Once again, my body jettisoned into consciousness from a fragile slumber. 02:30 in the morning, like clock work. It has been this way for the past several years. I cannot explain why or indicate any precipitating factors. My body just wakes up at this dark, and usually bleak hour.
Sometimes I am awoken with the feeling of danger being present – there is none. Sometimes I awake shaking and sweaty – even in the dead of winter. Other times when I wake at this hour, small, crescent shaped indentations have engraved themselves onto the palms of my hands – I must have been balling my fists again. These things I cannot explain. They simply are apart of who I am now…
It was shortly before 02:30 when I woke this morning. Unable to go back to sleep, I lumbered over to the T.V., and turned it on. My brother was online, so I invited him to a chat, and we began confabulating about the world and its strange inhabitants. We spoke fluidly from one topic to the next, until it was time for him to go to bed. That’s when we said our pleasantries, and once again, I found myself awake as the world sleeps.
In the absence of sleep, I decided to scroll through the droves of Netflix thumbnails, and pick a show to watch. After a seemingly endless search, my cursor landed on a show: Everything Sucks. That was the name given to the colorfully themed picture.
After reading its plotline, and deciding that a coming of age story set in the late nineties seemed like a worth while endeavour, I pressed play and began to watch…
It was instantly filled with nostalgic imagery of my past. Times spent carefully weaving through the hallways of high-school with my core friends instantly came flooding back to me. I even noticed as a slight smirk had wiggled its way to one corner of my mouth as I continued to watch and ‘relive’ the angst of my adolescence.
It was at the start of episode two that playful nostalgia gave way to now painful reminder. One of the characters of the show, a boy no older than fourteen sat at the table with his mother. His character is that of an adolescent belonging to a single parent home. He had just finished making himself breakfast, and as he began eating, he entered into stuttering and awkward conversation with his mother.
He went on to explain how he had met a girl, and how he was planning to ask her out. It was somewhere within that scene and the continuation of it, that my mind wandered into a scene of its own. An unscripted one that mirrored the one unfolding in front of me.
For those who have read this blog before, you will know that I too grew-up in a single parent family in a strained home. That my mother was at times both that, and my father. A duality not easy for anyone, let alone my mother, but she tried. When she could…
One night before bed, my mother was sitting in her usual spot on the couch, watching her shows, and allowing her pills to course their way through to their sedative state while smoking, or, more-so, allowing for ash to accumulate at the end of a lit cigarette. Sometimes she forgot it was in her hand.
I remember that I had been wanting to speak with my mother about a situation unfolding within me – a situation about a girl. A girl at school. She was a pretty sight to my adolescent and inquisitive eyes. I remember that. Knowing that my mother did not have long left before the pills had completely taken her attention away, I began speaking with her. A tough task for any young boy who’s navigating the trials of puberty.
I explained who this girl was and why I liked her so much. I also gave a brief overview of the hierarchy within the school. Explaining that she was in a class well above the one I resided in. I was still a skinny kid with a forming Adam’s apple, and a breaking voice, whereas she, well, she was beautiful. I swear, when she was around, she was the only thing in focus. The world around her seemed to just fade away. The way she tucked her hair in behind her ear, and how she lifted her shoulder just slightly while doing so, it was captivating in every way imaginable. She had the ability to steal air from my lungs, and she did so on more than one occasion without knowledge that she was doing so.
I explained all of this. Every detail. When I looked up to await my mother’s response, her gaze was to my forehead. An unwitting sightline. Her pills must have taken over somewhere in the middle of my annotation.
Disheartened and a little dismayed, I smirked at my mum, and said, “night mum, I gotta go to bed. I have school tomorrow”.
That night I recall spending most of the moonlit hours awake and pondering what advice to tell myself with how to rectify this turmoil of love that had burrowed itself within me. Every question and every scenario that I concocted ended with more questions or failure.
Tossing and turning, I waited out the night.
When the sun beat back the night, and broke through my blinds in the morning, I sluggishly withdrew from my bed of unanswered questions, and made my way to the bathroom to perform the morning rituals. I combed my hair, brushed my teeth, searched for any sign of facial hair with my self-perceived “manhood”, and descended the stairs.
To my surprise, my mother was awake and perched at another of her usual spots; the kitchen table. Smoke in hand, and a cascade of pills in front of her. Steam from her freshly made cup of tea effortlessly swaying into the ether.
“Hey Matt. Kettle’s warm”
“Thanks, I gotta get going though, don’t want to miss the bus”
I grabbed a pop-tart from the cupboard, and began walking towards the door. As it creaked open I heard a sudden interjection from my mother. I could not make out what she had said the first time, so I bellowed back, “what!? What did you say mum?”
“Good luck. Just tell her you like her”.
Stunned in place, I stood there motionless for a moment or two. She was giving me advice – about the girl. Somehow, someway, she heard what I had told her the night before. My mom wasn’t great at advice, but she was great at making you grateful when it was offered. And grateful I was. Not so much because I was going to implement anything that she had said, (that would just be crazy – tell a girl how I feel? No way!), but because she heard me. She listened. She fought through her own stuff, and cared. That, I was truly grateful for.
The painful part comes in knowing that although this is a cherished memory, it is doomed to be a memory that can never repeat itself in other situations – my mother is no longer around to turn to. She is painfully absent. No longer by way of simply being high, but because she is no longer among us. She is gone. Now, I sit alone at the table. No cascading pills, not hers anyways. No cigarette nor tea. Just me. Alone and painfully reflecting.
It’s a great memory. But it’s painful because she’s gone. She took her advice for the rest of my life with her.
Everything sucks. At least, about this situation anyway.
For those of you who need to know, I would eventually speak with that girl. I would stammer my way through a rehearsed and yet, unimplemented dialogue in an attempt to ask her out. She said YES!
I got stood up though. Probably for the best – wearing a shirt and tie for burgers at A&W may have been a little much (cut me some slack though, I was fourteen mimicking what I had seen on T.V.) … At least I didn’t have to get embarrassed that way as well… The image below pretty much sums it up…
I miss you mum. Thanks for listening.
Wearing a shirt and tie to an A&W is probably a little bit over the top, but it’s called being earnest. And if I’ve learned anything in my advancing age, it’s that earnestness matters. Lots.
This is s beautiful story, mister. Poignant and deftly penned, and yes, earnest.
Thank you so much. Your views as well as your opinions mean a lot. Thank you, sincerely!
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Young man, you are such a talented soul. And add to that all the giving back you do on a daily basis. Thank you. For being on the front lines.
Write more about it. As much as you can.
It’s needed. So much so.
Peace to you, and be safe