“I’m home,” I say as close the door behind me. The house smells like a clean dog that’s been cooking meat sauce for the last few hours. The dogs were clean and it was my mother that had been making the sauce. Just as I turned the doorknob, I could hear the yips and barks of the dogs that lived with us, Eskimo and Mrs. Sausage. They met me just as stepped through the door and now were jumping on me as I closed it. Barely gave me time to get in, huh pups? I think.
The entry way is tiled with stone grey ceramic and hardwood throughout the rest of the downstairs. Blue paint with a hint of green colors the bottom part of the wall below the chair rail, a lighter, grey blue covers the top portion. An office, the “adult” office sits to my left, with homemade built-in bookshelves. I envy Jim’s talent for building things like that – I very much want to do that as well, but I just don’t have the motivation to do so, or to learn. I think maybe one day I’ll just…know.
“Hi sweetie,” my mother calls out from somewhere. I think I hear her either in the kitchen, the living room, or in the office. I don’t pay much attention, but rather, keep petting my dogs. “How was it?” she asks, voice now coming from the office.
“Good,” I reply, offering no more information than that. I suppose I could tell her more, but I just don’t feel like it, and not for any reason I can think of in particular – it was just easier to say “good” and be done with it. “Good” seemed to work for my mother anyway, and she went silent presumably engaged in whatever she was doing before I got home.
I walk toward the steps in front of me, a small hand table with some decorative baskets sit at the bottom. I don’t hear or see my sister anywhere; she’s probably at a friend’s house, I think. I’m heading upstairs to my room, it’s time to see who’s online now.
My room is a mess. A disaster area as my mother often calls it. My bed sits in the middle of the room, the headboard against the wall to my right so it sticks out. My dresser is directly to my left, on it sits a small TV. On the other side of the bed sits my desk with my laptop, black screen telling me it’s in power save mode. I kick my clothes out of the way and remove my shoes and drop them by the dresser.
Power up. Wireless network connected. Double click on AIM icon, and here we go! A newer version of AIM was release not too long ago, and one of the features is the ability to log chats. I think that’s pretty neat and curious to see how far back my conversations were logged, I navigate my way into the IM Logs folder in my computer.
There’s my screen name, there’s my best friend, who’s also used my computer, and my mother. This isn’t unique, as my mother has asked me many times before to use my computer in the past. One time, she was on the phone with someone while she was using it right in front of me. On a whim, I navigate into her folder to see who and what she was talking about. I have no qualms about searching through her things at this point, I mean it’s my computer isn’t it?
There, I find names I’m familiar with, her friends, some of my friends, my sister and her friends. I also come across people I don’t recognize so that’s where I start. Some are work related – did you send out this, is that finished, that type of correspondence.
Then I find something. Something that I can feel makes my blood turn cold. I felt the color slipping from my face, I felt my eyes squint to make sure what I was seeing was real. One of the unfamiliar screen name chat log reveals a devastating truth:
My mother was in an active affair.
I scroll down from the top to read accounts of bruising and how to explain it, the entertainment value of their rendez-vous, explicit details of their behaviors, and to top it all off, how my mother felt about being around this man’s kids – how “weird” it was for her to be around them.
I was in shock. It was complete and utter betrayal. Dismay doesn’t begin to describe the state of being I currently inhabit. I don’t know what to do with this information. My finger tips are moderately numb but the sensation of the keyboard and the mouse under my hands are fiercely clear.
I did the only thing I could think of: I called my best friend John. I dial his number with some difficulty.
“John,” I say, trying to hold it together. “John, come over now.”
“Now? You ok?”
“Yeah, just come over”. We had that type of relationship: we would just tell our parents that we were be going over the other’s house and that would be good enough for them.
When John arrived, he trotted up the stairs to my room, and I recounted what I found, and showed him the evidence. After the initial shock, we came to realize that it shouldn’t have been THAT much of surprise to us. For the last several years we’d been joking that my mother’s “late lunches” were her having sex with other men. It had become an almost weekly occurrence where my mother would make dinner, then never eat it and her excuse was that she “had a late lunch”. John and I would jump on that poking fun at her, hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink. I never thought twice when my mother asked to use my computer, why would I have to wonder what she’s doing, she my mother I had trusted her implicitly. Further, my mother never looked up as she said her “late lunch” story.
We didn’t spend too much more time in my room lamenting this revelation. Instead we popped downstairs and switched on the video game console to get lost in a fantasy world. That was more for me than him, I believe. We acted as though nothing had happened.
Time passes, several days perhaps. I’m over my girlfriend’s house, we’re getting ready to go out. My mother’s betrayal weighs very heavy on me now. I can feel it pushing me down, crushing me. I feel it in my shoulders, in my neck, in my legs. I can’t take it. The crushing force of betrayal comes out: I break down in tears. My head sags low as my arms struggle to hold me up on her dresser. I weep very softly, stifling the shuttering exhales. Helen sees me. She stops. Looks at me. Doesn’t say a word. I’ve already told her what I’d found. I needed to tell her, I was hoping for support when I did. Now, though, all she can do is move slowly out of the room and down the hall to her parents. She told them. I walk out to meet them in the living room. We talk for a short while, they express their concerns and willingness to help. I don’t feel comforted.
More time passes. Helen and I are sitting in my car in front of my father’s house. It’s cold and black outside. I feel like invisible ice in the air is cutting my skin everywhere. The heat is on in the car. I can’t feel it. I look at my father’s house. A crushing pressure fills me again. I feel it this time from my gut. I feel as if my fingers are swelling. I’m not sure if I’m holding the steering wheel anymore. I know the moment before I was. My eyes feel as though they are swelling. I want to pop my extremities from the pressure, that obscene, lung buckling pressure. I let it out. Tears fall freely, as sorrow and betrayal encapsulate me. I shake some. I’m not loud when I cry this time. I try to stifle the coming bouts. It works some of the time.
I’m quite sure of the date now. Days or weeks since my last betrayal breakdown with Helen in the car in front of my father’s house. I’m in my room now, working through the clothes chaos that’s still the floor of my room. My door is open a few inches and I hear someone coming up the stairs. I don’t look up until the footsteps are at my door. My mother. Something is not right.
“Can we talk?” she asks as she knocks once and stands at the threshold of my room, almost as if she has trouble walking through.
“I suppose,” I reply, but I can’t hold it together any more. Looking at her makes me so sad. It’s a cold, depressing sadness originating from directly below my heart. I’m not sure how I can pinpoint it, but it’s start from there. Tears fill my eyes and obscure my vision. I’m not sure what piece of clothing I’m hanging onto but I keep tossing them onto my bed.
My mother vomits words. I can’t really hear them, I’m too lost in my encompassing shell of sadness. It almost sounds like she’s underwater, but I can still make out what she’s saying.
“It’s like that movie, Love, Actually,” she explains. “Love is all around.” I didn’t buy any of it. They were only words, letters put together to make a sequence of sounds. No real meaning, because she wasn’t sincere.
“Say something,” she pleads. She’s not crying, but manages to look sad. Actually, her face looks more like she’s concerned rather than sad. I have difficulty looking at her face.
I could barely think. I was holding some of my clothes I was not sure what to do with now. I couldn’t put them down – that would move forward my situation. Putting them on the floor would rewind what just happened. I’m in limbo, stuck in some time/space glitch keeping me from going anywhere. What can I do with this information? What can I do with this situation? Tears still cascade down my cheeks, each with an infinite volume of crushing betrayal, deepening sorrow.
“I can’t now. We’ll talk. When I’m ready.” I don’t know how I manage to say that, but I do. I’m not sure if I even mean that either, I just needed her out of my room. Out of my line of vision. I notice how her presence in my room seemed to increase the gravitational effect the world had on me. I felt heavy. So very heavy when she was there. Like I couldn’t do anything but collapse in on myself. My arms like eighteen wheelers. I’m not sure how they stay connected to my shoulders.
Even though she leaves, that Heavy remains with me. I stand there holding my ball of clothes lost in my tears, lost in her betrayal. This is too big a burden for me, I think. She’s destroyed me. I’m not sure I actually think this, but I certainly feel it. Completely obliterated, like I don’t matter. Like nothing in my existence matters. Like every breath was just a passing breeze; here and gone in an instant, here and gone in an instant.
I stand there, frozen, wanting to do something, but I can’t seem to move well. I cry. That’s all I know how to do now, is cry. You won’t hold onto this crushing Heavy, somewhere inside of me a voice seems to say. This Heavy you won’t have to experience again, it continues. I can’t be sure of its truth, but that seems to comfort me and I let myself become absorbed in that voice.
I won’t talk about it with her, I tell myself. She can’t hurt me like anymore. Good, the voice says. I suppress the sobs, and they subside. I’m able to function again and start moving more of my clothes around my room desperately hoping that my clothes will not obliterate me like my mother just did.