Sunday, September 30, 2012
The cab dropped Kerry off at her mothers house. She had all her mothers spare keys. She would need the car for the trips to the hospital and to her new job. She riffled though her purse and remembered she was out of pills. Her thoughts raced and she pulled some crinkled bills out to pay. She looked at the meter, it was nine dollars and twenty five cents. Now she was out of pills and she had seventy five cents to her name. She gathered her things and stepped out into the cool morning at her mothers house. She felt the dread reflex before she remembered that her mother was in the hospital. She glanced at the front door and then turned back to the street to see the cab pulling away. She was at the wrong house. Nothing was making sense. This was the only house on the street. She read the address, turned back to the house and then realized she was in the correct place.
The yard had been raked and it looked as thought the ground had been seeded for grass and watered recently. There was a new porch and roof with a wheel chair ramp. The swing was the only familiar sight she recognized but even that had been rebuilt, painted and it hung from a new chain. Someone had been working on the house and for a moment Kerry felt comfortable there. The green paint on the porch stairs and deck reminded her of when she was little. The house was out in the middle of nowhere then. She knew these woods and the woods across St. Augustine like the back of her hand. They moved there when she was three or four. Her mother would tell her stories about her father and the adventures he went on as a photographer. Her mother told her he'd never had a home and now that they had this house he would come home to see his little girl. She kept a box of gifts from Morocco, Turkey, Spain, France and a million other places he traveled. She'd never seen him but all that would change because they had the house now. He used to send money home, but when she was about five he stopped. The birthday cards stopped coming too and slowly her mother became a shadow of the happy woman she remembered. In every life there is a golden chapter but when they come early and fade, it can break a soul to pieces. It was the one thing Kerry and her mother shared; a tragic love story that ended too soon, leaving a canyon between them and happiness. Kerry found comfort in her children, but her mother only saw the face of a love she lost. Kerry was a constant reminder of all that Gretna couldn't have.
The drunken outbursts started slowly with her yelling that Kerry was just like him. Then the flood of tearful apologies, ice cream, new dresses and a brief period of calm before the pattern repeated. The frequency increased and soon the good times never returned. Kerry left home after high school. Gretna turned her hate inward and started the long retreat into the dark. She worked at the state and measured her days by lunches and cigarette breaks. The lunches, cigarettes and days spun away like a calender in the wind. The beauty Gretna once had was beaten out of her. Still, when Kerry looked at her she could see her mother in there. Her eyes would betray the love she felt for Kerry, when she wasn't being critical. There was a spark in that mean woman's eyes and her majestic bones hung just behind a smoked curtain of skin. She was over weight and usually dressed like a homeless woman, but she had an elegance that could not be erased. She was one of those woman that could not hide her genetic gifts even in the darkest state of sadness and neglect. She was a few bad habits, fifty pounds and a miracle away from being a beautiful woman again. The heartbroken don't want to look pretty, they want to wear the defeat like a cloak. They want to live in the pain so they never forget. They remain in a vigilant state, bathed in their hurt, so no one can make them believe again. One of the things that made Kerry move forward in the face of all her own disasters, was the resolve not to give up and become the vacant facade her mother was. She made the oath when she left this damn house during a screaming hurricane her mother was waging. She walked the length of St. Augustine Road alone, stepping into the clay ditches to avoid cars speeding out of the night. She never came back until Charlie died. She had hoped to find some mercy remaining in her mothers hardened shell. The mercy never came and Kerry stopped looking for it. From that moment on, she managed her mother in doses, like spoonfuls of bitter medicine.
Maybe it was the hope she saw in the new roof, porch and paint. Maybe she needed to justify taking the car. Maybe it was knowing the boys were with Becky and her kids. Whatever the reason it gave Kerry strength to enter the cavern of her mothers house for the first time in years. There was a large pile of mail on the porch. The mail was mostly co-pay bills for the hospital stay and assorted junk mail. Kerry was baffled at the house and who could have done all the work.
She turned the key and crossed the threshold. She let out a breath of resolve and made her way into the wreckage. She walked down the hall to what was once her bedroom. It was preserved like some dusty diorama. Nothing had moved since the day she left. She sat on the bed that was her only hiding place. She had flash memories of her mother and step father screaming and glass breaking suddenly in her sleep. When she was in high school, music was her savior. She would slide her headphones on and try to float away into the textures of her tapes and records. Eventually even that was not enough to keep the monsters at bay. She remembered waking up to the smell of bad breath, whiskey and hands under her covers. She couldn't escape and she couldn't fight. He was the sweet talking devil that would whisper twisted sentences that somehow made all the horrors of his hands, breath and mouth justified. He twisted logic and the love Kerry needed from missing parents, into a sick game of submission. Like all evil it started slowly and escalated into a deranged normalcy she couldn't escape. She wanted to be special and she wanted to hurt her mother. He had a demonic talent for knowing just how far to push her and how often to space his nighttime visits. He acclimated her to their filthy deceit in small doses and then let her recover. Every night she prayed to her father, God and her passed out mother to save her, but people only get saved in movies. In real life you have to save yourself, because everyone is drowning, even those that don't know it. Somewhere under the dust, the comforter, and the flowered sheets, was the dark brown stain that marked the end of her childhood. On a table in the corner, was a box of gifts, cards and letters from a father that never came home. Kerry closed the door.
She walked slowly back to the living room. She ripped open the shades and felt the anger she was avoiding. Streaks of light entered the room and the dust floated in the rays, like miniature planes in a dog fight. She stared out the window and saw her mothers old V.W. It broke down shortly after her mother gave it to her. It was a veiled apology Gretna didn't have strength to make, but one she couldn't avoid. Kerry remembered the night her Mother found him touching her, the lights of the police cars, and the accusing stare of a mother, unprepared for another tragedy. She burned everything he owned and screamed at the fire while Kerry watched from that room. In that moment of destruction, she knew she could never sleep there again.
Someday she was going to get rid of that bus. It had been cleaned, like it was coming back to life. Like it had shaken off the vines. Like it was looking at her for the first time. She would not forgive that metal machine. She hated it because it had room to lay down. She hated it because it could be parked in fields away from town. She hated it because he was gone and it was here.
She would start with dishes and fight her way out. She wanted to smell soap and to feel clean. She hit the play button on her phone. Counting Crows "Anna Begins" rolled out of the speaker. She opened the window and put her hands in the water, to wash away the dust.