My cell phone jolts me awake. Disoriented, I open my eyes and groggily look around the shadowed room, not remembering where I am. It's dark outside. As I fully begin to resurface, I remember what has happened, and what I've done.
I quickly sit up and realize I'm in my mom's childhood bedroom and I've been asleep since after breakfast that morning. I'd slept in my clothes. I'd only meant to lay down for a few minutes. I can't recall the last time I actually have been able to sleep without having to wake up and check if my mom is still conscious and breathing.
My phone vibrates again on the nightstand. I thought I had turned it off, and blearily pick it up, seeing that I have another voicemail. It's after one in the morning. I already know it's my mom. I don't even bother to listen to the message. I can't bear to hear her tears and desperate apologies. I'm too afraid I'll cave.
She's already left me ten messages since I left. That's not including the times she's called and hung up or the text messages she continues to send me, begging my forgiveness, promising me she's going to get help, swearing she'll change.
Or I get guilt trips, accusations, and angry rants telling me she no longer has a daughter and to not even think about coming home. Most of the messages are slurred and rambling and don't make a lot of sense. It's more of the same and has gotten worse the farther away I get from her and the longer I'm gone.
Feeling vulnerable, I pull my knees tight up to my chin. The house is so quiet. It makes me nervous. My thoughts seem that much louder and accusing. I already know I'm not going to fall back to sleep. The guilt has found me again.
Dragging my hands through my hair, I look dully out the window. It's a full moon tonight. I can see it resting large over the trees through the lace curtains. The air is so still, trapping the stifling heat in the room along with my thoughts. I feel like I can't breathe. My phone vibrates again and I see a text message light up the screen. I don't dare even try and read it. Overwhelmed, I bury my face in my arms.
I can't decide which is worse. The constant phone calls or her not calling at all. If she suddenly stopped calling, I'd know exactly what that meant. That she'd blacked out again. No matter which way I look at the situation, I still end up miserable. I haven't even cried yet. I haven't let myself. I'm afraid that once I start, I'll never stop.
It's ironic to me that she's the one thought of as the victim when I'm the one who deals with the damage and consequences of her addiction every single moment. I'm the one who pays. She gets to drink and disappear while I am clear minded and sober and have to watch her destroy all of us with every swallow.
Another message comes through. Tormented, I hide my phone in the nightstand drawer, shut it tight. It doesn't really make me feel safer but, I can't take it anymore. Everywhere I look I can see and hear her. I'm constantly reminded that I left her, that she's completely alone, and I'm too far away now to do anything about it. The fear seems to creep along the walls, waiting to trap me.
I push the sheet back and get out of bed. I need some air. I need to escape. The worn wooden floor creaks under my bare feet and I make an effort to walk softly as I pick up my guitar and go downstairs.
The front door isn't locked. We're in the middle of nowhere out here. The nearest neighbor is at least two miles away. It's such a foreign concept to me. Back in California we have the most high tech alarms and gates so high no one can see in. Here we've got horses and fireflies and an old yellow lab guarding the land.
Pushing open the screen, I step out onto the porch. It's not much cooler out here than in the house but the summer air is warm and fragrant and the open space helps clear my head a little. The swarming hum of cicadas and crickets, the croak of frogs is the only sound.
I walk over to the porch swing and sit down. Cradling my guitar in my lap, I sway lazily back and forth and look out over the land. It's so peaceful out here, so quiet. I wonder if my mom used to sit on this swing and look out over the trees and acres of pasture like I am now.
I wish I could burn that place to the ground. Her voice echoes in my head, and I can still see the tears on her face. Why? I wonder desperately. What happened to her here?
I can't find any trace of her yet. I frantically keep looking for some part of her, some small clue as to why she had to escape. I've looked in closets, under the bed, through the drawers of the dresser and vanity. The faded flowered wallpaper in her room is the same, and so is the handmade quilt on the bed.
But, she's not here. It's like she never even existed, and I wonder if she wanted it that way. She left nothing behind except more secrets and questions. There's no proof of her anywhere. As if she erased herself completely the day she left.
She knows where I am, but I already know she won't come to the ranch to find me. I've run to the one place she's too afraid of returning to. I just wish I knew why.
I don't want to think anymore. It hurts too much. I have no answers and just keep spinning in circles. I begin to strum quietly on my guitar, letting the melody soothe me. I start to hum as the song threads together and I feel the rush of relief music always brings me. I follow where the song wants to lead and gratefully disappear. And for the first time since leaving, I finally let myself cry.