Like that moment in the movies where the main character wakes up gasping for breath. Everyone thinks they understand but only those with sleep apnea or who have almost drowned do. That’s how I wake up.
My throat is raw, my nose clogged with the dueling scents of lemon and pine.
I know I am approaching middle age but the memories between the room I wake in and then are indistinct. I have lived that life in a dark cave. Surrounded by dream things that flit away when glimpsed.
I want my mama. –I need to have a conversation with the mother.-
I’m suddenly in the hall. I see her, call out to her, “-Beep… beep…-” Love fills me as her eyes move past me, pretending not to see. It’s the peekaboo game! A big boy version she always plays with me when I am sick or sad, which is most of the time.
Three year old legs are not meant for running but when she steps into the kitchen I give chase. One step, two. I’m in the kitchen like I teleported the rest.
She looks through me. Ice water slides over my soul. She looks so old, she must be fretting. That’s how she looks when I’m really sick. This isn’t the game. She’s giving me the silent treatment. I must have done something bad. That makes me mad. I stamp my bare foot and spew forth words in a voice filled with squeaky thunder!
“Don’t be mad mama! I’m a good boy! Anger’s –survival is not realistically viable.-“
Our house is creaky and old. My pint sized fury rattles the dishes. Mama looks surprised. Tears spring onto her cheeks as her mouth opens in an O. When words finally come they are in a whisper.
“Spencer, you can’t be here.”
Now I’m crying too. Doesn’t she love me anymore? I know I’m trouble, it’s not my fault I’m always sick. I intend to wail for forgiveness.
“I –always kept her secret.-“
The spicy tang of Old Spice mingles with the other scents in my nose. My dada is behind me. I ache for him to lift me up, to hold me. To ruffle my hair and tell me, everything’s okay champ. But his touch would shatter me. I’m –too fragile to be transferred.- When he speaks it is in a voice as old as mama looks.
“Susan, do I need to get your sister here to look after you?”
Mama stares at me. She falls to her knees, rivers running through the deep valleys on her cheeks. I want to run to her. I need to wrap my chubby arms around her waist and tell her she’ll get through this, that we can face anything together; like she always does for me. I can’t, I hate her! But I’m a good boy.
“I… I’m sorry, Spencer.” She is choking on the words. “We had to remove the breathing tube. You were in a coma for thirty-nine years! I’m sorry baby. Forgive your mama. It’s my fault, I let them do it!”
Dada is saying something, trying to console her but his voice is tired. He just lost his son again too. Why can’t he grieve? I don’t hear the words. My world shrinks to just me and mama. I am going to forgive her; going to return all her favors. I’ll tell her that!
“-I suspect there is more for the mother to feel guilty about.-“
Why do I keep saying these things? My world narrows more. Mama sobs out something. It must be bad. The floor shakes as dada falls to his knees. My tiny eardrums quake with his bellows of rage and denial.Now I want to comfort him too. Instead I stare at the cupboard where mama keeps lemon scented Pinesol.