I was admitted to the hospital this time because I am 34 and I shit myself in the shower. I sat naked in my shit crying until my roommate came home from work.
“What the fuck, what the fuck,” he kept saying. I heard him talking to someone on the phone. “She’s not answering me. She’s not good,” I heard him say.
Next thing I remember is my mother. She took off her gold bracelet, wedding ring and her shirt. Her beige bra was torn on the straps and sewn back together with pink thread. Her arms were skin and fat hanging from the bone. Her top lip was still fat and a bluish gray bruise was spreading up and under her nose.
“Ah, honey,” she said.
She leaned in with a plastic bag to pick up all the shit before washing the rest down the drain. She turned the water on me. I sat with my head between my knees and my arms wrapped around my legs. The hot water was steaming up the room.
She turned the water off, put her arms under my arms and pulled me up. Normally this would be the time I would fight her. I felt her body stiffen up getting ready for me. Getting ready to dodge my arms as they flung out in front of me, fighting like a wild cat with no claws or sharp teeth, just fear, but I didn’t care this time. I didn’t care enough to fight. I was too far gone. I’d lost a long time ago.
My naked body pressed hard against her. She was soft. Her body felt soft and warm and I wanted to push through it, a sad and forgotten thing, an old plastic doll missing an eye, cotton stuffing falling out from where her arm used to be. She smelled like chardonnay, the cheap kind, the kind that comes in the gallon jugs. She was chewing gum too. So she smelled like peppermint and chardonnay.
She patted me dry with the bath towel, under my arms and around my breasts, to my thigh, to the back of my leg. She tried to clean all the water from my skin, but it dripped from my hair, down my back, making a puddle around our feet.
“Look at me,” She said, “can’t you look at me?” She continued to ask me stupid questions: “Do you want me to make you a sandwich? Are you thirsty?”
It went on like this for a few days. Her talking, trying to fix me some how. Sprinkle some magic fucking fairy dust on me so I’d want to eat a blueberry muffin, get dressed, brush my hair, walk out into the living room, sit down next to her, talk about the movie star that was dating that other movie star and didn’t I think they would make cute kids.
She’d leave me at night. Her leaving me felt like I could take in shallow breaths of air, as if she’d been placing her hand over my mouth and plugging my nose with her voice, with her just being in the next room. Just knowing she was sitting in the next room made breathing hard. My roommate was always gone, which was a good thing, which is why I liked him. He disappeared. He wasn’t even really a roommate, just some guy that needed a cheap place to stay. So when my mom left, I was alone. I didn’t sleep anymore. I spent those long nights staring at one spot on the wall. I watched the sage green wall and that spot that showed a little of the last color that was there, a light purple or maybe a grayish pink. I watched that spot until my eyes stung and my head hurt.
“Just get up,” I’d tell myself. “Just get up.”
But then I’d think of all the other times I’d gotten up and all the other times I ended up back here staring at that spot. All that remembering just beat my head further down into that pillow.
Mother finally broke when she brought me food, one last attempt to get me to eat. I took a big bight of mush that tasted like tar in my mouth and I spit it out all over me.
“That’s it,” she said as tears started to flow down her face. She called 911 and some big firemen lifted me out of bed and took me to the hospital.
The doctors ran a whole bunch of tests, stuck a lot of needles in me. Put something over my nose and mouth, made me sleep. A sleep that was just darkness, no dreams, no colors, no half waking to the sounds of nurses coming in and out, lights switching on and off, no half asleep, no nothing. Just black. And the black sleep was long. Felt like years, felt like a trick, felt like they were giving up. Hoping that they could put me away for a while, up on some shelf, way up so I couldn’t reach standing on my tiptoes, couldn’t reach. No one could ever reach that high.
When I woke up I was alone. It was night or day or maybe morning, but it was dark in my room. Felt like I’d been eating sandpaper, scratching down my throat. I coughed a few times. The nurse came in with a small glass of water and a lozenge.
“Drink this,” she said. She put the lozenge on the table next to me. “You have a visitor,” she said.
He was wearing his work clothes. He painted houses for 25 years. All these different colors splattered all over his overalls. My eyes were trying to focus on his face. That familiar face, dark eyes like mine.
“Damn, it’s cold in here,”
He moved closer to me, half walking half pulling himself forward.
“Pinch it,” he said. He put his hand on my bare thigh, grabbed my hand and put it on top of his hand. “Why are the lights off in here?” He asked. His eyes squinting the way they did when mother used to forget to iron his shirts or when I’d move too slow.
“You’re like mud stuck in molasses,” he’d say.
“I don’t know. I like it dark.” I said.
“Whose your doctor here?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“What did he say?”
I could feel the words in my gut trying to come up, my whole hand down there, knuckles and thumbs grabbing onto stuff pulling themselves up, filling my cheeks. God fucking dammit, I wanted to say. How many times do I have to explain?
“He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what’s wrong. Just sometimes I can’t.” I stopped. I was still too tired to talk, not wanting to go any further. I sat up a little straighter in my bed. I pulled my hair back from my face, oily and think on my fingers.
“Sometimes you can’t what? Get out of bed?” He said.
There was silence now, the kind of silence that comes right before great anger or sadness. Him pushing his words down so hard he forgets what they sound like, what they should sound like, or even how to say anything. He’s good at pushing them down. I know him well enough that eventually they will all come out. They usually come out at mother though, not me anymore. By the time they make it out they aren’t words but him grabbing her arm throwing her up against the wall. That’s him talking in the only way he knows how to the only person he can.
He patted my head and looked out the window. His shoulders pushed up stiff around his neck. Holding big secrets inside his chest. His ribs wrapping around them, stuffed inside him. One day they’d take over his whole body. His lungs, heart, blood. His gut bloated like a dead man. Full of secrets.
When I was 10 we were alone in his truck and he was unbuttoning my pants. I asked him if he liked me. I thought I was supposed to talk to him that way. I thought I was supposed to like it and I thought it was my job to make him like it too.
“I own you,” he said. I felt his finger inside me. Wiggling around, going in circles, in and out of me.
‘You don’t own me,” I said. I looked into the rear view mirror at my face. It was thinner, more angular. I could see him in me now.
There were winkles around his eyes. He took a big breath slowly in and out of his nose. He pulled his finger out of me and brought it up to his face, put it in his mouth and sucked me off of him.
“I need you,” he said.
I smiled. That was perfect. The most perfect words he could have said.
I pinched my thigh. We pinched it together. We always did this, an old ritual, a special handshake, a secret hello. I could feel his cold hand but not the pinching. I held his hand there for a few seconds and he pulled it away.
“You look skinny,” he said.
I looked down at my body, my stomach caving in around my hipbones. I pulled the covers off of my leg. I had painted my toenails pink months ago.
“Don’t you eat anymore?” He asked.
“Yea,” I lied.
“Oh,” he said.
He put his hand hard into his jacket pocket. He started backing up.
“Well, you know, ahh. I’ll come back tomorrow,” he said. “Get some more rest.” The sound of his boots walking down the hallway getting further and further away.
I lied back down in my bed. Unwrapped the lozenge, tasted like lemons and medicine.
I’d always remember the feeling of lips, the smell of hard work still soaking his body, the backs of his hands holding my foot up to his mouth, his closed eyes. I’d stare into his closed eyes. Watch his face change as he moved further and further along with my toe, his hands rubbing up and down my leg.
I could hear my little sister in her room playing with her dolls. She had thick blonde hair that she could braid by herself and eyebrows that arched around her blue eyes.
“That tickles,” I’d say.
Breathing hard. Licking and sucking.
“Remember this is our secret,” he’d say.
But he didn’t have to tell me that. I knew it was a secret. Felt wrong and good in a bad way, like when I stuck my hand into a jar of jellybeans at the store and grabbed two, a green one and a blue one. Felt kind of like stealing felt. So I never said anything.