Barren Nights and Stranger Fights
My love wrapped itself around him like a grapevine, strong and secure, and full of ridges and bumps. His love did the same, with all of its twists and turns, and the unpredictable notion of vines that scraped carelessly through my hollow, breathless lungs and ribs that punctured through my chest with every beat of my heart. It was pure. It was painful. It was home.
Now, before I proceed any further, I can tell you’re lost as to what I’m referring to, so I’ll back up four years ago when I had met him. The man that’d mold my dreams from aimlessly wandering the world to wandering into his protective arms. The shy boy who helped conquer my biggest challenges in life with forgiveness and an upbeat attitude that steered my demons off of that cliff I had so desperately wanted to dive off of and be sent into unparallel oblivion. This one guy, out of the 7 billion people commuting and conversing with one other on this planet, had the enormous amount of courage to drive out the evil from my life without a second thought. He had refrained from any sense of deliberation. No hesitation. Shit, he wasn’t even obligated. This is the story of him and I, in all of our stupidity and heartbreak. All of our baggage that we felt compelled to trudge along as our friendly companion.
“How’re you feeling, Mom?” I asked, poking my head through the doorway into the compact bedroom shared by three kids and a single mother who appeared all too tired to give two damns about my question.
“Oh, alright.” Lie. She wasn’t fine, and I knew. Between the oxygen tank residing next to her unwashed sheets that shared chocolate stain and the sunken imprint of saddened adults, and the currently gray walls that matched the color of her aging face caving in from her own lack of interest in maintaining a desirable presence, she was anything but. I gave a weak smile and hugged one of the children that ran through the room with a miniature rocket as a toy, keeping my eyes on my mother all the while with painfully obvious looks of despair and sorrow.
“Hey, little man, how are you doing?” Poking the belly of the child gently, I now internally had a happy mask stuck to my face, black tears of guilt dripping down. “You’ve gotten much bigger since the last time I’ve seen you guys. How old are you now, kiddo?” The small boy held up three fingers with an abnormally huge smile plastered on his features, given the circumstances with his terminally ill mother stuck on bedrest, and two siblings who received no better sense of pleasure than attacking and teasing the young boy. “Wow, three? I think I’m starting to get old.” I bounced the child momentarily before setting him down and allowing him to pretend to be an airplane pilot roaming the great blue skies above. My eyes drifted to the other two children who sprawled out haphazardly on the covers of the bed with devious smiles on their faces as they swung their legs in the air.
“What’re you here for? Dad isn’t around anymore, you know,” The snobbish little girl remarked, looking back at her mother as if the older women were not aware of the situation. She acted as if she had no remorse for her mother’s feelings, or even my own, and was like a robot. She didn’t once feel guilty for admitting to such things in such a rude and loud manner. “He’s been gone ever since mom got like this.” She shrugged it off and turned her attention back to me.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be talking like that with your mother arou--”
“Well, why not? It’s the truth,” she stuck in, the conversation going silent and heavy as the girl easily brought up such difficult memories and topics. “Besides, mom still has our daddy to look at in her photos.”
“You...still have the photos?” I inquired curiously, my blue eyes shifting to my mother. She looked like a stranger, one who appeared grimaced and troubled, as if her daughter had spoken words that were an ill-reminder of her time remaining.
“I was going to get rid of them, but...well, you see how it is now.” She displayed with her eyes the burden of having to raise three children while being immobile.
“I kept telling you to call me. I said I’d take them for a weekend or something so you can rest--”
“There’s no need. I’ve already arranged those things.” My mom gave a genuine and weak smile. One I hadn’t seen in years. “Kids, can you leave the room for a minute? Mom needs to talk to your sister.” After a few moments of groaning from the two older kids, they were hurried out of the room, and I took the extra step of shutting and locking the door behind them, so as no meddling ears can wander back into the room mid-conversation. “Come here, please, Anabelle.” As instructed, I pulled up a wooden chair that creaked every time even mediocre weight once placed upon it and leaned in close to my mother.
“I’ve decided to place them in my sister’s care after I go. All of my insurance money is going to her to help provide to the children…,” She spoke softly and carefully, hanging on every word and nodding her head. “But I’m also going to give you some money. The amount left in my bank account is yours.”
“I don’t need any money, mom...don’t think you have to give me anything. I’m happy just being able to talk to you.”
“What about college, sweetie? You’ll need money for tuition. I don’t want you to be in debt for 10...20 years because of schooling to do what you love.” My eyes started welling up with tears, sniffling a little as I heard her speak out of worry from everyone’s well being despite her own state of being. Her condition was worsening, and everyone knew. Her lung capacity was decreasing over time, and she now had become immobile, residing now in her bed full time. A nurse arrived every morning to provide daily assistance like bathing and assisting to the restroom with her, but everyone knew her weakening state. Her eating habits had dwindled down to barely a morsel or two throughout the course of a day, and her depressive state resulted in a severe case of insomnia. Despite all this, however, she refused to accept help. She didn’t leave her children in anyone else’s care, and insisted on doing it all herself. Not even I could watch the children in order for her to get the rest she so deserved. “Don’t cry, sweetheart…” Her hand grazed my face, her fingertips wiping away the tears that streamed down my reddened cheeks. “When it’s my time...tell me you’ll visit the kids. Jack loves seeing you, and Macy, though she’s a handful, likes you too. Even Bryce, who doesn’t speak much, tells me he likes when you’re over because you’re like a second mother to him. So tell me you’ll keep in touch with them after I die, okay?”
“Y...Yeah...I’ll be sure to do that,” I choked, smiling through my tears as I pulled my face away from her bedside. I squeezed her hand tightly and slowly rose to my feet. I set the chair back in its proper place and unlocked the door, letting the flood of anxious and obnoxious children back into the room where they resumed their antics by screaming and rebelling against the orders of their mother. I smiled slightly and waved off goodbye to my seemingly distant family prior to wrapping my navy blue coat apparel tightly around my frame and departing into the blizzard madness that displayed itself like a terrible horror movie scene before me.
After shutting the door to the main entrance, I sat idly on the frozen over, snowy porch steps, tearing up as strangers passed by and gave puzzled looks at my behavior. However, one stranger approached me as the darkness of the night consumed me into a shadowy figure.