TWENTY YEARS AGO
It was a great day. A great summer. Martha’s Vineyard is normally very crowded in summer, but we have our big house on the beach, very far from the others, which I don’t always love, because it means that I can’t make new friends, but, well, why would I need new friends? I have Mike already. I wish Fitz would be here with us, too, though. It’s such a bummer that his parents brought him to Ireland, to see his grandparents.
I wish I could do that. I’ve never met my mom’s parents, and my dad’s mother, well, she’s late. My grandpa is still alive, but all huddled in his millionaire throne, the only times he calls, are to remind my dad how he disappointed him and how better ‘Keith’ is.
I honestly don’t understand. My dad does work very much too, but I guess that because he spends more time with us than at work, grandpa isn’t really glad. I like my grandpa, but he’s really grumpy, in fact Mike and I call him grandpy, which is lame, but Mike likes it, so I do too.
Mike is my older brother, he’s 11 and I’m 8, but it’s like there is no difference between us, because we’re always playing together ... well, we used to. Then a couple of years ago mom and dad started keeping me away from him, he started spending more time in hospitals, and no matter how much I cried to be with him, our parents never let me. I was content only when they brought him back home, but he was always so strange.
Before he started going to the hospital, he was okay, we had so much fun together, until he started talking to those evil voices that told him that he needed to get rid of me.
I’ve never told mom and dad how scary that was, because Mike also talked in his sleep, and I slept with an open eye, because I could hear him, and he would say things that frightened me. Till one night I found him standing beside my bed, a pillow in his hands, a deep frown on his face, and I took refuge under my covers, pleading with him, because he was scaring me ...
I think I screamed, because then the lights turned on and mom and dad came in, separating us, but even though I was only five, I remember the pillow being pressed against my face, and I remember that I couldn’t breathe, which is funny, because I screamed.
After that, mom and dad moved Mike to another room, and they had him see doctor after doctor, and the hospital thing started. I begged them not to separate us, but they didn’t listen. I thought I could help Mike silence those voices, because when we had fun together he didn’t hear them. Sometimes I spoke to them too, telling them to let my brother be, to go annoy someone else, because Mike was my big brother and I wouldn’t let them hurt him.
I was scared, yes, because sometimes Mike turned pale, and he got all serious when he frowned, stared intensely at me, and I still remember that first time I saw him do that, and I thought he was joking, being silly, but instead he pushed me down the stairs, and I broke my arm and spent some days in the hospital.
I just wish those voices would let him be, because there are those times when he’s his old self, and we laugh and chat easily. Today was a great day, though. It was our birthday, and we came to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend, just because mom and dad work during the week and can’t take vacations.
It was a marvelous day, Mike and I were allowed to go play on the beach on our own, we made sandcastles, took baths, played football, even daddy joined us, and mommy sat under the umbrella watching us with a wide grin on her beautiful face.
My mom is gorgeous, you know. With her long blonde curls and her bright green eyes, she’s very gorgeous. Everybody says that, and everybody says she would have an awesome career in TV, but she doesn’t agree. She says she was born journalist, and journalist she will remain.
My grandpa doesn’t like her, says it’s her fault if dad doesn’t focus on his job and isn’t interested in the company anymore. He says she tricked dad into marriage by getting pregnant, and that she only wants his money, which is very silly, because mom works hard too.
She works for The Boston Globe and she loves it, though she might have gone to New York to work for Times, but dad’s company is here, and she knew he would leave if she asked him to, but she said it wasn’t right, the relationship with his father was already complicated, she didn’t want to cause other problems.
The thing is, till my grandma was alive, things were a little easier, but ever since she left us, he’s become much more grumpier than before, and he is always so rude to mom that I don’t really like it when he comes home, because then I know that mom will be upset and now she really can’t afford that because she’s pregnant.
Yes, my mom is pregnant, and if I’m lucky, it will be a girl. I would love to have a baby sister, mom and I are always trying to find a name for her. For now she likes Jane, but I like better Georgiana, because it’s my favorite character in Pride and Prejudice, mom’s favorite book, which we’ve read many, many times together.
I like Georgiana because she’s so shy yet so bubbly, and I would love for my baby sister to be like that. Also, Georgiana plays the piano, and I think it would be amazing to have a pianist in our family. Mike and I are really terrible at playing instruments, dad is even worse, only mom plays saxophone, which is funny, because the big instrument makes her small frame disappear.
My mom is tiny, I mean, compared to dad. He is a big man, tall, with wild curly black hair that always make grandpa mad because he says that appearance is everything in business and dad can’t look like a homeless person.
They’re such a great couple, mom and dad. They love each other very much, and when dad tells me how he met her, I always wish my girl will be the same as mom and we’ll meet in the same way.
It was 13 years ago, mom worked as a journalist for one of dad’s magazines, and they met, and fell in love, and in a short time they got married. Then they had Mike, but my grandpa will always say that they got married only because mom was pregnant and she set up dad, which at first I didn’t understand what it meant, but then Mike explained me that grandpa wanted to say that mom was a bad person, because she lied to dad and only wanted his money, which made me really mad at my grandfather, because I know my mom would never do such things. She is an angel on Earth, dad says.
I’m very lucky, you know. Because, aside from Mike’s illness, we’re a very happy family, and those times that Mike is normal, like today, we can enjoy the time together.
Right now dad and my big brother were wrestling in the water, they wanted me to join them, but I preferred keeping company to mom, in fact I went to sit with her in the sand, beneath the umbrella.
“Hey, sweetie.” Mom greeted me with one of her beautiful smiles, extending her arms to me, and I grinned, gladly going to sit on her lap, letting her cuddle me. She wore sunglasses, but took them off when we hugged, so that she could nuzzle my nose, making me laugh.
I just love my mom so much. And my dad. And my brother, of course. And I’m sure I will love my baby sister too, because she will certainly be as beautiful and amazing as mom is, dad says that, and I agree.
I reached for mom’s belly, which is pretty plump now. She says my little sister will be born in three months, so August, but we still don’t have a name for her.
Mom smiled sweetly at me and took my hand. “Want to hear her heartbeat?” She asked.
I grinned, nodding, excited, and mom made me bend down my head, so that my ear was against her belly. I awed, amazed, when I was finally able to hear something, like a heartbeat, slow and steady.
“May I talk to her?” I asked, pulling up, knowing mom would agree because we always do this. In fact she grinned, nodding, and I moved a little closer, putting my hand on mom’s belly, bending down again so that my mouth could be closer and she could hear me from the inside. “Hey, baby sis? You hear me? It’s Jake, your big brother.”
Mom giggled, and my cheeks flushed a little, but I love doing this. I just can’t wait for these two months to be over, I’m so excited to have a little sister to play with and to protect! Fitz says having sisters is a nightmare, but I bet it’s only because Connie and Annie are both older than him and they often play with him as if he were their baby toy, and he gets all angry because they also put makeup on him, but I envy him.
Sure, I have him and Mike, so I’m not alone, but I’m sure a sister would make things very much better. Though daddy says I should be careful when she grows up because boys will chase her, and I say I’ll chase them away, but they all laugh. I will do it, believe me.
“You’ll be here in two months, right? Well, I can’t wait!” I told my sister excitedly, making mom giggle again, her hand resting on my head as she caressed me, which I love too, eh, but I moved closer, so that I could focus on the baby in the belly. “Don’t worry, okay? You might be a little scared, but I will be here for you, okay? Don’t worry, your big brother will always protect you, okay? You’re my baby sis, and I will never let you be hurt. I will love you every day.”
I heard a light sob, and I looked up at mom, furrowing my brows when I saw tears in her beautiful eyes. I asked what was wrong, and she waved her hands, shaking her head, saying it was nothing. I rolled my eyes, knowing that she was getting emotional again. She always does lately, dad says it happens when a woman is pregnant, but it’s not always nice, because I hate seeing my mom cry.
I focused on the belly again, though, because I could feel a light kick against my hand, and I grinned at mom, beaming, which she did too, even among tears, and we hugged, so tightly and so touched that when dad and Mike came back from the water they were confused, but we all laughed as they came to join us in our hug. Our bodies were all sweaty, dad and Mike were also wet from the bath, but I didn’t care.
I love my family, and I love these moments we have, I wish we could stay like this forever.
Dinner was fun. We all helped, making a mess, of course. Mom is an amazing cook, and she didn’t want Marianne, our housekeeper, to do anything, she never does, every time we come here, Marianne always jokes that she might lose her job because she barely cleans when we come.
Mom’s food is always so yummy, but tonight we all helped her, which means that the kitchen later looked like a hurricane had just hit it, but again, we didn’t care, because we were happy, laughing, chatting.
Even Mike was normal, as if that illness whose name I can never recall had never struck him. He was the same joyful kid he’s always been, and I loved it, because, even if only for a day, I had my big brother back, and I already imagined how it would be when our baby sister would join us too.
After dinner, we took a walk on the beach, all wrapped up in each other. Mike and I played catch me, then united our forces not to let dad catch us, and in the end we took refuge behind mom, but dad grinned mischievously and came to kiss her, so Mike left, ewing, while I grinned at my parents, loving when they have these sweet moments.
I honestly don’t understand why my friends complain if they see grownups kiss. I love watching my parents be all lovey-doveys with each other, it just means that they are meant to be together, and even though I don’t really care about girls now, I wish that someday I will meet someone to look at so dreamily like my dad does with my mom. My friends don’t know this, though ... shhh.
We went to sleep that it was very late, but I just couldn’t close my eyes, my heart was swelling with all those pleasant emotions, I kept rewinding all those beautiful moments we had today. It looked like we were back to normal, to when Mike wasn’t sick, and I wished time would freeze and we could stay here in Martha’s Vineyard forever, also because my brother is always happier here, and mom and dad don’t have to worry about work or anything, we can just spend all the time together. How can I not love it?
Like I said, the only bummer about today is that Fitz couldn’t be here, but I talked to him before dinner, his mom called mine, and they said that maybe, they would join us next week, well, mom convinced Mrs. Fitzpatrick because I begged her to.
Because I couldn’t sleep, I decided I’d have some milk, because it always helps me to sleep when I’m nervous, so I figured it would be the same now that I was too excited. The kitchen wasn’t really in the dark, because there’s a huge glass door that opens to the porch, and because there was a full moon, I didn’t even need to switch the light on. I walked slowly towards the fridge and, once I’d grabbed a glass and milk, I poured some into the glass. Then I walked over to the glass door and walked outside.
There were many stars in the sky, and the moon was very visible, it almost looked like it smiled at me, so I smiled at her. I could hear the waves of the ocean, and I wanted to go outside, but I knew my parents would be upset if I did, actually, they locked every doors before we went to sleep – because Mike at home sometimes does this thing, he gets up at night and wanders, so they’re used to having every door well locked. I was content enough with gaping at the starry sky while I drank my milk, anyways.
Mom told me about the constellations, I still can’t remember all their names, but I could tell a couple of them, and I would have sworn one of them looked like a happy family laughing, but maybe I was just thinking of us today.
Suddenly, I heard a loud thud, and something dropped from upstairs. Confused, I moved closer to the glass door, so that I could see what it was. My glass fell when I realized it was Mike.
He lay on the floor and there was a puddle of a red mixture all around him, which I recognized as blood. Tears started falling before I could realize it and I let out a loud shriek that pierced even my ears.
I punched the glass door when it didn’t open, I punched it and punched it, till the glass broke and some of the pieces fell on me, hurting me, but I didn’t care. I ran through it and to my brother. I shook him, trying to wake him, crying, calling his name many times because he was asleep, but he couldn’t be asleep, we have to wake mom and dad and he has to go to the hospital to cure those wounds!
“Mike! Mike, wake up! Mike!” I cried and cried, shaking him, but nothing. His eyes were closed and there was blood all over his head, which I raised, and realized that he was actually covered in blood, and I shrieked, calling for mom and dad, for help ... anybody!
When I felt myself being hoisted and pulled away, I kicked and screamed, calling for Mike, needing him to wake up, and not even when mom seized me in her arms did I stop, which had her put me down, because I was kicking her belly, but I took advantage of it to run past dad and crouch down beside my brother again, covering his body with mine when dad tried to shoo me away.
I could barely hear them call my name. I heard other voices soon enough, but I still wouldn’t move, I just remained there, hugging my brother, not believing them when they told me he was gone. He couldn’t be! We have to play soccer tomorrow! We have to stay together, to be there for our sister! He couldn’t leave me alone like that!
“Mike, wake up! Please!” But he wasn’t moving. I cried and shrieked as loudly as my voice could allow me, I cried and shrieked till I lost my voice, I kicked and punched and even bit everyone who tried to move me, till dad just locked me in a tight grip, so that I was unable to move, no matter how hard I tried.
“Let me go! Let me go!” I yelled, trying to free myself. “Let me go! They’re taking him away! Don’t let them! I can’t let them! Let me go!!”
But he didn’t. He just watched, helpless, as people in blue swarmed around my brother, some others took his immobile corpse and covered it with a black bag, no matter how hard I protested. In the end, my body went limp. I was exhausted, and covered in blood. Dad put me down and I crawled to the floor, losing consciousness, the only words I kept repeating were: “Mike, don’t leave me. Please.”
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO
Dad was locked in his study. Again. He’s been doing that a lot, especially lately. Mom used to join him often the first periods, and they would just remain there all day, without eating nor drinking nor talking, just ... sitting there on the couch, embracing each other, without a word.
After a while, mom realized that Serene needed her, so she kind of pulled herself together, tried to help dad do the same, and it sort of worked, enough for everybody else to believe they were moving on, but I knew they weren’t, because neither was I. The only difference is that I put on a poker face every day, especially around my baby sister.
She has no fault for what happened, she’s only four. If our parents can’t seem to muster up enough strength to take care of her 24/7, then it’s my role to provide. Not that our parents are totally absent, we actually have our moments, but ever since ... well, that, something broke, inevitably, between them too, lately.
Because they seem farther and farther away from each other, dad isn’t the same goofy man he was once. Lately he just locks himself in his study on his own and grieves. At 13 years old, I gotta look out for them and Serene, which I guess is some sort of bliss, because this way I can ignore my own sorrow.
It’s been five years, but pain never relents, and I know it never will. I still see that scene every night, I still see my brother’s dead body covered in blood on the floor, I still hear the core-wrenching shrieks I let out that night. I relive everything in my nightmares.
I keep hearing Mike asking for help, reminding me that if I hadn’t been a selfish little brat, nothing would have happened. I keep hearing him talk to his voices and say that if I had been a good boy and I’d let him get rid of me, nothing would have happened, my parents would be still happily in love, ours would still be a happy family. If only I hadn’t happened.
Dr. Hastings said I shouldn’t blame myself, it’s not my fault, but what can he possibly know if he wasn’t even there? If I had read the signs, perhaps my brother would still be here.
If I hadn’t been a selfish little brat, all huddled in mommy and daddy’s love, I could have helped Mike. I could have done much more than I did, then maybe he wouldn’t have wound up crashed onto the wooden floor of our porch at the beach house, covered in his own blood.
The image is still stuck in my mind, I’ll never forget it. His skull seemed open in two, broken, blood was everywhere, his face was deformed, had it been any darker that night, I wouldn’t have even recognized him.
But I did, because God has a very wicked sense of humor, and He wanted for the sky to be starry and the moon to shine as brightly as ever that night, so that I would be able to watch. To witness the exact moment my brother left this world, to witness the exact moment that tormented soul found freedom.
And now I have to look out for my parents, see that they pull themselves together at least enough to give Serene the faintest idea of a happy family. At least one of us needs to grow up sane.
My parents have their moments, like I said. Within five years, there have been lots of ups and downs. Mom seemed to be a little closer to healing, but I think it was mostly to yank her husband back from the gutter.
He does come back sometimes. Usually it’s Serene that helps. He plays with her for a few minutes, then turns silent, as if realizing something, and leaves without a word. I think he doesn’t want to let himself live, doesn’t want to enjoy himself because Mike isn’t there. And I know the feeling.
Every time I laugh with my friends, then I feel this guilty pang, this punch in my stomach that makes me feel like a monster, because I’m there laughing while my brother is dead. How can I be happy if he’s gone? Dr. Hastings says Mike would want me to move on, be happy, that my brother wouldn’t want me to be miserable, but he didn’t know Mike.
This day of all days is the worst. Because, on this day, it recurs. Exactly five years ago, on this night, my brother jumped off the roof of our beach house, encountering his death. No wonder dad was locked in his study, it’s already enough that he was able to participate to the ceremony in memory of Mike that we hosted.
Mom is Catholic, she wants a mass to be celebrated every year in memory of her lost son, and I guess it’s right, but I wonder why does she keep on torturing herself like that. She never fails to break the script: every time she come in, dressed in all black, black glasses covering her eyes, and resists barely five minutes before starting to cry, till her bawling pain gets so deep and so loud that the priest has to suspend the ceremony. Dad doesn’t always come, actually, this year it was the first time he found the strength to join us, but when his wife started her show, he quite simply left.
Serene was at Fitz’s, his sisters were babysitting her so that his parents could participate to the ceremony and he could be with me, which he was now as we sat in my backyard, on the swings, not even moving.
What I appreciate the most in my best friend is that he knows when to shut up, but every time I need him, he’s right there. He remained silent the whole time as I stared at the ground, needing a while to cope, pull myself together, before going to fetch my parents.
In the end, I made it, and when I leaped to my feet, Fitz mimicked me, but before I could say a word, he wrapped me up in a bone-crushing hug, murmuring his condolences, which might sound weird, after all the funerals were five years ago, but it’s always appreciated. I hugged him back, needing the embrace more than I’ll ever say out loud, and I let him squeeze me into his affection. That lasted a while, but in the end we still parted, and he left when his sister brought back Serene.
Serene who obviously came running towards me and tackled me into a tight hug, squealing, after having done the same to Fitz, of course. She’s only four, and I’ve taken it upon myself to preserve her innocence, therefore she’ll never know what afflicts our family. To her, we’re only a bunch of weird people that change mood often, better said, our parents are, because it’s me she sees more often.
“How have you been, Pebbles?” I asked, kissing her cheek, trying hard to muster a believable smile as I used her nickname, to which she giggled, agitating in my arms as she recounted me of how Connie and Annie played with her, giving her the best day of her life.
I smiled, glad that she was happy, and I slowly walked back inside with her still in my arms, heading straight to the kitchen when she said she was hungry. Mom quit cooking time ago, she barely does it now and then, during one of those good moments we have that are always too rare, so we’ve been having a maid since five years.
Mariana, our maid, was obviously up to preparing dinner, and because Serene squealed as she saw her, I gladly let her go, so that she was able to surprise the woman by gripping her legs tightly, nearly having her topple the soup she was making, which Serene was scolded for, but of course, neither this robust Mexican woman is able to resist to my sister’s puppy eyes, so all was forgotten soon.
Mariana doesn’t really like me, though. She says I’m too much trouble for her to handle. I say she doesn’t have to handle me, I can handle myself, but, well, you know, fights here and there do happen, especially with my uncle every time he barges in claiming he’s here to see his brother, but actually starting to rule as if he were the king here.
I left Serene with Mariana, my sister was having fun helping in the kitchen, so why bother her? Mom was in her room, so I went to check up on her. Predictably, she was lying in bed, submerged by covers and pillows. At least she was sleeping. Sure, she cried herself to sleep, but she was sleeping. It’s become very rare since her husband started sleeping on the couch of his study instead of with her.
I entered and tucked her in, brushing her blonde hair out of her face. She’s still very beautiful, but the light in her bright green eyes has been fading. I wish I could do something for her, for my dad, for everybody, but I couldn’t help Mike, what could I do for them? I’m already trying my hardest and it doesn’t work. Then again, hadn’t I been here in the first place, lots of things would have been different.
Bending down, I tucked a few strands of her blonde hair back, and kissed her temple, having her hum in her sleep. She’s so different from the woman she was five years ago, and it pains me to no end, but every time I reach out for her, she shuts me out, as much as dad does, and I just ... well, remain alone with the crushing weight of a crushed family on my shoulders. Thank God I have my best friend by my side, at the very least, and Serene. I’d do anything and beyond for that little girl, especially to give her a bright future.
Sighing, I repressed my own tears and my own pain, as I’ve been doing since five years, and pulled back, leaving my mom to her sleep. At least she was resting. Walking just a few steps down the hall, I reached my father’s study. He wanted it upstairs because this way he’d be closer to us.
That was before he quit living. He’s barely let himself enjoy anything this years. He blames himself for what happened to Mike, says he should have bewared, should have paid more attention to the signals ... how naïf of him. He did nothing. I did everything. I spent the most time with my brother, who else could be to blame but me?
In these five years my family has been taking such a detour for the worst, that I wonder how did we make it up until this moment. Sometimes I wish I could be a normal 13-years-old, that my problems concerned only the deepening of my voice, the hair on my buddy down there, and how to get a date with a girl. Just that. Instead I have to practically run the house.
Sure, I don’t mind taking care of Serene, I love her to bits, if there’s one thing I don’t regret, is spending every free moment with my baby sis, but for one day I would like to switch sides and be just the pre-teen instead of the one that runs the family.
However, I guess things don’t always go as expected. I mean, look at me, I expected to grow old with my brother beside me, despite his schizophrenia, yet now I’m stuck with a hole in my chest and a life of nightmares.
I’ve been seeing a therapist since five years already, Dr. Hastings, but it’s useless. I go to him once per week, but in five years he’s barely been able to let out a couple of words from me. Seeing a shrink should serve to unburden yourself, right? Well, I’m not that good at opening up, never have been, unless it was with my mom, but, well, she’s not really in shape lately.
Talking to a stranger isn’t my top idea of venting and Dr. Hastings isn’t really great either, with his standard phrases about how it’s not my fault, how I shouldn’t blame myself because it was my brother, he was sick and so on.
It was a dead boy’s fault? A dead boy who spent half of his life battling with an illness that not even adults can cope with? Sure, it’s his fault. Not his brother’s, who was perfectly sane and should have noticed the signs, should have done something to help him, instead of hiding his head in the sand.
Once I’d reached my dad’s study, I tried, wishing for a miracle: maybe the door would be open for once, maybe dad would let me in, implicitly accepting help of some sort. Obviously no.
Sighing, I knocked. “Dad? Dad, it’s me, Jake. Can you let me in? Dinner is almost ready.”
No answer. My father used to be such a cheerful man, always smiling at life, always so happy, it’s like he flew other than walk. There was never a moment when you’d see him sad, not even losing his mother broke him. Sure, he was hurt, but he resigned in the end, mostly because it had been due since a while: my grandma had terminal cancer, we got six months with her.
But since Mike did what he did, dad hasn’t been the same. His life ended when he lost his son, and it hurts to see him that way, I don’t even recognize him anymore.
This past year he seemed to be getting a little better, his brother succeeded in having him see a shrink too, we even had a couple of family sessions with Dr. Hastings – excluding Serene, of course – and it seemed to work just a little, we were taking steps into the right direction ... today everything crumbled down again.
Dad had found the strength to come to the ceremony in memory of Mike, but, like I said, he didn’t resist till the end, neither did mom. Now we’re back to square one. I was already thinking we could call Dr. Hastings for a couple of more sessions. He doesn’t help me, but he seemed to be able to get something out of my parents, so maybe it’s worth it.
I knocked a couple of times more, calling dad, but he never replied, so I tried opening again, stupidly, I know, because the door was still locked. Then I recalled Mariana has a copy of every key, to clean up, of course, so I ran back to the kitchen, thinking that maybe if I could talk a little to my dad, things could get better, even if only slightly. Trying wouldn’t hurt, would it?
It didn’t take me long, only a couple of minutes, Mariana was serving dinner, Serene already snatching a couple of bites from her plate. The maid asked me if my parents would join us, so I informed her mom was already sleeping, while dad was in the study.
As I asked for the key, she didn’t even need explanations, just gave me the thing without a word, murmuring something I didn’t quite catch in her language. Once I was back at the door, I didn’t even knock, knowing it was useless, I just put the key in the lock, and opened.
Hadn’t I ever. The sight froze me in my spot. My dad was at his desk, bottles all around him, tears streaming his cheeks, hair in a mess ... a gun in his mouth.
“Dad ...” I whispered, tears welling up in my eyes. He looked up, but unlike five years ago, his hazel eyes held nothing but sorrow and apology as he inched the weapon closer into his mouth.
My heart was beating rapidly, hammering in my chest, I was crying silently, breathing heavily, needing for this to be another nightmare. It wasn’t happening. No, it wasn’t. My dad wasn’t doing what I thought. That gun is only a toy, it shoots water or something.
“Dad ...” I called again, begging. “Dad, please, no ...” I should have moved, run to him, taken the weapon out of his hand, but I just couldn’t move, my feet were frozen, rooted on the ground.
I cried silently, begging him not to leave me, pleading with him to be stronger, everything would work out in some way, we could make it, we could talk to Dr. Hastings and do something, anything!
“Dad ... dad, please, don’t. Please, don’t leave me.”
He shook his head slightly, and I sighed out of relief when he pulled the gun out of his mouth, but my heart stopped when he simply murmured: “I’m sorry, son. Tell your mother I love her.”
The sound of the gun firing, the bullet piercing through my father’s skull and breaking the window behind him echoed in the room and in my ribcage.
I fell to my knees, crying painful tears. Not this again. Not this again. Why me? Why us?! Can’t we catch a single break? Why does God hate me this much?
TEN YEARS AGO
I remained there standing, watching her, tears clogging up my throat. This day was worse than the usual, as it is obvious. It was ten years since Mike committed suicide. Five years since my dad followed him. Mom has been being hospitalized since then, and just like a rare rose, she’s been withering slowly, step by step, day by day.
Her cheeks were once rosy, healthy, her green eyes brimmed with joy ... now those cheeks were hollow, as much as her eyes, which were so completely empty, no light was anymore in there. Her whole day consists of just lying in bed, taking her medicines, barely eating. She just let herself go, let life go, without fighting. This since her beloved husband left her. If losing a son broke her, losing the love of her life finished her for good.
Right now she was sleeping, seemingly peaceful, as if nothing had just happened, as if she hadn’t just dropped such a bomb, asking me for something so out of this world. I closed my eyes, gulping down the lump in my throat.
It’s been ten years, and this sorrow just won’t go away, if anything, it keeps adding. Those nightmares keep haunting me, I keep seeing my brother lying in a puddle of his own blood, I keep seeing my dad’s apologetic look before he pulled the trigger ... I keep reliving every damn moment every damn night. I’ve been doing everything I could to try and move on, but those images just won’t leave me. Me myself I’m surprised how can I keep pretending I’m fine when in fact I’m not.
I’m as far from fine as life is from Venus, but I keep acting as if I were perfectly okay, without a single trouble in the world, just because I need to keep that happy façade for my sister. Believe it or not, she’s convinced we’re orphans.
It was uncle Keith’s choice. When Serene started asking for our parents, he told her he took us in after our parents were involved in a car wreck. A car wreck! It was a stupid car wreck to kill my father, not a bullet through his skull. If only that were true! But I guess it works, because this way my sister will grow up sane, not as fucked up as her brother.
I hit the wall with my head repeatedly, trying to make a sense of this life. This only keeps getting worse. Every five years I lose someone I love, it’s like there’s a deadline. A literal one. And now my mom decided to worsen this macabre fact by asking me to do it for her ... at the epitome of her sorrow, my mom just asked me to help her commit suicide.
How ... how could she even think of asking me such thing, it’s beyond me, but the worst is, the more I looked at her, the more I witnessed her lie in that bed like she has since five years, crammed with antidepressants and such, the thought seemed to make its way through the rational side of my brain.
I need a break from this. I need an escape, because, honestly, I can’t do this anymore. I guess that’s why that thought, that sick thought about actually complying with my mom’s wishing and ending her pains did linger in my mind. Even too much.
I will never forget this moment, I will never forget the way my heart was ripped out of my chest. For the third time. I will never forget what I did. I just watched my mom die.
I gave her the lethal cocktail, I prepared it for her, I sneaked into the room and stole the pills, I locked the door of her room, to avoid anybody entering to possibly help her, I stood beside her bed, without moving a single muscle, as I watched, as I witness life leave her body.
I watched as my mom took those pills, I watched as she fell into a numb torpor, I watched as she slowly lied back on bed, and closed her eyes, a relieved smile on her face. I was the one she thanked for it. It was me, her own son, to end her life.
I killed my mom. I killed the one woman I’ve loved first of all. I killed the woman that gave me life. I just ... killed her. And right now I was crawling to the floor, crying every tear I’ve got, while outside nurses and doctors yelled for the door to be opened, while my mom lay in her bed, lifeless.
How could I do this? I should have just refused. I should have told nurses to check if she took her pills regularly, I should have informed doctors about her death wishes. I should have done something. Something that didn’t involve being a murderer. Something that didn’t involve watching the nth person I love leave me.
Now it’s just me and Serene. Now the lie she was told has become truth, we’re indeed orphans. And it was me to cause that. It was her own brother to deprive her of the chance to have a mother.
I killed my mom. I killed my mom. I killed my mom. The thought kept crowding my mind, pressing my hands to my head didn’t help, the words just kept repeating over and over again, sense of guilt was already crushing me, literally, because I felt like the ceiling, the sky, the whole universe was crushing on me, destroying me, annihilating me.
Noises multiplied around me, deafening me, but I barely noticed anything, I just curled up in a ball, crying my heart out, feeling crushed, devastated, desperate and many other things I couldn’t even pinpoint.
My mom just died. And it was me to kill her. I just wanna bury myself in a deep, deep hole and never emerge again. I just want them to lock me up in a dark, narrow cell, and throw away the key. I don’t deserve this life. I didn’t deserve such a mom, I don’t deserve the life she gave me. Especially not after I took hers.