Last Week’s FFF: Time Wake
I wrapped my sweater tight around my body, shielded myself from the wind, which had been kicking up all morning. Anxiety rose in my chest as I waited. Why she had wanted to meet here, after all these years, I didn’t know.
There was nothing around here. Just a deep expansive of red dirt. Maybe that was the point. To get me here, where no one was around. Our last meeting wasn’t exactly civil. I doubt she wanted another visit from the police.
I checked my watch. She was almost half an hour late. Typical. She’d never been on time for anything in my life. Why would I have expected her to start now?
I heard the car before I saw it. I turned as it drove in from the same direction that I had. The late-nineties, gold Ford Escort gave me shivers. It reminded me of my childhood. It was the perfect symbol of all I had come to hate about her.
I remembered the late nights waiting for her in that car. She’d always say that she’d only be a moment. But it never was. She’d go into a bar, or worse, some drug den, and leave me waiting. Cracked windows on a hot day, and blankets on a cold one, hardly made up for the hours of torment. Some days I was convinced that she wasn’t coming back for me. That she had left me in the car to die. But, eventually, she always came back, smelling like alcohol and smoke.
I choked as I watched the car drive up, remembering the suffocating billow of nicotine and ash that rolled off of her as she’d get in. As the car stopped, it kicked up dust. Only all too well could I imagine that cloud coming from her.
She waited a moment before getting out. I found myself getting angry. I wanted to yell that I didn’t have time for theatrics. Really, I didn’t have anything else to do today. I just didn’t want to come face to face with this woman.
The windshield was fogged. Caked years of cigarette leavings ensured it’d never be clear again. I could just see her through it. She rose a shaking hand, and wiped at her eyes.
Was she crying?
I had never seen my mother cry before. In all honesty, I had thought she’d forgotten how. Never before had she shown an ounce of remorse. Not for how she raised me. Not for anything she’d done. Not for how I felt about it.
When I was old enough, I protested her, tried to help her, and lashed out at her. She blamed me for everything. She told me that I was no good, and that anything wrong was my fault. As soon as I was able to, I left. I never looked back.
Then, through my cousin, she contacted me. Asked me to meet. I wanted to say no. But something inside of me had to come and find out. Curiosity, perhaps? Maybe it was the biological desire to be linked to my mother, despite my logical reasoning.
She stepped from the car. She had put on weight. Not much, but enough that she didn’t look like a skeleton any longer. Her hair had grayed. While her face was less gaunt and looked almost healthy, it had aged.
“Hi, baby,” she said.
Baby. I scoffed.
“I’m here. What do you want?” I asked.
She stepped closer. Instinctively, I stepped back.
“I just wanted you to know that I’m clean now.”
I nearly laughed.
“Right. Like the time you were clean, but didn’t think that prescription drugs counted? Even though you bought them off people? Or maybe it’s like the time that you were clean and took up shoplifting and sex to fill the void. Which only got worse, what, a week later, when you started using again.”
“No. Not like those times. I’m actually clean. Things got bad, baby. Really bad. After you left, I finally hit bottom. I was hospitalized. Court ordered in-patient treatment program. I hated it at first. But then, once everything was out of my system, it all started making sense. I started talking. I started listening. I realized the reasons why I used. Why I put so much blame on you. Which was unfair of me. It was never your fault.”
I took another step back. I crossed my arms around me, and began to pace.
“I know that. I was a kid. You were supposed to protect me. Instead, you hated me. You subjected me to the worst things that life had to offer.”
“I know. I should have done better. I just couldn’t live with the truth. I couldn’t handle life, or reality, or being a mother. I understand that now. I need you to understand.”
“I’ll never understand.”
I had had enough. This was too much. She did look better. But nothing she could say or do could ever make me forgive her. I began towards my car.
“Wait! Please, at least let me tell you why,” she pleaded.
“I don’t care,” I said.
“It’s about your father,” she said.
I stopped in my tracks. When I had asked as a child the question was met with violence or silence. I waited for her to continue, but didn’t look back.
“The reason that I wasn’t ready to be a mother, was because I wasn’t even ready to have sex. Your father forced himself on me. And you were the result. I couldn’t handle it. So, I turned to drugs and alcohol and anything I could to numb my shame. I’m sorry.”
A tear fell involuntarily from my eye.
“I don’t know if that’s the truth or not. You’ve lied so many times. But I don’t care. You could have gotten help or given me up. You never wanted me. Why you kept me is a mystery.”
“I kept you because you’re a part of me. No matter what, you’re my daughter.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. I have no parents. I was born an orphan.”
I could hear her weeping behind me. But I was finally over her. I got in my car and drove away without even a glance in the rear-view mirror.