A thick blanket of snow had fallen the night before we met. It was unusual weather for spring, when Easter daffodils should have been blooming, their golden yawns glowing brightly in the warmth of the sun. Instead, Mother Nature covered the city with a beautiful blanket of soft, white snow that presented a magical backdrop for our introduction. The street lights glistened off the snowflakes that morning as I drove to our prearranged destination. I was an anxious girl watching a woman’s life unfold before my eyes. The swarm of butterflies I had swallowed with my evening tea was fluttering beneath my heart, tickling my stomach from inside with every brush of their delicate, persistent wings.
An assistant met me at the entrance of the sacred hallway. She dutifully swaddled me in the ceremonial garb, disappointing as it was. I felt under-dressed for such a special occasion. I longed to choose my own attire, but tradition stood in the way. The tired old gown of someone else’s choosing made me feel like a queen wrapped in hand-me-down cloth. The faded garment worn by the long line of those who were here before me featured openings that left little to the imagination, though I was sure you wouldn’t mind the indiscretion. Your acceptance of me would depend not on what I wore, but how much I loved you. I had vowed long before, when God answered my prayer with the sign of a cross, to love you as big as I could. I prayed for His guidance and strength for the journey long before I met you.
I arrived for my date with destiny, already tired but ready to begin my journey to a life that I was sure would make me feel happy and whole. I had chosen to invite only a few supporters to witness this right of passage; something so private should be witnessed by only those closest to my heart, I had protectively determined.
The agony of waiting on you to make your appearance was almost unbearable. My face soon sparkled from the dew on my brow as I concentrated on the battery operated clock on the wall—every tick of the second-hand signifying one more breath closer to you. The pale walls of the meeting room seemed abrasive and bright behind the dark leather chairs against them. The others who were there to greet you spoke quietly among themselves as they awaited your arrival. Vases of fresh white roses wrapped in blue satin ribbon sat along the windowsills, soaking up the midday sun.
“He’ll be here soon,” the usher promised, temporarily appeasing the anxious lot. His words were lost on me; I was envisioning an even more private and serene surrounding for our rendezvous. In my mind, I imagined myself walking toward you in a peaceful meadow; violet alfalfa blossoms swayed in the breeze as I picked a bouquet of wild daisies to offer you. Fluffy white clouds played a game of charades against the clear blue sky above me as the wind blew my long dark hair from my face. Though unable to see you, I continued to walk forward, knowing you were there waiting for me. As I walked lazily along, I plucked the petals from a perfect, white daisy, tempting fate with a flower.
He loves me. He loves me not.
And you loved me.
Content with destiny, I breathed a long sigh of relief. The fresh, spring air rejuvenated my body, giving me strength to continue my journey to you.
“Here he comes,” the usher proclaimed, waking me from my daydream. His overt excitement demanded the attention of everyone present. He moved toward you and silently but quickly tugged you into the room.
It was obvious to all present that you were unprepared for your entrance. You were thrust toward me, red-faced and angry with fists clenched, screaming at those who pulled at your body. Your impatience and frustration filled the room until I wrapped my arms around you.
Ours was love at first sight. Your thick, velvet-like black hair fell across your perfectly shaped eyebrows, drawing attention to your dark and piercing eyes. Those deep and questioning eyes held my gaze intently as held you close to me and breathed you in. I kissed your perfectly formed lips softly, feeling your body relax in contentment.
“My beautiful, beautiful son,” I whispered, tears of joy filling my eyes. I held my heart in the shape of a baby boy in my arms. I was breathless under the weight of the love I felt for you.
As I stand before you sixteen years later, I am breathless once again. The weight of the venomous words you have spewed forth has broken my heart. Those beautiful, piercing eyes cut me to pieces with laser-like precision as your glare penetrates my soul. Hate has consumed you. Your addiction has consumed us both. The drug that separates you from reality is dividing us, too; the monster inside you rages and the mother within me weeps.
I have found your drugs again, thoughtfully hidden in a pocket you have fashioned by cutting the liner of your school backpack. It was a great hiding spot, you’d confided to your brothers. They fear what you have become, of what might happen to you if you don’t stop using drugs. They are petrified of what will happen to them if you find out that they’ve betrayed your trust.
“Why are you doing this ? How can you continue to put our family through this? Do you know how it makes me feel to know you are destroying your body? Don’t you care about what’s happening to you? Don’t you care what’s happening to me?” I want to scream, but your ears are deaf to my voice.
You are angry with my invasion of your property. You seem to have forgotten that you have forfeited your right to privacy. You agreed with your therapist and me to abide by the house rules. You signed the contract stating that you understood the ramifications of your actions. You agreed to take random drug tests administered by me. You agreed to bedroom and article searches. How can you be angry with what you agreed to? Or, is it that you are angry at being “busted”, as you say? Angry, perhaps, that your “using” has been discovered, thus deeming you what you despise being called—an “addict”?
I cannot find the words to convey or the actions to take to make you understand what your death will do to me. My life has revolved around you for the last seventeen years. I cannot exist without you now.
Your nonchalance makes me angry and I want to punish you, but I don’t know how.
You were two years old the first time I spanked you. Back then, we were buddies and loved to spend lazy afternoons playing in the park and reading at the library downtown, often eating lunch by the fountain between adventures. A deli just across the street from the library offered simple sack lunches consisting of a sandwich, chips and a cookie. We would share the bologna sandwich, potato chips and chocolate chip cookie, throwing the leftovers to the beggar birds on the park lawn. Ours was a regular routine; when we were ready for lunch, you would walk toward the deli, always a few steps in front of me, stopping at the parking meter. From there, you’d take my hand and we’d cross the street together. On this day, you decided to be a brave boy, walking beyond the parking meter to the edge of the car parked in front of it. Your body threatened to go further, your dimpled knees bending to pick up your step. I grabbed your arm and yanked you back toward me. Filled with the fear of what might have happened, I held you over my knee and spanked you. You started crying immediately; you were not accustomed to being disciplined in this way.
“You have to hold mommy’s hand! You could have been hit by a car! I’m sorry I had to spank you, but you cannot walk out into traffic,” I scolded. You looked at me as if I had spoken in a foreign language, your little mind unable to understand what terrified me. It pained me emotionally more than it hurt you physically; I had nightmares for weeks afterward. The thought of someone or something hurting you, my child, was simply unbearable.
And here you stand, that same far away look in your eyes; again, you are unwilling and unable to process what I am saying. I want to pick you up and hold you over my knee again, to spank you until you comply.
“You have to stop ‘using’! We cannot continue to live this way. Your addiction is killing you and is killing me,” I long to scream, but my tongue is numb. My throat is held hostage by the emotional pain that has manifested in the form of a lump there.
Your faraway gaze tells me you’ve locked yourself inside the secret room within you. There are no spare keys to your room. The blinds are drawn and visitors are not welcome there. It is your private place—a drug induced room without a view, where you are the king of your castle. When you are there, nothing and no one else matters. Not even yourself.
The nightmares haunt me continually; there is no escape. My dreams and reality merge to portray a world that I don’t want to live in but know I cannot flee. I have to save you. In my dreams, I am just below the surface of cool water colored like the night sky. Your voice plays a deep and haunting melody that resounds in the waters around me as you cry out for help. The moon illuminates the reflection of your face just above the water’s surface; you are a little boy again, terrified and alone. I try to swim to the surface, but something grips my ankles from below. Shrill laughter bubbling from the abyss below swirls around me like a hurricane, drowning out your cries. I try to kick free from what shackles me, frantically pushing toward the water’s surface. My mind wills my arms to fight for freedom. Rebelliously, they act as anchors in the dark water, floating heavily at my sides. You run away before I can break the water’s surface. I am helpless. I wake up to the same nightmare, breathless and helpless still.
You are running away from reality, you say. You are safer above the clouds. I am instantly inside the memory of the first time you ever ran away. You were four years old and angrily packing a bag for your journey. You were determined that somewhere in the world, you would find a mommy who would live up to your expectations. You speak of a place where there is no “time out” and where picking up toys is a parent’s chore. I laughed inside as you readied yourself for travel. You stuffed your backpack full of items you thought you would need: a favorite blanket (the one with the bunny, tattered and stained from your first nosebleed), a pair of socks, a juice pack and Goodnight Moon. I watched you walk to the end of the driveway and you hesitated. You sat on the ground with your legs crossed in front of you and your elbows resting on your knees. You held your little face in your hands. After awhile, I joined you.
“What are you doing,” I asked innocently, sitting down beside you on the cool and prickly grass. You continued to look at the ground.
“Have you decided not to take your trip?”
You turned to face me, your face streaked with dirt from the little hands that wiped away your tears. You broke my heart and made me proud with your answer.
“I’m still going, mommy. But I’m not allowed to cross the street alone.”
Acceptance of authority caused you to hesitate, keeping my little boy safe. Now, you laugh at the rules and my wanting to protect you. The drugs protect you, you say. They protect you from yourself, you reason. And I still don’t understand.
The lullabies I once softly sang to you have been replaced by the tirades between us. Your voice overwhelms me as you defend your actions. The depression disappears when you’re high. I’m overacting. The substance feeds your artistic ability, and why can’t I just accept you the way you are.
“I think you are a fabulous artist,” I argue. You truly are.
“I painted this when I was high,” you boast, showing me the prize-winning portrait you painted of a lonely man on a desolate street. You search my face for expression, your dimpled grin and raised eyebrows insinuating my defeat.
I am proud of your accomplishments—eleven days clean, seventeen days clean, twenty-eight days clean. I am proud of you and I love you more than anything in the world. I love you enough to help you restore the respect for life that you once felt, to help you find the soul that’s been lost and to help you learn to love yourself again. These feelings are lost on you now. They have been replaced with a psychedelic mixture of rage and remorse. You are blindingly angry when I find a way to prevent you from getting the drugs, leaving a path of destruction in your wake. You are apologetic and affectionate when you find me on my knees, crying to God and offering up my life in lieu of yours.
It is then that I know I haven’t lost you completely, that your soul has been leased but not sold. The sweet, dimpled face of my little boy is what urges me to continue to fight for your life, for my life and our rebirth. I will keep fighting, my beautiful, angry son. I will keep kicking and screaming and clawing until the demons release you from their deadly grip, and I will bathe you in forgiveness and love and give you life again.