She was screaming in the shower…moaning. I heard her cry from my makeshift bedroom when I was sleeping.
I rolled off of my mattress and stumbled towards the bathroom. The door was open, and the shower curtain lay in a heap on the cheap laminate floor. The water was still running. She was naked on the floor of the shower, sobbing. She was so wasted. Obviously, I didn’t consider her condition as “wasted” back then; however, high school later taught me how to explain her condition in that simple phrase. “Mom is so scary right now” is probably the idea that ran through my head at age eight. I wasn’t dumb, I was actually very mature for my age, and I was pretty good at grasping the concept that mommy drinking equals bad; however, it would take years for me to allow Mom’s problem to feel as normal as a high school party, rather than terrifying.
“What are you doing?” I asked her, although it was obvious that in her drunken state she had fallen in the shower and had torn the curtain down along the way.
“You don’t love me,” she mumbled. “You don’t love me!” she screamed this time. “I’m a bad mom. I’m sorry. You hate me!”
She was sitting like a child in front of me, staring up as if I had all of life’s answers, a first grader. My only expertise was in The Henry and Mudge series, and she looked up to me for some sort of guidance.
“No, Mamma, I don’t hate you,” but I couldn’t seem to push out those three words of assurance, “You aren’t a bad mom.”
She smiled, and then looked around, and then sobbed again. “You’re so mean to me!”
Her burst of rage shocked me and I backed away,
“Why are you so mean?” she questioned.
I looked behind me quickly, to ensure that the doorway hadn’t disappeared. I closed the door behind me, grabbed NiNi, and hid.
Alcohol changes people. It morphs individuals into completely different characters-sometimes into fun, outgoing, friendly people, other times it transforms sweet, gentle women, like my mother, into depressed, aggressive children. Children.
Dad has always told me to call him if Mom ever did anything “unusual” while I was at her apartment during her half of the week. I was supposed to tell him if Mom ever “acted funny.” He knows she drinks too much and that is all. I keep her out of trouble even though all she does is put me in it.
My grandparents never believed me. I was a troubled child because I acted up around my mother. I was a troubled child for being disrespectful. They lived across the Atlantic Ocean in Sweden yet somehow felt as though they could tell me what went on in Woodbridge, Virginia. When my mom got away from her psycho boyfriend and back to her home country, she was that gentle woman again. She expected me to treat her as if I actually knew her. I didn’t know her, and therefore, wouldn’t treat her as if I did. I threw a tantrum one evening at the summer house in Sweden. My mom had bought me the wrong size shoes, not a size too big, they fell off my feet. “What a spoiled brat,” they probably whispered, but they didn’t understand. The size of my shoe was just another thing that my mother couldn’t keep up with. It just added to the list of things she didn’t know about her own daughter. My favorite food. My favorite color. What I wanted to be when I grew up. They didn’t know.
I don’t have a brother. I don’t have a sister. I am an only child. Yes, it has its perks, but I’d trade having to wear hand-me-downs and share to have a friend to go through my life with. A little part of me hates my mother for not giving me a lifelong friend. Being an only child has helped me, though. I’m friendly. I can remember getting an award for offering to let the new kid sit by me in pre-school. I’m more sensitive. I cry while watching The Lion King , Dumbo , and any other movie that makes me feel like a terrible person for considering my “problems” problems. When I was a toddler, my dad would hold a stuffed animal that I hadn’t played with in awhile and play puppeteer, making the teddy bear cry. “Why don’t you love me?” the teddy bear would say, and I’d bawl and hug my forgotten friend until she wasn’t mad at me any more. In reality, I’d loved her all along. I’ve learned to treat my mother the same way; I hug her until she shuts up.
“So, are you going to college?” my mother asks me.
“I don’t know, wherever I get in, I guess.”
“That’s going to be a lot of money. Has Dad saved up anything?”
I don’t think she has the slightest bit of guilt. “I think so.”
“You need to come over and take care of your dog.”
“Okay, come pick me up.”
“No, it’s passed my bed time”
It’s seven thirty. She doesn’t think I’m smart enough to know that she’s drunk a bottle of wine. She doesn’t think I know that she’s too afraid to put herself on the road again. I think she’s a selfish bitch for that. She had no problem letting me get in the car with her when she wanted to go out rather than take me to gymnastics. We crashed. I hate her for that.
I have one scar, but it’s not from her accident. It’s from my normal side of life, that she has no part of. I only had bruises and redness from when she crashed into an oncoming car. That was my breaking point, at age nine. I forgave and forgave her. She could have killed me this time, though.
“Come back here!” she yelled as I ran from her car. The woman in the SUV had absolutely no sympathy for me, a scared child, running away from my monster of a mother.
“Get back in the car!”
She yelled. I was too smart to listen. She was too dumb to be rational. She got back into her mustang and drove back to her apartment. I walked.
I walked in and Dave handed Mom a toothbrush. “Wash your mouth out,” he said. And she removed the evidence from her breathe. Then she tossed empty wine bottles into the trash can.
Before she was arrested she tucked me in at a neighbor’s house. The cops felt bad for me, and let her stay and chat for a little.
“Tell anyone who asks that you slept wrong.” I still don’t exactly understand what she meant by that, or how any method of sleeping could have ballooned my face as it was.
“Tell dad that too.”
My stomach had never, ever felt so sick. I’m assuming this is the feeling someone gets when they find out they’re unwontedly pregnant or get caught for cheating on their spouse. Helpless and guilty. I didn’t sleep. I rolled around until it was morning. The neighbor drove me to my babysitters and I knocked on the door. I was so scared. And I was mad. How dare she leave me to face my babysitter, my friends, and my father all alone. How dare she expect me to lie for her. Was she serious? Did she honestly expect people to believe such a story?
I can’t remember if I lied to the parents at my babysitters when they surrounded me.
“Poor baby,” said Chelsea’s mom, as she rubbed my cheekbone with the edge of her thumb. I flinched. It was sore. I remember being so happy that, unlike my mother, she felt badly about what happened. She had some sort of sympathy.
I can’t remember if I lied to my friends at school. Some teacher had to have questioned it, though.
I didn’t lie to Dad. I came home from school, sat in the kitchen, and as hard as I tried to keep calm I just couldn’t. I bawled out the entire story, and Dad took pictures of my face, tons and tons of pictures of my face. Evidence, I guess? My dad now hated my mother. This was the only time I ratted her out.
When I get sad, I buy things: clothes and shoes, specifically. My addiction is somewhat comparable to that of a drug. I am unhappy, then I sniff a line of shopping and the sensation of feeling prettier washes away my sadness. I am then happy. I am stronger and better now. When my mom gets sad, she drinks. That is her drug of choice. For awhile I questioned myself, “How am I to hate her for her addiction? I am just like her.” That was prior to my realizing that my method of feeling better didn’t hurt anybody except my wallet, and her addiction put others through pain.
My mom used to be beautiful. I have countless pictures. She used to be a great mom, too. I have memories of summer days at the beach in Sweden, her putting sunscreen on my cheeks, and spinning me around through the shallow water, me laughing and laughing and laughing. She drank water. She must have weighed a hundred pounds. Beer makes you fat, especially if you drink it like she does.
“How do you get such a flat tummy?” she always asks me.
She has skinny arms and chicken legs, but an innertube around her midsection. Her face isn’t smooth and tan anymore either, as it was in the pictures and as I remember. It looks torn, and I can see every popped blood vessel around her eyes. The skin is sensitive and red, and I can’t understand how she manages to apply makeup without ripping her under eye bags in half. She’s permanently damaged.
In the past four years she has had close to ten black eyes. That may be normal for a ufc fighter but not a housewife. I’m used to them now. I’m no longer embarrassed to walk around stores with her as I used to be. I’ve realized that if anyone should be, it’s her. Her bruises tell the world that she has no self respect, that she believes she’s worthless.
She used to make up stories. Once she got hit in the face with a tennis ball. My mother has never used her apartment complex’s tennis courts in her life. Another time she said she was moving furniture, and a book fell off of a shelf and hit her in the eye. And one day she and Dave were tossing the remote back and forth, and she claims she was just a bad catcher. Liar. She can’t lie to me anymore, though. In a struggle against “the love of her life,” she called my dad because he’d tried to strangle her. He went to jail. She can’t lie to me anymore.
Do not allow her to open the door.
“Mom! The operator says you can’t let him in!” and she backed away.
“Petra! Open the damn door!” I screamed as he kicked in the window and glass went flying.
“He broke the window! He’s trying to crawl through!” His face and hands were getting sliced open, but he was determined to get inside. Stay calm. Police are on the way.
Too late. Dad was there. Before I knew it, they were rolling around on the concrete out front. I cried from inside, “Get him, Daddy, get him!”
The police arrived. They threw Dave in the police car, and I rode home with Dad to try and have a somewhat normal Easter. We drove to the police station the next day so that Dad could turn himself in for assault and battery. Dave had pressed charges. In two hours of waiting, the charges were dropped.
I don’t have boyfriends. Never. I can’t claim that it’s in any way related to her sad excuses for relationships, but I think there has to be a connection somewhere linked in the back of my brain. I talk to boys. I flirt with boys. I kiss boys. But the idea of having a “boyfriend” scares me like no other. My mother has had more boyfriends, or sugar daddies, than I can count. There is a four letter word that I’d like to describe her as, but I won’t. I hated all of her boyfriends, they were all dirty drunks like her. I’d plot against them with my friends, cracking eggs in their shoes, putting food coloring in their shaving cream, staining their clothes. Since Dad and I couldn’t keep up with their names, we referred to them as “Mama’s boyfriend.” I think subconsciously the term boyfriend was forever tainted.
I woke up crying. Another nightmare. I wobbled towards the bedroom door and yelled for Mom. No answer. I walked down the hall and turned the knob on her bedroom door. Locked.
“Mom! Mom! I had a scary dream! Can I sleep with you, please?”
She didn’t respond. My fear from the nightmare added to the fear of my mother’s absence and left me crying on the floor. I waited. And waited. And cried. At last I heard the knob shake. Her head peaked through the sliver of an opening.
“What?” she asked.
“Let me in,”
I whined and pushed at the door.
She pushed on the opposite side of the door until I couldn’t resist it anymore and it slammed shut. A few moments later the knob jiggled again, and mom opened the door wider.
“Okay come in,” she said. .
“Okay,” I replied. I walked towards what used to be my side of the bed and looked towards the floor. She didn’t think I could see him, hiding under the bed. Too bad she stores everything under there, and there’s only so much room for a grown man to fit. She hopped into her side of the bed, and I took a moment to figure out what my next move would be. I was too afraid to say a word. I dug my toe nails deep into his peaking shoulder, I scratched to let him know I wasn’t stupid. I must have made him bleed. I went to sleep. I never found out who he was, I never knew his name.
Currently, I see my mom whenever she’s not too lazy. We do nothing. She’ll invite me to lunch, and I pay for myself because I feel too guilty. She isn’t a mother to me, and taking her money just makes me think of how she’ll use it against me later. We don’t go shopping, we don’t talk about anything with any value, and she generally uses our time together to make phone calls to family members in Sweden to let them know what a great day we’re having, as if it happens often. She puts me on the line and I speak to them in the most proper Swedish I can manage. I tell them how great I’m doing and how my mother is on the verge of finding a job. They tell me how mature I’ve become and how they can’t wait to see us in Sweden again. “Me too!” I squeal in excitement. But, we both know that in six months they’ll hate me again because I’m a troubled child, and I don’t give my soccer mom any credit.