It Was The Look On Her Face

She caught with the knife when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen.

I don’t know what hurt worse: the self-inflicted gashes from a serrated pocket knife across my upper right thigh or my mother’s face.

It definitely wasn’t the wounds. It was her expression, I’m sure of it.

The wounds bled the emotional pain with its crimson result. The blood and life-long scarring are just consequences of relief.

Her face, long and mouth wide, eyes beading with tears.

I couldn’t tell if she was afraid to approach, thinking I might try to end my life or afraid I might hurt her more than she already was.

She stood there, in shock for a moment.

I hate that I remember this. For the longest time after she passed, I only remembered the good things. Like this time a year or two prior when we had the windows open in the house and Mom was blasting Christmas music. Her favorite.

She was singing off-key to an Elvis Presley Hawaiian-inspired Holiday classic and picking through her collection of ornaments.

The tree was up, leaning slightly in the back corner of the sun room. The glass block wall always made me giggle, with the artificial fir propped before it. It seemed so off to me. I guess not as odd-seeming as the Hawaiian-inspired Christmas music — it worked together.

She was happy. It was her favorite time of year. The windows were open and the cool Florida winter slipped in through the tiny screen holes lining each window of our fifties-built beach house.

I love those memories.

But one day, I unlocked the storage boxes up in my mind’s dusty attic and all the shit I hid from resurfaced in random order.

I no longer needed sadistic television to haunt my thoughts. I have my opened memories to keep me tossing and turning at night instead.

I don’t quite remember how she got the knife now, but she had it. She’d dropped to her knees beside me and called for my dad, voice breaking around tears.

Great, I thought. Then came the gushing. I knew it was coming, it always does.

My dad came in and I just remember him yelling and huffing out. He returned with a damp washcloth for the blood, but that’s about all I remember of him in that moment.

I swore I’d locked the door, but that lock was funny. I remember having dreams about that door — everyone walking in on me, even in my most private moments.

You had to play around with it to make sure it locked properly, otherwise someone could just push it open.

I remember my dad taking my bedroom door off, because, you know, that’s how you fix a teenaged girl with mental problems — you remove her only source of privacy, of security.

My memory is spotty for everything else, but Mom’s face was so clear, so present.

I miss her face. Not the memory face, the real one.

The memory face is never the same. It’s healthy Mom, it’s cancer-ridden Mom — it’s inconsistent.

It’s been almost twelve years since she passed, and the fissure in my heart hasn’t yet healed fully. I’m not sure it ever will.

I see young girls with their mothers at the local coffee house and the reality hits that she missed everything. She missed her daughter getting married and her three beautiful grandchildren. She missed her son’s wedding and birth of his first child.

She missed all the good things.

She was there for the knife, though. I guess that has to count for something.

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