale and so beautiful I can’t stop staring, thinking there hasn’t been any different characters in my dreams ever, knowing that I have drawn this face over and over again anyway. I look until the burning on my skin is too much and I am writhing in my bed in an effort to ease the pain, eyes closed waiting for the changes to settle on my skin, waiting for this new torture from the beautiful face to disappear, taking with it the momentary sense of something different in my life.

The biting of the straps eases and suddenly I am falling, writhing on the floor, can feel the vibrations of noise coming out of my mouth and the pain gets so bad.

It’s all there is.

—-

There are hands shaking my shoulders and I open my eyes because it must be morning.

She is above me and her lips are moving, but I’m too exhausted to focus. I’m pretty sure she’s trying to pull me up but I don’t know why.

She is staring at me and shaking her head, hand by her mouth and green eyes wide.

She lets me go and grabs a piece of paper and crayon and I yawn, exhausted and stinking of vomit, think I have finally officially lost my marbles completely.

She holds up the paper. WE NEED TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!

I stare at the words she written and know that it is not possible. I have not been out of here for eight years. People would stare at me, the deaf mute covered in tattoos scared of his own shadow. No, I can’t leave.

She shakes her head again and goes back to writing, black hair falling into her face. She is young, and as I wake up and become more coherent, I see that her ears are just ears, not strange and pointed like I saw in my haze of pain. She’s dressed like an orderly in blue scrubs and I wonder if she’s new, if she’s real or if this is still just another messed up dream. I rub my head hating everything about my brain, everything about this life and how I can’t even tell the difference between real and imaginary.

My head aches and my palm is stinging, blood dripping from a long gash running across the length of my hand, my skin still irritated after the night, and all the screaming makes me cough and I am throwing up again on the floor, retching the last of the bile in my stomach and she is holding my hair.

WE ARE LEAVING NOW is flashed in front of my face when I can sit up on my own, bold letters in red crayon, startling on the white paper and she drops it to the floor, puts her arm around me and half carries, half drags me out the open door and into the dimly lit hallway. I try to struggle, to cry out, but she is stronger than me.

It is empty save for a custodian outside the locked ward and I watch her speak to this man, his stringy brown hair pulled back out of his lined leather face and when he nods and smiles, rotten teeth and the stench of dead meat are on his breath, she smiles back at him and we move away.

We walk out into the lobby, walk right past the night nurse and the intake area, and into the night. A thousand different smells surround me, a slight breeze against my skin and this is not how I remember the outside, the vehicles so different, something I’ve only ever seen on the TV, the sky so vast and dark. Tears stream down my face and I can’t remember the last time I cried, and my ability to make sense of the situation and these feelings is just not something I can do.

I can feel the strange girl breathing next to me, the vibrations of her mumbling, and I just allow her to drag me down the sidewalks and down back alleys, unable to take in all that surrounds me, but trying my best to see the buildings we pass, lit windows and the streetlamps, cars in so many different colors and the different people that somehow both avoid and ignore us at the same time. It’s like no one sees us, a feeling that I am used to inside, and I take in their hair colors, the browns and blonds and reds and greens, the way they hold hands and smile, every person dressed in a way I’ve never seen, grateful that I seem invisible to them.

I am directed down gray pavement stairs and we slip through small crowds of people, through a door that seems to appear out of nowhere and we are alone, crossing the expanse of a dark tunnel, a thousand odors I don’t recognize mixing with human excrement and sweat and grease, the feel of damp earth and cold brick opening to a stuffy room lit by a lone white light tucked in the corner.

She lays on the floor on a filthy blanket, motions me down next to her and as hard as I fight to stay awake, exhaustion gets the better of me. I know it won’t last long before seeing the innocent child I was, every night my mom hanging from the noose over and over.

The dream begins the same, but it is entirely different. I follow someone new into my house. I follow the girl who looks like the girl from the hospital, but isn’t, her ears pointed and eyes too big and round, skin too pale and perfect, and I can feel the magic surrounding her as she tells me to see through the glamour. She is dressed strange, black clothes and colorful tattoos that are blurry on her skin, and her black hair is different, streaked through with white and shaved on the sides. Black boots are laced up to her calves over the skin tight black pants and sword slung at her side. She radiates power.

“I know it hurts,” her lips tell me, “but we need you. I need you. Your father needs you. He trusted me, and I can’t let him down anymore than I already have. I am Emer. You need to wake up now.”

She is staring at me through the dim light of the room and I can’t help the chill running through my body.

CHAPTER 3 – WE NEED A NEW PLAN

We’re fucked, completely and totally fucked. Kalen has been gone for eight years and that was never part of the plan. He was supposed to contact me after the boy was marked, give me a lead on where Reid was hidden. It took me eight years to find his damn halfling son and in that time I fear the child’s been rendered useless. Reid’s human doctor said he was a deaf mute suffering from delusions and acute paranoia brought on by schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that he has completely disassociated himself from the outside world. The doctor said he lives completely and totally in his head. What that translates into is that he’s a halfling who has been on the wrong side of the veil while being fed harmful synthetic drugs for too long. It means the markings to hide him were very clearly drawn too hastily, as Kalen didn’t even get the chance to bind them. They move on his skin while he sleeps and it was impossible to watch last night as he screamed and cried before I was able to drag him out of that hellhole. Kalen’s child has lived eight long years with these creatures who have done nothing but harm him further.

Kalen, where have you gone?

Okay. I need a plan. A new plan. Eight years to find him, eight years for the Darkness to search, to lash out in his dreams, something I didn’t even know was possible. I wrapped the cut on his hand, knowing it is nothing compared to what the Darkness will do if they physically get a hold of Reid.

I have wielded sword and bow, have fought tirelessly for my Queen and even denounced the light to keep Reid and Kalen safe, to keep us all safe, but I fear it was all for nothing.

He is skin and bones on the cold floor, curled into himself and stinking of vomit and sweat. The markings are peaceful for the moment, his limp, greasy black hair standing out against his skin. The dark circles under his eyes speak of sleepless nights and iron poisoning, and I think of all the time we missed with this child as he aged, all the time that was taken from him the day the Darkness came.

CHAPTER 4 – HOW TO EXIST

For the first time in years there is no one to feed me drugs and shuffle me around and everything is wrong. My heart is beating so hard it’s going to kill me. I’m going to die on the floor of a filthy room with a stranger. Sweating, vomiting, I want her to take me back. I can’t live out here…I reach for her, I sign, “Take me back,” over and over and over…

—-

Awake. Asleep. Pain. Laying in my soiled clothes, covered in the stench of my bodily functions, dying in a puddle of piss and pain.

And that’s all I have. I spend hours writing, and I write some total shit. But I’ve been writing so long I wouldn’t exist without the outlet or escape it provides me.

The Claustrophobia of Death

I am terribly afraid of two things in life: commitment and confined spaces. Both of these fears probably stem from my childhood; you know the author of all those mystery romance books they turned into blockbuster movies, by T.S. Truelove? She’s had like, ten books on the NY Times Bestseller list, for like ten years straight? Well, she’s also my mother, and no matter what her agent said, she wasn’t just closely guarding her privacy. Despite her successes and wealth, she had become increasingly agoraphobic through the years. By the time I made it to high school, she had quit leaving the house. Period. Drama was a huge part of my life, and I was good. I was the star in so many of the plays, but the last play my senior year was more than that, more than just me as the lead, because I also wrote the thing. It was also the last play my mother had the chance to attend, which would have been her first, and instead she locked herself in her bedroom in the stupid mansion like some reclusive star protecting her privacy. She never saw me perform, not once. Not live. Maybe I’m just blaming my mom and my weird, lonely childhood for my current phobias and lack of social life. I will say I haven’t been back to the house in years. And as I open the door, it’s like some sci-fi relic, the decaying remnants of money and fame decimated by the mental illness that stole my mother and never gave her back. Stepping inside, it’s like the walls are closing in, the large space compressing, and it’s difficult to breathe.

“I’m on fire!” – Caolan (aka Smalls), 8 Year Old Gamer

As I sit here, shades open, the computer sitting at the bar in my kitchen playing the new Rancid album, the shouts and laughter of two rambunctious eight year old best friends playing Plants VS Zombies in the next room, I know that my life is exactly where I never, ever imagined it would be, and that this is the closest to happy I’ve maybe ever been. As a kid, I just always assumed I’d move to New York City and become a starving writer working at a shit job. It turns out that to make this happen, you really need this thing called ambition, and I don’t exactly have that quality in spades. I guess I’d like to think it’s not that I’m not ambitious, but that it just wasn’t the reality that I really wanted, instead more an ideal that would never live up to the dream I’d set in my head. Turns out, there are a lot of things in life that we build up so much, the reality can never compare, thus the death of dreams. I’ve always called this idea the Problem of Christmas. Think about it: months of time and energy and money and thought spent for like an hour, if not less, where we spend a few minutes together buying into the idea of consumerism and trying not to show our dissatisfaction when the people who are supposed to know us best, get us something that proves they have no clue what we like and vice versa. Minutes that have been built up over months time; how can this ever live up to the ideal? Now, I’ve made my peace with Christmas and the whole season, but that’s something for another day. My points even elude me on most days, but what I’m trying to get at is the idea that plans don’t always work out, paths lead to completely different places, and for me, it’s this amazing idea that I’ve been on this crazy, random journey that led me right back to the place where I first felt comfortable, first felt like the me I have become. Home has come when I was least expecting it. A child’s laughter. Reading Harry Potter and Percy Jackson aloud. Watching The Goonies and The Princess Bride and Stand By Me and witnessing my child falling in love the way I did. The highs made higher by the lows and the depressions.

It is the unexpected I’ve come to fall in love with, the little moments that make up the vast portions of life. The sound of two best friends, laughing and shouting as they play video games, while I sit sipping coffee, knowing how damn lucky I am to just recognize these moments, when some days, it’s difficult to see past the shit/depressing/stress insert negative adjective here stuff.