Monday, August 8, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 33

She was drinking food through a straw and unable to get to the bathroom by herself by then. I was soaking her feet, brushing her hair, holding her to sleep. She woke up coughing in the night with no relief except for codeine cough syrup. And yet, she found the joy in sneezing.
Grandma’s trailer had been dingy from the outside, but the inside was immaculate. She had one of those old radios that looks like it’s a dresser and she only played classical music. Because of this, I thought she was rich. She lived in poverty, but she found the joy in the simplest of things: piano, cold coffee, serrated grapefruit spoons, hot tea and sneezing. She smoked cigarettes, but not pot.
However, she did grow it in the backyard when my mom and aunt were younger because she said she didn’t want her kids buying shit off the streets. Gigi was classy like that.
In a day when divorce, was a scarlet “D,” she was a single, working woman. She wore high heels every day and waited at the bus stop. She never talked about Grandpa that much except to say that he had had a metal plate in his head and “wasn’t quite right.”

I wanted to grow up to be just like Gigi. In between fishing and fantasizing about conquering the lake, I listened to classical music and learned to play “Nadia’s Theme” on the piano.
We had everything and nothing. I told myself that I was a warrior and that nothing would have that much power over me. Not even my own mother. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 32

I am roughly 10. I am sound asleep in my room. All of a sudden she comes tearing in and flips the lights on.
“I lost my fucking drugs,” she screams. Before I know it, the opening part of the headboard is sliding across my forehead like a sailboat over placid water.
She doesn’t find her drugs. I am bleeding. She leaves the room.

        The next morning, she wakes me for school and seeing the gash gasps, “Shit. You’re not going to school looking like that today.” And so I stay home until my head heals and we can go back to playing pretend like we always do without ruining our good family name.

My grandma was my refuge during those years before foster care. Gigi, we called her. Her last name was Graham, so it only made sense. She did not, however, find the humor in it when we started calling her “Grandma G-String,” because she was too high-class for bullshit like that.
Gigi was diagnosed with Parkinson’s shortly after she retired for her job at the county clerk’s office. Everything shook, including her lips. We put food on a spoon and scraped it below her top teeth to just get something in her mouth to eat.
One day we were sitting there and I sneezed.
“Excuse me!” I laughed.

“I’ll never understand why people try to hold their sneezes in. It’s one of the greatest joys in life,” she quipped.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 31

There were two doors. One was narrow and jagged. The other was round and open. My mother chose to go through the open door. It hurt her like hell, it ripped her wide open, but she knew it was the only way to survive. Do I approve of it? Do I think she did the right thing? I’ll never know, because the life I had and didn’t have with her are all I knew. It’s impossible to imagine what my life would have been like with her presence.
        I know I’m strong, however. I have been to hell and back again a thousand times. Day upon day. And I continue to rise from the ashes. Clumsily, yes. I am constantly losing my way and finding it back once again. But I walk through the round, open door as well. I am exactly like my mother and not a thing like her at all. I like to believe the thing on the other side of my windowsill looks different than hers did. I know it’s different in fact. Her door took her to men, drugs, alcohol and the point of madness. I discovered these truths in her journals--what she had been doing all this time she had disappeared.
        My door must be different. And I’ll tell you a secret. I’m deathly afraid that it’s not. And yet, I walk through the door, shaking and scared. I listen to the universe and follow it. I allow it to gently guide me by my jittering hands. I follow it in the dark like a lantern and see nothing around me but stark branches. But I follow.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 30

She mailed me her journal after my stay at the psych ward. Maybe it was to help me understand. Maybe it was to remind me that she was still alive despite the absence of me. Maybe it was to hurt me. I don’t know why she sent it, but as I read the entries, my heart ached for her. My mother was not a monster, but she was mentally ill. My mother did the best she could and the best she could was all she had to give.
July 2, 1974
The thing is, I’m happiest when I’m not me. When I escape and hide behind whatever I can. I guess I never learned that lesson—to be a big girl and face my problems. I think what gets people is the monotony of the everyday. I wake up, make coffee, take care of my child, set my timer for fifteen minute increments just to make it through to bedtime. And during those fifteen minute increments, I feel lost. I don’t know what to do with myself that has any value. And so I sleep. I get high. I drink. I break things. And after, I feel so bad that Junie has witnessed yet another breakdown, but I can’t help the madness. It’s clawing at me to get out and all I know to do is shatter glass.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 29

The words in my head, the voices, they were quiet at first. They blew through my mind like tumbleweeds on an almost windless night. They didn’t disrupt things.
        But then they grew louder and larger and started to damage my soul.
        They had to be given life, and by life, I mean voice. And that is why I write.
        Because the voices never die. Writing is a lonely profession, but the inside of a writer’s mind is filled with the most vivid colors, people with a million stories unto themselves; it’s the playground that never sleeps.
        But God, sometimes, I wish it would. This is what I was talking about earlier—the haunting and begging for attention, waking me in the middle of the night like a small child for a drink of water. The words are restless, and so I am restless.

        I breathe. Listen. And let you drink this healing balm from my aching hands.

The Door Girl, Part 28

Words are like flowers; when you put them together properly, you can create a masterpiece with them.
        I used them to escape the jail I had created for myself. I used them like a dying man pushes his morphine button. They were my escape—my pain killers, and I used them in large quantities.
        Bleeding to death by ink is a fantastic thing. The pain, the fear, the voices and the shadows where they lurk--it all gets washed away with a  pen in my hand.
        It was difficult to write on anything at the mental hospital because writing utensils were seen as weapons (again, understandable). So they gave me short, stubby pencils like you use at the library. But I took it anyway because it calmed me more than the Ativan I begged for.
        I wrote my way to crazy. And that is to say, I wrote my way to sanity. Yes, restored mental health. Which fully includes the crazy and the ugly. Those are the parts that make us beautiful and evolve in to more lovely human beings.

        I wrote until I realized that life is never as black and white as it looks on paper, even though I had hand-crafted every detail. For the first time, I realized that I was not invincible and I could not control my life. I had to surrender to something larger than myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Door Girl, Part 27

My mother was always hot and cold. Always a contradiction. Fire and ice. I blazed with her and froze to death with her, as long as I could stay close. We were a raging fire and a frozen marsh in the tundra, where it’s always too cold for anything to grow.
        That’s how my mother would remain for days, but all of a sudden, the clouds would lift and I would see the embers start to twinkle inside of her. The Magic Woman was coming to life. And she would be lit ablaze, everything around her smoky and on fire. She was lightning in a five-foot-two-inch body.

        And me, well…I just loved to watch her burn.