I remember the first time that I realized my mother was crazy. I don't remember the name of the town that we lived in then, but I do remember that I liked it there. It was one of those very fantasized about small towns with many friendly people. Close knit homes that stood side by side went on for what seemed like forever. Uniform, but still individual in their own way.
I was about six or seven years old. My mother, Aliss and I played at the local park for hours that day. This park was beautiful. Skinny trees with giant leaves and long branches that you could swing on all day. Grass greener than any I had ever seen before, and have yet to see even up until today. There was also a lake that was guarded off by a black iron fence that came up to my neck. This lake was home to beautiful animals, mostly just ducks. They all came in a variety of colors. I loved feeding them. It was kind of my thing. We had only been there a couple of times before, and I absolutely loved it there.
That day was amazing. We jumped around all day, pretending to be everything from airplanes to space monsters. When we got hungry, My mom made time to have a picnic. We feasted on sandwiches, fruits and cookies all afternoon. While we were winding down, Aliss went to feed the ducks with a friend, and mother and I started playing a game with her lucky coin. It's an odd coin to say the least. A little bigger than a half-dollar coin, gold, and extremely shiny. One side has the head of a bird on it. I want to say that it's an eagle but I'm not entirely sure. The other side has strange symbol on it. It's a circle with a perfect horizontal figure eight symbol in it and a straight line that cuts through them both horizontally. It is surrounded by five different colored gems that shape a pentagon. We rolled the coin back and forth, slowly at first but gradually picking up speed. Before we knew it we were rolling it back and forth at lightning speed, laughing and enjoying the simplicity of this stupid game.
That's when I got my first glimpse of my mother's more. . .unstable side.
A neighbor of ours called her name and got her attention, putting a slight intermission in our little festivity. They began to talk, and I began to twirl the coin through my fingers the way I'd seen my mother do so many times before. Through one space, around one finger, through another space. Again and again. After about three rotations I placed the coin on the face of my thumb nail and flicked it up in the air.
Before the coin could gain any velocity my mother runs over, completely not acknowledging the conversation she just abruptly ended, grabs the coin and pins me to the grown by my shoulders. I will never forget the look in her eyes from that day. A mix of confusion, sadness, and pure rage. Her knees buried right by my sides. She just stayed there. Staring at me. Like I was some type of creature that she was figuring out what to do with. Her brown eyes fixated on me with an intense focus. Her dark hair shrouding both of our faces. It took me squirming, and eventually crying, to snap her out of her strange gaze.
Soon after everyone in that park was no doubt looking at us, their faces reading everything from confusion to anger. Before I knew it, my mom picked me up by my shirt and motions for me to go to the car. She grabs Aliss and we leave, not bothering to grab the things that we brought to the park. I watched the spot we'd just left from the back window of the car. As it faded away, I tried to piece together what I had done wrong. But nothing came to mind. I look at the people gathering to gossip about what just happened, or perhaps to call social services.
It didn't make any sense, one moment joy, and the next. . . panic. Before I knew it, it was gone. We were gone. Everything was gone. We left that town the next day.
Over the next couple of years we moved from town to town. Small incidences causing us to pick up and leave again. I'm sure its only a matter of time before we leave this place.
I look over at my alarm clock to see what time it is. 4:30 it says. It's too early to go out. Mom should be back from the bar by now. I need some fresh air. I feel a little better than I did yesterday. Much better in fact. My head has stopped wobbling, but I can't shake a strange smell that seems to be suffocating me. It smells like a weird mix of apple pie and trash. On the plus side I can feel the knot on my head shrinking. I must've passed out right after my mom came downstairs to confront Keith.
I hope my mom didn't scare him away like she has every other person that I've almost become friends with. I actually think I may have made a friend in him. And I don't have too many of those.
I want to wake Aliss to ask her what happened, but she looks so peaceful that I'd feel bad if I woke her. I get off my bed and try not to be too loud, but because my side of the room is so messy, moving at all makes some type of noise. And moving slowly seems to amplify noise all together. Screw it. I'm going out. I make my way to my closet and grab my skateboard. I change my blood stained T shirt, and put on a new one and my sweater. I check my mom's room to make sure she made it home. She's virtually catatonic, reeking of alcohol, and sprawled out, gold coin in hand.
She left the TV on again too. The only show that she watches is some old cooking show with a guy who makes way too many jokes about his wife, he is funny though. Mom will surely be sleeping in today. I shut off her TV, she makes weird noises and moves around a bit at first, but eventually goes back to sleep . I go downstairs to raid the fridge for anything good. The fridge doesn't have much. Some milk, water, fruit, eggs, and a spoiled pack of cheese. I grab a banana and bottle of water. It only takes me a couple of seconds before I'm out the door.
I don't know where I'm going. I'll figure that out later. I just hop on my skateboard and go. I let the cool summer morning breeze encompass me as I ride down the hill. Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass as I let my thoughts and worries break away. I ride down to the end of the hill and make my way to the edge of the cliff at the bottom of the street.Olsen's Peak. It's blocked off by a very fragile looking wire fence, covered in shrubbery, with a giant gaping hole in it. A hole that I made when I discovered the fence one year ago when we first moved here.
Liberton, Massachusetts. A big town that runs itself like a small city. The last couple of places we've lived at have been more low key. But this place . . . not so much. This town has just as many buildings as it does trees. And it has twice as many people as it does businesses. Literally every street has some type of store occupying it. It's a great place for people who have money. Something we've never had much of. We've never been poor, per say, but I can't say that we live comfortably either. As long as I have my sister though, i'm good. If she is happy, it's all I need.
I put down my skateboard and make my way through the hole. I sit down at the edge of the cliff, letting my feet dangle over the edge. Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to fall, or even to jump. I wonder if my mom and sister would be better off without me. It would be one less mouth my mom would have to feed, a task that with two kids is already hard for her. I wonder how badly having a dead brother would affect my sister. My sister. My best friend. The only person in the world who I can truly be myself around. The only person in the world who I care about. I couldn't leave her to deal with my mother all alone. The drinking. The fights. The random weeks of motionless depression. The nightmares.
Granted, my sister does a much better job of dealing with my mom alone already. The thought of leaving her alone really bothers me. I feel that as much as I need her, she needs me. A thought that somewhat numbs out the negative thoughts. I try to push the thoughts out of my head. The visions of death and danger. But they seem to be building a permanent home in my mind.
I eat my banana and drink my water, and in a few minutes i notice that the sun is rising. Sunrise. It's a beautiful sight. The color of the sky. The feeling that right here, right now, everything is perfect. It's amazing. Seeing the city come to life with the rise of the sun. Windows lighting up as people rise to begin their day. Cars moving in the regulated way that they do. Dogs barking. Birds flying. Everybody rising, looking forward to the promise of something better. . .a new day. The sky has that beautiful fiery look to it again, but it is much more subdued that it was yesterday afternoon. It's calmer. It's Peaceful.
These past couple of days have been really trying. My mom wants to throw me and Aliss a birthday party, but I really just want to relax this year. I don't want the possibility of another weird birthday event to be given life. Not to mention if we do have a party, Aliss' friends will come. And I hate her friends. So there will be me, my mom, Aliss and her big group of friends.
I'm beaming with joy now just thinking about it. Maybe Keith will show up, I doubt it though. He's probably already forgotten my name. The new school year starts in two weeks. Eight grade. Another year of being a loner with no friends is right around the corner. I can't help but let a low, but still audible "Yay" escape my throat. I look around just to be sure no one has heard me. I'm happy to see that I am still alone.
Something that comes very naturally to me. The truth is I don't mind not having friends really. But the thought seems to physically pain my mother and sister for some reason. "Why don't you just try to make some friends?" they say. What's the point really, we've never really stayed somewhere for more than a year anyway. Of course Aliss still keeps in touch with all of the people she's become friends with over the years. It's so easy for her. I probably could too if I made an effort. But with the possibility of picking up and leaving on a whim always tangible, I never really try. When I have tried to make friends we either move away once I have, or my mother scares them away with her antics.
I'm surprised that we've made it here as long as we have. Especially with the fights that my mom has been in. You'd think they would have kicked us out of the town by now. Prior to this place, the longest we've ever stayed somewhere was eight months. Whenever something a little unfamiliar happens, we split. But who knows, maybe this place will actually be home.
Home.I like the sound of that.
I get up and take in the visual, this is what I needed. Who would have thought that something simple, a sunrise, could give a person so much? On my way back home there is a feeling that I can't shake. Like there is something that I've forgotten to do. I try to remember, but nothing comes to mind. I decide last minute to make my way back to the soccer field to see if there is any clue as to what caused me to lose focus and get knocked out by the ball yesterday. I get to the woods in no time. There is no sign of anything really, and when I look around the damp muddy forest I only get a sense of loneliness.
I'm almost out of the forest when I do notice something. Something beautiful. Over on a rock a few yards away there is a shimmering black feather. There is something odd about this feather though. This feather seems to be glowing. Radiating even. I slowly walk over to the feather, tiptoeing as if I were on my way to disarm a bomb. This feather must have belonged to a very large bird. It's about as long as my whole arm, and that's not including the stem. I gently pick it up, but I only get to look at it for a good two seconds before the whole thing ignites itself into a misty black flame and chars itself into nothing.
On the eve of my birthday I know that this is a sign. A sign that something terrible is going to happen. Three years in a row. The side effects from my supposed concussion are returning. My head immediately starts pounding. I'm not as recovered as I thought I was. So I grab my skateboard and walk home.
When I open the door, I look at the clock. It says eight-thirty. Eight-thirty? There is no way I was gone for four hours. I make my way upstairs to my room and throw myself on my bed. Aliss sits at her desk on her side of the room writing something before she turns around to acknowledge my arrival.
"Where were you, booger face" she asks giggling, "Needed some air?"
"You know me too well, snot head," I reply. There is a short silence before I ask her the question that drove me out of the house this morning. "What happened with mom and Keith yesterday?".
"Your friend Keith is one smooth guy, bro. He managed to not only get mom to not hate him, but I actually think she might like him." I sit staring at my sister, waiting for her to laugh or at least come clean about the blatant lie she just told. "Don't believe me," she asks with a smile.
I shake my head emphatically.
"Well. . . when mom came downstairs I thought it was over for your friend. Especially because you know we're not supposed to have people in the house without permission. Well before mom could even say anything, Keith runs up to her, grabs her by the shoulders, quite frankly I'm surprised she didn't kill him then, and thanks her for being home. You should have seen the look on her face!"
Aliss is laughing now, but I'm terrified as to where this story is going.
"He tells her about what happened at the field and that you need to see a doctor ASAP! You know how mom is with doctors, so that wasn't going to happen. She began to object and Keith quickly put his finger on her lips to shut her up. She looked so pissed! Keith then explained that his mother is a doctor who studies alternative medicine. With one call she was here in a few minutes. They fed you some herbs and rubbed some apple-smelling cream on your head before they brought you upstairs. Keith's mother said that you'd be fine in a couple of hours, and she told us to make sure you take it easy. Mom was so happy that she actually hugged them both."
I take in everything that she's just told me. Still hung on the fact that Keith grabbed my mom by the shoulders, and put his finger on her lips and lived to tell about it. "Was she drunk?" I ask.
"Not really, I'd say pink zone," Aliss replies.
I should explain. There are five stages of drunken behavior for my mother. Aliss and I have categorized them into colored zones. Pink, Yellow, Green, Orange, and Red. The pink zone is what most people would consider the safest; it's when my mom is quote on quote 'happy drunk', which for her is just tolerable. The yellow zone is pretty much the same as the pink zone with an addition of slurred words. The green zone is similar to yellow zone, but with a lot of curse words. Then there are my two favorite zones. The ever popular orange zone and the never failing red zone. The orange zone is when my mom is belligerent drunk, that's when she gets in most of her famous fights. The final stage of this chain is the red zone. When my mother is in the red zone she stays in her room and talks to no one, eats nothing, and goes nowhere, she might as well not even exist. Days and weeks fall of the calendar like nothing. It's rare, but once she even stayed in her room for two months. And then like nothing ever happened, she snapped back to life. To be completely honest, I don't deal with anything past the pink zone. If she is drunk, I purposefully avoid her.
"I thought for sure it was Orange, did you hear her voice? She sounded like the devil," I say, and then do my best to imitate her demon voice. Aliss only chuckles. Just then her voice startles us.
"What do you guys want for dinner?" my mother asks. I look at Aliss, half pretending to think about what I want, half wondering if my mother heard my awful imitation. "I'm gonna' go to the store now . . . hurry!"
"Pizza," Aliss says after a short awkward silence, "Hawaiian!" I nod in agreement and my mom leaves. We wait to hear the door down stairs close and the car leave before Aliss says what we are both thinking.
"I think she heard you."
I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly like I don't care. Because I don't care. We shouldn't have to worry about bringing friends over and worrying about my mother's level of drunkenness. Especially if I have just suffered from a concussion.
Even if it was just a mild one.
"Hey Maks," says Aliss.
"Yeah," I reply.
"Have you been having any . . . weird dreams lately?"
This is a scary question. Whenever Aliss has weird dreams, weird things happen.
"No not really. Why?" I ask, trying to hide my nervousness.
"I don't know. Lately I have. Like last night I had a dream about this bird, at least I think it was a bird. It was talking to me, it wanted me to. . . follow it".
"Follow it? Where do you think it was going?"
"That's the thing. In my dream I followed the bird until it reached this giant wall of fire. But it was a weird fire. It wasn't exactly pink. And it wasn't exactly purple. It was like a bright magenta. It was definitely fire though. When I reached the wall I almost ran through until I realized it was fire. But even then I put my hand through. All of a sudden something pulled me through. And that's when I woke up. Weird right?"
I wait to reply, trying to think of what to say to her is hard.
"Did you eat anything sweet last night? You know you have those crazy dreams whenever you eat sugar before bed." I say. She says she didn't. And I believe her. "I dunno'," I say, "maybe it's a sign".
I see her eyebrows lower in frustration as she rolls her eyes.
"What . . . that we shouldn't have a birthday party? You're still on that?" She says.
"You don't think it's weird that for the past two years on our birthday strange things have been happening?" I ask.
"What . . . a trick candle? A dead bird? Strange things happen every day Maks, who cares what day it is?"
"What's so great about a party anyway?"
"Because they are fun Maks. . . and we could certainly use some of that around here." Aliss gets up and she leaves.
I make sure to get in a "Whatever" before she is completely gone from the room. I turn to my pillow and dig my head into it, leaving this situation. Leaving this world. Looks like we are having a party. And I can't wait to see what's going to happen this year.