13% [chapter 17]


While you were still in college at the Art Institute, you flew from San Francisco to Utica, New York to visit your mom and dad during Christmas break. They lived in a beautiful old turn-of-the-century house with white plastered walls, all soft molded corners and black iron cornices. The windows were small and deep, some still retaining their original lead panes. The turreted two story cottage sat on a corner lot like a fairy castle in a Thomas Kincaid painting, embedded in a deep sloping wooded field, home to a raucous murder of crows.

Your parents were in the midst of trying to sell the house because your dad found a better job in Indianapolis and was moving there. But your mother was reluctant to go this time. She'd been teaching yoga classes in town and had developed a healthy sense of financial independence. She'd also grown close to a solid following of students that she didn't want to leave behind. One such student was her secret lover. So your mother stayed at the cottage in Utica while your father lived and worked in Indiana. Insisting that there were simply no offers on the property from any interested buyers, blaming the delay on the housing market, bad timing or whatever else --in this way, your parents' first real separation continued. And your mother finally seemed to come blossoming out of her shell.

Rather suddenly, she came out to you over the phone one day. Claiming she'd always been more attracted to women than to men ever since she was a teenager. You just said, "Okay..." She was so relieved to tell someone, "I knew YOU would understand." And for the first time, she seemed so happy and in love. "Life doesn't even BEGIN until you're 50!" she exclaimed gratuitously.

When you finally met your mom's girlfriend on another short trip to Utica, you definitely caught the spark. She was astonishing, overflowing with a quick wit and a bright eyed vitality. Part of you was truly happy for your mother's authentic joy. But another part of you was completely pissed off that she was, suddenly, so open and caring and warm toward you; sharing her untold stories, calling you all the time, asking your opinion about things, buying you plane tickets to come and visit her inbetween every semester, being there for you, all nonjudgementally -- just because she was now a lesbian. This kind of behavior never occurred before. Or since. And you really didn't give a fuck whether she was straight or gay. Sexual identities never shocked you.You just wanted to feel like your own mother genuinely loved and accepted you, too. But this point has always remained convincingly vague.

But for the short duration of this Christmas visit, your dad was also present, so you agreed to quietly avoid any and all discussions at the dinner table that might leak hints about your mom's newfound lesbianism. Ugh. The burden of secrets that are imposed upon us to keep. Add them to the scapegoat's unwanted heap. Then slap it's ass and hope that it takes away your wax doll guilts before running off the edge of something nonredeemably steep.

You were already bogged down with another secret you did not want; knowing that your father was beaten so severly as a child because his dad was sterile and knew this was not his kid. This secret, shared with you 15 years prior, wasn't revealed to your father by his own half-sister until after their
angry sterile dad was dead. When it was finally found out, he brought his shotgun to the cemetary and unloaded a round of shells into that plot of hallowed ground. Secrets cowards and shrouds, release the hellhounds.

The summer after graduation, after your last spring visit to Utica, a tumor had been found. Within 3 short months, your mom's girlfriend was dead. Brain cancer culled her, this fully functioning, highly intelligent older woman that had just taken you and your mom to a politically invigorating Edward Albee lecture was now instantly stuck bedridden. Losing her vision to a tunnelling darkness, her brain was quickly shutting down. She reached out her arms to everyone standing around her hospital bed and cried, "Why won't any of you help me?! Pull me out of this hole! Please, help me... I'm sinking!" Balking at the starkest futility.

More than a year passed before your mother told you about her girlfriend's death. She just stopped talking to you. As suddenly as she had begun. Soon after that, the cottage was sold and she moved to Indiana to rejoin her husband. Gone back to being the good ol' critical hetero milf. Mourning her lover and her lost self. Crammed back into the brutal closet. Shrinking. Forgetful. Unblest. You cannot even begin to imagine how sunken in run her regrets from doing all the things that were expected of her, being the "weaker" sex.

One stuffy night during that close to the chest stiff upper lip Christmas visit to Utica, you were trying to sleep in the tiny room upstairs while your parents were in their bedroom across the hall. It was freezing cold, yet under the covers you felt feverish and clouded. Burning in discomfort. Sick with unease. You kept slipping in and out of consciousness. Not into dreams but into a thick swampy nightmarish lucidity. The crushing weight on your chest would not stop torturing you and stealing your breath as you lay frozen in sleep paralysis. It felt as if someone was trying to strong arm you into doing their bidding. "GET UP!" it hollered inside your sweaty immobile head. "Go downstairs. Into the kitchen. Open the back door. Grab the axe. Come back up here. And GIVE YOUR PARENTS WHAT THEY REALLY FUCKING DESERVE!!!"

The whole massacre played out, over and over vividly in your mind, as if this horrific scene were trying to convince you of its justifiable rationality. "Just think of how happy you will be once they are gone," the voice coaxed. It took a ton of light innocent resistance and a touch of dispassionate detatched indifference to not give in to this bottomless well of rage and bloodlust. Growing more irritated than scared, you declared impishly at the overbearing manipulative presence, "no. i won't. i won't do it." Perhaps it is a good thing that you're such a stubborn selfish bitch, eh?

The next morning, your mother looked concerned when she saw your pale sleepless face emerge from across the hall. She was dutifully making their bed. As she slid the bedframe to one side to tuck in the sheets, you pointed down to a dark brownish mark on the hardwood floor that was peeking out from under the bed. "Yeah," she said, revealing the whole atrocious width and breadth of the massive pooled stain, "I've tried everything to get it out, but it's too old and too deeply soaked into the wood. I think it might be blood."

Ya think?

But you thought nothing else of that night back then, except to remind yourself that you need to drink more booze and smoke more weed in order to drown out any and all experiences of psychic shit like this cuz you were too busy
trying to be normal, which is really important to most people before they go turning 30.

One huge advantage to age is that the number of fucks you give annually gets peeled away, until you are who you really are the moment you reach your grave. Sometimes it seems as if all those lucid dreams about flying, or altering your space, or learning how to keep still and protect your egglike shell, or increasing your skill for riding those emotional horses is all just practice for leaving this plane and crossing the bridge to the north.

Until you have to come back again. And again, of course. Life is hard, then you die. Death is hard, then you're born.

*u can call me ph!*