Mom’s cry carries through the paper thin walls of the crumbling house even though she speaks with an inside voice.
She drank last night.
I always know when she calls my name that way in the morning, like her vocal cords are filled with glass and death. It was hard for me to sleep because her boyfriend was drinking—I learned to be scared of an angry drunk a long time ago. There is a silver lining. It helped me to become invisible. I don’t have a cloak or anything like in Harry Potter, my life isn’t that kind of fantasy—I wish—but I have patience to be quiet for long periods of time besides being great at keeping absolutely still. Last night, I imagined myself being a whisper as I lay in the dark; I rubbed my pillowcase through my thumb and forefinger for hours. I don’t know why it helps with my anxiety. I know it’s stupid, but it works so I don’t question it; I don’t want to look behind the curtain or whatever.
I was more nervous than usual because I knew Mom hadn’t had time to refill my inhaler. It got hard to breathe several times and I had to make sure I focused on staying calm, which made the minutes of the night seem like hours and the hours seem like days. My sheets were soaked in sweat, the kind of soul crushing sweat where the sheets transform into double sided tape and your skin keeps adding adhesive, working fast as ants that spill out of a crushed dirt pile.
I kept imagining I was like those fighters who have to make weight, sitting in saunas and running on treadmills. I wonder if they know that all they have to do is struggle to breathe in sweaty sheets all night long and they will shed the pounds—I promise.
Mom usually calls when she hears me making noise in the bathroom. Breakfast Menu: two Advil and a glass of tap water. That’s the usual dish on Fridays. She calls for me in-between the snores of John. I think his name is John. It definitely starts with a “J.” I like the early morning because most men sleep in. I don’t know how they sleep with all the snoring, which Mom calls sawing logs. I wonder where they keep all the firewood they chop because it would have to have its own continent, maybe have to be rocketed to the moon for storage: aliens are really servants who have to figure out what to do with all the wood.
There aren’t any clean glasses in the kitchen, but I find a plastic cup that has not been used—I think. Stupid dishes. I hate dishes. Well, I hate chores. Dishes themselves are fine. I’m extremely—clowns level—terrified of cockroaches, so I don’t clean the dishes because Mom would get angry. What’s new? I clean the dishes to keep the cockroaches as far away as possible. They can go to Mars with all the sawed logs. I think they are so creepy because of how fast they are: legs all quick as eyelids, climbing the walls and shooting across them in bug hyperdrive. A shiver goes up my spine just thinking about it.
I get the Advil and fill the cup with tap water and walk back to her room. There isn’t a reason to be quiet. A volcano eruption would not wake “J”.
“Your breakfast,” I say as I come through the door.
“Shhh…quiet,” Mom says waving her hand in a downward motion while her face is all pushed up with wrinkles on her forehead.
Must have been a tequila night. That’s what Mom says when she sees someone looking like a well trekked zombie. You know, the kind you see in Walking Dead that can’t even walk because they are pieces of pieces.
“He’s not going to wake up,” I say.
“Shut up, baby,” Mom says as she takes the drink from my hand while I drop the pills into her open palm. “Have a good day at school, hun,” she whispers as I make an about face and walk off. I lift my hand to show that I heard her and I will.
I know I will have a good day because it’s the last day of the last week of 4th grade, so instead of doing the usual crappy schoolwork we will do actual meaningful things like watch movies and have extra long recesses, AND each kid gets to bring something to play with.
A room full of toys and games and doing whatever I wanted. Have a good day? No problem.
I usually prefer being at school; it’s a place away from home. Most of the kids at school don’t pay me much attention and that’s okay. The teachers and principal and library lady are nice, and none of them get angry at me.
I have the perfect thing to keep me occupied: my Nightwing action figure. I got him Christmas before last so he has some battle fatigue. His right arm falls off all the time, always at the worst moments, too, like when doing a backflip to dodge a rocket or when swinging away on his invisible bat-ling hook. I lost the real string bat-ling hook a long time ago. Ceiling fan incident of 2009. RIP bat-ling hook.
For now, I have to ninja the usual landmines getting to school: Ms. Shipley’s dogs, who usually (cross my fingers) are inside her fence, then Kim Elizabeth Freeman, or Kim Practical, as everyone calls her behind her back, sometimes to her face when getting away is a guarantee; she is really smart, but she is the tallest kid in school and has long braids that go down to her shoulders—she’s a huge tomboy with brawn to match her nerd soul. I just have to pick the right bus seat to avoid her. Usually mid-front is a good choice. Finally, I have to make sure to avoid Tanner Jennings and the goon squads of fifth and sixth grade in the child centipede that is the waiting line on the sidewalk outside of school. Why have the buses come and get us if they are going to make us wait at the door? I don’t get it.
I put Nightwing in my backpack, safe and sound. I am just outside the front door when I hear her.
“What’s up, Cannon?”
Invisibility cloak fail.