Manuscripts

This is a my current baby 🙂 . I’m looking for a way to post this in a more reader-friendly way but until I figure that out, I’ll be adding new chapters and sections to this page until I’m officially done with this novel. Enjoy!

Say When

 

Prelude

My eyes twitched gently behind my eyelids. I lie still. Unsure of what awakened me. I awakened this way frequently. With seemingly no incident to provoke me from my sleep I’d find myself fully awake and alert after moments before being dead to the world.  The pajamas I’d worn the entire day hugged me. Attached to my skin by a thin layer of sweat that’d gathered in the summer heat. The fan hummed and danced side to side in the corner. The low couch I slept on caused the air blow above me, the humid spurts of wind completely missing me. My plaid blanket, same as my mothers, lie in a crumpled wave on the brown carpet. My teddy bears’ furry leg poking out from underneath. I didn’t know how to tell time yet. I relied on the activity outside of our modest two-story home to give me clues as to the time of the day. I slowly sat up and allowed my tiny toes to hover over the carpet. A few quick steps brought me to the window. The streets were nearly empty. New York City never really slept; our neighborhood in Queens was no exception. A few nightcrawlers scurried to make it to a destination. Cars rested silently along the curb. It must be late.

No praying came from the hall. My grandmother was likely deep in a Jesus and Hail Mary filled sleep. I imagined she dreamed of angels defeating demons; God swooping down the welcome her personally through the pearly gates. She spoke of Jesus so often that I thought he was an old friend of hers. One she’d left behind years ago and she missed dearly. She’d call out his name continuously and always said she knew he’d have a place for her when she returned home.

But tonight all was quiet. My footsteps disappeared into the carpet as I crossed the living room toward the hallway. I peered down towards my mother’s room, listening for her movements. The rustling of her sheets. The hum of her oxygen machine. She’d wear it every night while she slept since her pneumonia rendered her bedridden. I heard movement. The floor boards gave their familiar creaks as I eased down the hallway to her room. She was always a quandary to me. An unknown . An uncharted territory. Her rejection of me only fueled my curiosity. I knew what a mother should be like. Hugs. Kisses. Breakfasts and sweet words. Mine was nothing like that. My mother never swept me up into her arms or cradled my head against her breast while speaking in soothing tones. Her lipstick never stained my cheek after loving kisses were given. I never got close enough to find comfort in the rhythm of her heart beat or the rise and fall of her chest. Once she expelled me from her womb, she expelled me from her completely.

She was consistent in her denial of me so I never grew close to her. She hated me but I felt nothing. Only curiosity. The oxygen tank hummed on. I stopped in the doorway. She was a tangle of sheets. A slight bump on the surface of bedspread let me know she was still there. This is where my journey typically ended. I’d watch her silently. Getting close never seemed like an option. But tonight some new parasite had taken hold in my brain. I wasn’t satisfied with watching from a distance. I wanted to see her. Up close. Her eyes. Hair. Lips. I clenched my arms to my chest instinctively searching for the comfort of my teddy bear. He wasn’t there. Still wrapped in plaid on the living room floor. I had to find comfort in something else. So, I held onto curiosity. This obsession that kept my feet moving forward.  I allowed it to calm me. I slipped through the opening in the door easily and stepped into the barren room. A dresser, with a mirror leaned haphazardly on its surface, was centered against the cream wall to my right. A small television rested in a corner to my left held up by an old dining chair. The TV was as good as furniture itself. I’d never seen its lights bouncing off the walls or heard laugh reels from comedy shows. Her room always remained silent. I stepped in further and the floorboards creaked. I sucked in humid air sharply and held it. Afraid to breath. My lungs ached as I waited. I watched her bed. No movement.

Exhaling in short spurts, I moved closer, more cautiously this time but still determined. Curiosity on fire. I pushed on toward the queen sized bed in the middle of the room. The bed only flanked by the medicinal green tank. I took my time watching it. The only thing that indicated there was life existing within this room. A continuous hum, the winding tube disappearing beneath the mound of blanket keeping the giver of my life alive. I moved forward. The sides of the beds stretched on forever. Seeming miles long as I took it tiny step by tiny step. Her foot jutted out from beneath the covers. Chipped peony colored polish on her toenails. The thin bones of her toes slightly curved from years in too small too high heels. Naturally arched from her early years as a dancer. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. Breathing regularly had been nearly impossible for her recently but nothing proved harder than fighting the symptoms of withdrawal a few weeks ago. The moans, shakes, sweats, vomiting and hallucinations kept my father and grandmother making laps up and down the hallway repeatedly.

My mother abused drugs for years and it was finally getting its revenge. Leaving her system, abandoning her, and leaving pain in its wake. Her screams echoed in my ears. A sound I could never forget. So torturous that it almost made me retreat now, just at the memory of it. A person who generated those screams could not be ok. I closed my eyes and coaxed the echoed screams back to the past. Begging them to fade. I stepped again, now only inches from the ashen mask of my mother’s face. Her sunken cheeks peeked out from behind the mask as oxygen fogged it completely and then disappeared down her throat into her lungs. Keeping her alive. I studied her face. Instantly picking out resemblances between hers and mine. The almond eyes, high cheekbones, and full lips. Her nose was more angular than mine. A trait she gained from her Italian parents. My fuller nose was inherited from my father, a black man whose Southern drawl slid through my mind quickly.

Her auburn hair splashed wildly across the pillow. My own was secured in two corn rows that began at my forehead, arched at my crown and ran down my back. I touched her hair against the pillow, wondering if it felt like mine. I recognized the texture. The same way mine felt before grandmother splashed moisturizers on to make it more manageable. I wanted to feel more. I stepped closer and ran my fingers across the full length of her hair. She was real. Regular. A normal person. Not anything like the mystery I’d envisioned in my mind.  I continued to stroke her hair. Soft gentle movements that relaxed me and quench my curiosity for the moment. I stroked gently and barely noticed the short sputters that began.  Soft air bubbles popping. Air straining to get out of a balloon.

I yanked my hand back quickly but stayed still as the sheets began to wave. She wriggled. Her head thrashed gently at first before her eyes shot open. She stared at the ceiling. Her eyes darted around the room. It wasn’t long before they landed on me. I stared back unmoving. I’d made contact with her. My heart beat steadily, my breathing remained level. She focused on me by her bedside. Her breaths fogged the mask as they came out quickly. Short. In. Short. Out. Her eyes crossed closely as she looked down at the mask and then at me. Her owl like eyes scanned the length of the clear tubing. Looking down and then back up at me. Then down again. Panic registered on her face. I followed her gaze down the length of the tube. My small bare foot rested squarely across the tube. I could feel the cool tube on the smooth padding of my foot. Backing up her supply of air. No oxygen was traveling up the tube. I stared into her eyes. I watched them grow larger. A small tear formed in the corner of her eye as I looked at her fully for the first time in my life. She was awake. Moving. Writhing. Showing more signs of life than i’d ever seen. The woman who gave me life had been virtually dead to me until now. Now I watched her cling to her lifeline. Her muscles weak from years of neglect and misuse. The drugs taking a toll on her and me, her unborn child. A drug addict before birth. She thrashed about the bed. She fought for her life with such passion. She never gave me passion. Love. My own mother. She gagged and snatched the mask from her face. Her eyes bulged. I stood. The cool tube still firmly trapped beneath my foot. Forty pounds of weight depriving my mother of what she needed most.

I couldn’t move. I wouldn’t move. Something held me firm and close. I wanted to see what would happen. What would happen to her if she didn’t get what she needed? I knew the screams she released when her drugs seeped out of her system. They resonated in my ears. What sounds would erupt when no air was left?

A door opened somewhere down the hall. Light streamed into my mother’s dark room and footsteps quickly rushed to her bed side. My father was at my mother’s side in a flash. Eyes scanning the perimeter of the bed, wildly trying to assess the cause of her distress. In an instant he lifted my light body off of the tube and placed me abruptly behind him as he hurried to straighten the mask on her face and made sure the line was clear. He assisted her with those first few breaths. The hum of the tank continued as the rise and fall rhythms of her chest resumed. I blinked rapidly, removing the hold on my body and returning to the present. The room came back into focus. The old TV. The tilted mirror. Suddenly my Dad was in front of me. He kneeled, now eye level with me, saying words that I couldn’t make out. He repeated himself searching my eyes.

“You okay sweet pea?” I nodded. He directed me out of the room. I creaked my way back down the hallway.  I wrestled my teddy bear from the heap of covers and nestled myself in the couch and closed my eyes. The fan whirred right to left. Humid air blowing above me. My mother’s panicked eyes and twitching body reeled behind my eyelids. I lulled myself to sleep. Comforted by the images of my mother. So alive to me for the first time.

 

1.

I imagined that my palms were sweating profusely but in reality no one would be able to decipher the sweat from the rain beating down all around me. I should turn around, take it for what it is, and avoid an altercation. I took a step forward. To hell with that. No one should be able to dish out pain and not take a portion themselves. Besides, I had to get my stuff. My breathing was labored. Heat rising from my belly, traveling hotly up my throat. I envisioned steam coming out of my nostrils.

I stared in at the images rocking back and forth in the blanket of darkness. Their bodies were so intertwined it was impossible to tell where she ended and he began. She threw her head back in pure bliss. The same way I did. I knew what she was feeling. I knew the places he was filling deep inside. He’d once filled those places in me. His moans pierced through my soul. I could feel the heat stinging at my lungs. I was barely breathing, my chest seizing in short spurts. The tears clouded my eyes. I turned around and quickly scanned the patio for an object of destruction. I spotted a ring of stones that surrounded the palm tree. I struggled to pick one up. The weight of the stone being nothing compared to the weight on chest. I choked out a breath.  Good thing I didn’t need perfect aim for this.

The glass patio doors were expansive. I could toss the stone anywhere in front of me and have guaranteed impact. I opened my legs, swung back with two hands, and hurled the stone forward like a child rolling a bowling ball for the first time. I didn’t run when the two startled figures stopped their lustful motion. They never separated. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the mantel. A Carrie looking figure, completely wet, dripping in the rain, with so much anger behind my chocolate eyes. I stormed in through the broken glass door.

“Bridget, what the fuck?!” Lawrence screamed. The two still hadn’t separated. His stiffness was still plunged inside her and she still clung to him unsure if this was how her life would end. That infuriated me even further. The cliff my sense was hanging on to crumbled and plummeted in a river as filthy as the Hudson. My eyes darted around the room and in two seconds I located a dumbbell, a fifteen pounder,  gripped tightly in my hand. I didn’t take a second to determine how much damage it could do. I just wanted it to hurt. After swinging across the girls pale face I knew that a dumbbell was the only thing that could indeed separate the two lovers. The unsuspecting female flew to the floor and her hands covered her face. Blood slowly seeped onto the carpet.

“No!” Lawrence jumped up and tried to subdue me before he became my next victim. He wasn’t quick enough. I hurled the dumbbell at his face. The cracking sound vibrated loudly, decibels above the thunder and lightning illuminating the sky outside. He fell. I stepped over him and stormed through the room grabbing as much as I could and stuffing it into a gym bag. My casualties lay writhing on the floor around me. I threw one disdain filled look at them both before darting back out through the patio and into the night I let the salty tears blend with the rain. A movie reel of the past two years of my existence streamed in slow motion through my mind as I made my way back around to the front of the house, down the driveway, and onto the main street.

               After two years all I had to show for it was a gym bag full of stuff. All the hopes for our future were shattered. They were left squirming on the floor beside him with a sad boob job. I couldn’t imagine that this was our ending. Him bloodied and battered on his bedroom floor with some tramp and me running through the streets like a fugitive. I was several blocks away from the scene but still felt unsafe. I was waiting to hear the sirens come wailing up the block. Steel bracelets clinking with the excitement of bringing me to justice. But he deserved every bit of it. This was my own form of justice. A streak of lightening cut through the sky above me. I hunched into myself for protection and waited for the shattering thunder to silence the anger coursing through me. I needed to get out of here. Now.

I dialed the only number that could connect me to someone who valued gentility. Someone who knew how to play nice and keep their demons to themselves.

“Hello?” The sound of his husky voice provoked an instant feeling of security.

“Yuri? I need you.” Tears continued to slide down my face. I walked toward a convenience store’s lights in the distance.

“Bridget? What’s wrong?” I could hear sheets rustling as he got out of bed.

“Can you come get me?”

“Where are you?” I took a deep breath. An onslaught of ‘I told you so’s’ were bound to be heard. I should never have left him. Now I was crying in the rain, stranded in Philly. I had no friends to speak of. Not much time for socializing when you’re playing house. Or being played by the house. The house always wins.

“Philly.” The silence lasted only for a moment.

“Give me an hour.” No ‘I told you so’. I’ve never appreciated anything more. I ended the called and checked the illuminated screen on my cell phone. The numbers slowly ticked past midnight. I closed my phone and attempted to stuff it into the damp pockets of my nearly painted on jeans. They barely contained my hips. A cell phone was pushing it. I sought shelter under the awning of the deserted convenience store while taking inventory of my reflection in the storefront window. My mascara was miles away from where it began; droplets of blood were splattered across my white tank top. His blood or hers? I had no idea. This wasn’t enough. I wanted to go back and keep swinging. Swing and swing until I collapsed from exhaustion. In the end we all wound up battered and bruised. Their scars would be a little more obvious than mine but not anymore painful.

I knelt down and retrieved my Columbia hoodie out of my gym bag, threw it on to cover my indiscretion.  I resumed waiting for my chariot. My mind wove intricate patterns in and out of my past and present. Making connections through all the memories. I tried to drown it out. Everything was so cluttered just screaming and crying to be paid some attention. There was no drowning that out. I raked my hand through my hair. Maybe I could pull those painful memories out. Straight out through my roots. And then my body let go all at once. He gave it up trying to get me upright and dignified. My back smacked hard against the wobbly plexiglass window behind me. I maintained contact with the glass as I slid toward the ground. The sound was deafening. Overwhelming. Shattering. It was as loud as the sound of a dumbbell breaking bone.

 Like it so far? Good. 

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