Seasons of Change

The weather connects us to our past. It dictates our days and nights. It holds us hostage when it chooses. It sets us free at a whim.

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Seasons of Change

We are between seasons in this part of Alaska. The mornings hold a fall chill while the sun fights against the oncoming winter by surrounding the afternoons in warm rays. Children throw off their jackets and scamper delightedly in damp grass that is still cool from the previous night’s rain. The end of summer dances with the brief kiss of fall. From the tops of mountains white snow looms, threatening to cover the earth in a blanket of white. “How long?” we wonder, looking up at fat grey and white clouds. How long until we must stuff our children into snow pants and boots? How long until the days recede into mere moments? Collectively we hope for a drowsy, wet October, warm enough to unzip jackets and show off Halloween costumes. Warm enough for cider sipped in sweaters on back porches amidst not yet barren trees awash in orange and yellow leaves.

The weather connects us to our past. It dictates our days and nights. It holds us hostage when it chooses. It sets us free at a whim. Long ago we assigned Gods and Goddesses to the wind and rain. To the Sun and Moon. To the earth and its many complex happenings. To the birth and death of plants and animals. We even created a deity responsible for our very souls that would measure our worth and design our eternity accordingly. Still the weather guides and defines.

Norse Mythology describes a Hell referred to as Helheim ruled over by a giantess Hel, half living, half dead. The region is described as generally cold and lifeless; A place of eternal winter.  The Greeks also assigned Godly personages to the changing seasons. The myth of Persephone and Hades explains the seasons through desire, capture and enslavement and an agreement between the deities that resulted in the seasonal patterns we have now.

As Persephone was stolen by Hades, King of the Underworld, from Demeter’s, her mother’s, life giving, fertile bosom and spirited down to the underworld with him, everything above it began to die. Tricked into eating fruit from the underworld Persephone would be forever tied to Hades as her husband.

Ultimately as the story goes, in order to appease Demeter Persephone would spend part of the year above the earth with her mother and these would be the spring and summer months when life on earth would flourish. Flowers would bloom, people would harvest their hearty crops and the sun’s rays would shine down in a delicate balance with spring and summer rains, gentle enough to coax the most fragile bud into a blossom. Then when Persephone would sink below to spend her time with her husband Hades and rule the underworld beside him as his bride, fall would come as the air cooled and the flowers and crops began to die. Winter for the ancient Greeks marked the same lifeless frozen world described in Norse mythology. People were forced to create warmth for themselves with fire and blankets. They prayed to the Gods to survive the winter. This was no guarantee.

As a child I reveled in winter. I dug forts, made snow angels and threw snowballs at my friends. I loved the snap of cold air into my lungs. I loved the way icicles formed on my eyelashes. I loved the taste of a snowflake falling straight down onto my waiting tongue. My daughter also loves the snow. She finds it magical. However she struggles with January and February as do I, the fierce cold overwhelms her. The oppressive darkness and unrelenting cold of those months do indeed invoke images of the Hellheim described in Norse Mythology and the Greek desolation of a world without its maiden Persephone.

This year I plan to hang lights in as many rooms as I can in our house. I’ll have well-placed lit candles, the fireplace burning, two Christmas Trees; one upstairs and one downstairs. My daughter and I will make snowflakes out of paper and hang them from the ceiling so they can swing gaily as we pass by them. The appearance of my sons will fill her with joy. Lighting up an otherwise dark and dismal time. She is already making plans for her brothers. They will make a snowman. Pelt each other with snowballs. She wants them to eat the snow with her. “But not the brown snow,” she clarifies.

We will make our way through the winter taking comfort in the festivity of December. We will hold each other close, as in the last months of winter the season tightens its icy grip in defiance to its eventual melting and disappearance from the surface of the earth. Eventually we will rejoice as we jump in puddles between melting piles of crusted snow and call forth the blessed spring and the promise of new life. We will grow and thrive with all life on earth, nurtured by summer’s golden grace until the circle once again stops its spin and the needle rests in winter’s icy palm.

For now I’m content to relish in these last days of summer. The roses still bloom from their pots on the deck. The tomatoes still grow in the greenhouse. The lawn still needs mowing. And my daughter throws off her jacket and runs barefoot in the yard. These are the times we wish would last forever. At least one can take comfort in knowing that even though it will leave us, like a devoted lover it will return.

Perfection

It is.
This hideous beast inside pretending at destruction
that releases glory suddenly
like a storm cloud that reveals
a single perfect ray.

It is.                                                                   My obsession that keeps me up long past the turning of keys and the clicking of lamps
and the rustle of sheets on a bed
that misses the weight of me.

It is.
An omnipresent loneliness that swallows me whole and deposits me— undigested,
Slick with self loathing and causeless fear
into a place I’d forgotten about.

It is.
A pulling up and out of myself the guts of me and spilling them onto computer screens and sheets of paper while unoriginally searching for meaning, perhaps even absolution.

It is.
That cavernous space between my lover and myself full of pit traps and mines only recently discovered and not yet admitted to.

It is.
The nobility of happiness despite the mundane death after death of all aspiration.

It is.
One life with all of its small joys and deceptions—
fragile, perilous, unrelenting and ultimately unavoidable.

It is.
Perfection.

Kimkoa 2018

 

Cars

There are quiet moments when tears spring—
burning enough to remind me you’re unattainable.

 

Cars

So.
I am disabled as you turn me inside out, that being your pathology.
And yet I dare to think you suffer knowing I’ve caught you as well.
Fantastic, gleaming sea creature with see-through eyes
helpless on the end of a hook.
Like any little fish.
There is something deliberately perfect about the way you remember the details of my countenance…
and grant me entry into your secrets,
fidgeting like a small child would.
But doing so seductively.

It is obvious how I’ve crashed at your feet
and beyond the embarrassing truth of it there is solace in knowing I am not alone in this heartbreak.
In this realization of not being desired expressly, in fact—
filling up the honor of second choice.
The way my son prefers corn to carrot sticks.
He’ll eat both however.
I would say the same of you.
There are quiet moments when tears spring—
burning enough to remind me you’re unattainable.
I am not clearly, distinctively able to let go of the chain we keep wearing and forgive you for stealing my presence of mind.

I need to get to the place where you are not—
and only I exist passionately,
my true nature no longer concealed and the days that remain a neverending orgasm.
Cheaply executed and completely mine.

Not friends you coward!
They know I see marigolds where your eyes would be and lightning bolts around your face.
Oh unspeakable and nameless shape shifter!
I wish you were real always.
Instead of just stolen moments in cars.

I think I just said it all.

Kimkoa 2012

Banana Milkshakes

I will read you every word so you will know I’m smart like you are will you stay with us I won’t be loud I need you even though you have to go

Banana Milkshakes

Foam the milk with fruit it’s not as sweet as I was hoping can we add some ice-cream please I had a dream that you were gone don’t ever leave us pink and red I wore the shirt I know you like and maybe if I watch you closely I can stop the clock from ticking I will read you every word so you will know I’m smart like you are will you stay with us I won’t be loud I need you even though you have to go I’m still not ready it’s ok I know you love us give me reasons to accept the way it is and has to be I need a hug don’t change or grow I love you mom I love you mom I love you
just
the
way
you
are.
Kimkoa 2010

Sing It Loud, Say It Proud

I don’t do this for myself. I do it for my children. For my daughter who will have her own children one day and may suffer as I did.

You never know what will happen when you reach out to someone. Not everyone is ready for a true friend. It’s taken me a long time to realize this. I still don’t understand it and take it personally more often than not.

I’m a transparent person. I have hurdles I have to overcome, battles I need to fight and I am an imperfect person something I don’t try to hide. I worry sometimes I come across as a toddler yelling “I make mistakes!” with a wide sunny grin as though it were a gift. Perhaps I do come across that way sometimes however I don’t think that’s something to apologize for. One thing about making mistakes is at least you know you’ve tried to DO something. You’ve tried to make a thing happen even if you bungled the entire operation from start to finish. Some mistakes are worse than others obviously. Still we learn from them, however hard the lesson.

My continual need to reach out to other people and share my story with them and hear theirs is just part of me, it’s who I am because of how my life has been. The joy I’ve experienced when I share what I’ve been through and someone else shares what they’ve been through with me and we each accept, forgive and love each other despite those scars is nameless. It literally cannot be touched. Because of this however, when I see an opportunity for that level of happiness and my attempts are met with a firmly closed door, or worse a mere dismissal as if my olive branch never existed I am so crushed, I feel so rejected that it’s hard to LET IT GO. I can’t MOVE ON. I want to know why I couldn’t reach them. Why they wouldn’t let me in.

The truth is, it isn’t about me. It isn’t about me at all. There are a million and one reasons why someone keeps the doors of their life closed and the shades of their heart drawn even against the brightest, most beautiful days. It’s their right to take solace behind a locked door. Just because I want them to feel the sun with me doesn’t mean they have to and it doesn’t mean that sunlight is any less beautiful. It’s just the way of things. It’s the way people are. For someone who is used to hiding, used to pretending to be “perfect” my openness and consequent awareness is off-putting. What? They say. How do you know me so well? Only because I am you I think. Only because I used to try to hide too.

This is how it is battling bipolar disorder. Battling anxiety, depression, self doubt. Battling any mental illness really. Once you accept that you need help and you ask for that help and you receive it, you want to share it with everyone else. And you become adept at spotting the same illnesses, the same broken pieces in others. You want to help them too. Even when they don’t want anything you have to give. Because part of the struggle is learning to break open that rusty lock and connect with others who feel the way you do.

I’m on a journey. I used to take a multitude of pills just to stay stable. Things are different now. It’s important to note I have been working with medical professionals and no one should ever EVER just stop taking their medication. I just happen to have a big mouth and a refusal to accept a regimen that isn’t working for me (restless legs, 50 lb weight gain, the inability to write, etc) So I used my big mouth and about a thousand phone calls and I now take one pill for my bipolar (lithium), one (will likely become two) pill for my raging ADHD (vyvanse), two for the anxiety brought on by OCD (gabapentin & klonopin) and one for sleep (lunesta). I actually tried ambien and had a psychotic reaction to it so if this has happened to you you’re not alone. I took the pill and 30 minutes later I told my husband- “The eye told me you have bodies buried in the yard.” Needless to say I never took it again.

Sleep is so elusive but my God it’s so vital especially when you’re battling mental illness. But who can sleep when there’s so much to do, so much to think about and everything whirls around in my head like a carnival ride you can’t get off of. It’s important to note that sleeping pills are EXTREMELY dangerous. The wrong one can change you into a psychotic mess. And if you’re extremely depressed, in large doses they will kill you.

I wrote in a past blog about how lucky I was and how much I loved my doctor. Well as usual nothing lasts. This is what we as people who suffer these illnesses go through. I put my entire trust in her and our last appointment she told me that although she was reducing her case load she would never drop me as a client. A week later I got a phone call from her office saying she would no longer be seeing me, I was referred to a new doctor and the earliest appointment would be in three months. I thought well of course that happened. So for the last two and a half months I have become best friends with the certified medical assistants who have been my bridge over this doctor-less sea of side effects and dosage problems. Insurance issues and complete frustration and loss of faith. If you ever see a CMA give them a hug. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

All is not lost however. I found out that this new doctor is an osteopath who specializes in treating people with psychiatric conditions using a combination of traditional western medicine and alternative natural remedies. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! I may have hit the jackpot! I have been praying for this since I got sick. Because there are not just these diagnoses that hang over me like a witch’s cloak. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. At the time I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 I was suffering extreme postpartum psychosis, WHICH can last UP TO THREE YEARS. I also have uterine prolapse so I only ever go two to three days maximum without bleeding like a stuck pig. I also have cysts all over my thyroid so prominent you can see one of them sticking out of the side of my throat! Hmmm. How many conditions could the side effects of what I am going through mimic? How many doctors would want to throw pill after pill at me clueless as to why they don’t work? I’m not saying I’m not bipolar. I really don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of mood and mental disorders. I’ve learned that a pregnancy can shift a mild case of bipolar 2 into a severe case of bipolar 1. I do have many of the symptoms. I also have many of the symptoms of the other conditions I’m suffering. So who knows and really I HATE labels. We’re all humans dealing with different levels of hardship and whatever you call yourself, judgment and stigma must be erased from our vocabularies.

What I’m trying to say is that there may be more ways of treating your condition whatever it may be, beyond just pills. On top of pills. On top of pills.

I know I’m not alone. That’s why I’m speaking out. In the Netherlands their schizophrenic people remain integrated into society. People treat them with kindness. The reorient them into reality as a whole, as a group, rather than locking them away. Studies show they get better! They regain their grip on who they are and what is real. Now I can’t say that would work for everyone. It would be amazing but this society is so diversified and disconnected I have a hard time believing what works in a homogeneous social system would work here in the melting pot that is America. But the lesson is in their lack of judgment. The person is sick. Not evil, not gross, not to be shunned and avoided. Just sick. That’s all. It’s so simple.

When I was hospitalized I went on social media and asked for visitors. I asked for flowers. I let everyone know where I was and that I was lonely for companionship. One loving couple came to see me with flowers and a balloon. My aunt Nycki and Uncle Tom. They brought a card for Alice. Do you know why they came? Because their son suffers from a mental illness and they were not afraid of the behavioral health ward. Which by the way is calm, clean, full of loving nurses and good people. People who are ill just like anyone else. There are children and husbands who come and spend time with their mothers. They bring games and cookies. They bring the freedom of the outside. Their are girlfriends who come to see their boyfriends with paper bags full of sweatshirts, headphones, love letters. They hug each other. Long embraces. Everyone looks away as the tears roll down their cheeks. Usually one of the older female patients will bring tissues. Sometimes a tiny carton of juice. Of course there are the patients who sit in their rooms during visiting hours. Because no one is coming. That was never me. Even though none of my friends came, my aunt and uncle did. And my family was there for every visitation. I even had a birthday cake with real candles in my room surrounded by them. Another Aunt and Uncle sent flowers. A dear friend from high school sent flowers. He was in Hawaii and unable to visit. But he made sure to let me know he cared. But none of my friends came. Most of them ignored my obvious distress. I thought to myself here I am in the hospital, having been diagnosed with a disease deadlier than cancer and hardly anyone seems to care. But that’s how it is. People hear the word bipolar and they want to get as far away from you as possible. Women hide their postpartum conditions out of the very real fear of judgment. And then they end up in the hospital crying over why it has to be this way while their visiting babies fill up the ward with their sounds of new life.

For all of these reasons I sing out my story. I tell anyone who will listen about what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and what I have yet to overcome. I don’t do this for myself. I do it for my children. For my daughter who will have her own children one day and may suffer as I did. I do it for all the other people struggling under the weight of their diagnoses, their medications, doctors who don’t listen, friends who don’t care. I will never be quiet. And maybe just maybe things will change.

Gone but only for a while

I tell myself I should be grateful. That even though I have to say goodbye, at least I’ll get to say hello again.

My middle son Elliott boards a plane tomorrow. To the sound of breaking hearts everywhere. Every day I wake up and wish his father hadn’t moved across the country. But some things can’t be helped.

I tell myself I should be grateful. That even though I have to say goodbye, at least I’ll get to say hello again. I wish that logic worked. All I feel is an empty place that only he can fill. We went to the trampoline park yesterday. It was the most fun I’ve had in I don’t know how long. It was as if we both forgot he was leaving for these few precious hours and just let go. Sailing from square to square, bouncing like kangaroos, playing virtual video games, running all over the park like little kids…it doesn’t get better than that. Later we watched Brooklyn 99 and I twisted his hair. We stayed up until two in the morning. Laughing, talking, doing his hair, making memories.

Of course nothing lasts forever. Every time my roses bloom I clip them faithfully, making fragrant and colorful bouquets. They’re beautiful. Until they’re not. Until their petals begin to fall. Until they curl and brown at the edges. Nothing lasts forever so we must make each moment count. I remember when Elliott was a baby, soft and fat and gorgeous. Big blue eyes, a wide engaging grin…the easiest baby you could ever ask for. It’s hard to believe he’s as a tall as I am now. That he can’t seem to eat enough tacos. That he broke my heart by going to Oregon and never coming home.

It’s been a hell of a summer. My daughter is operating on all cylinders, my mother took off for a month in Spain, I have a hysterectomy scheduled in early September because I can’t stop bleeding. Luckily yesterday it was mild enough that I could forget about my pain. At least for a little while. My oldest son was here for a month and barely made it that long. He says he’ll visit when he’s older. Unless I move I don’t see that happening. He hates Alaska with a passion. I am forced to watch him grow up on Instagram and Facebook. It’s about as painful a thing as you can imagine. All I can think is he’s my son. He’s my son. How is it I don’t get to raise him? How is it that I missed straightening his tie for his first homecoming dance? That I’ve never seen a concert or a play he’s been in? That I have to beg and plead for recordings and videos that never come? That he and his brother didn’t even send me a card for mother’s day and FaceTimed me with horrible reception while working on their stepmother’s mother’s house as though I mattered as much as a pebble on the ground? My head echos with these truths unceasingly. I have to remind myself that life is a lot of things but fair is not one of them.

I feel angry. I feel hurt. Most of all I feel lost. I feel lost when I hear mothers talk about taking their teenagers to football practice or guitar lessons. When they complain about their messy rooms. When they snap pictures of them with their girlfriends. I can’t relate to these women. My sons were ripped from my life and I’ll never know those moments. I don’t get that time. They’re growing up without me, being raised by another woman. In another state. And I am powerless to change it.

It hurts most when I think of my daughter. She can be moody as hell but she loves her brothers fiercely and when they are gone all she does is talk about when they’re coming back. I never wanted it this way. They live with their stepsisters and often it feels like they forget their blood sister even exists. They’ve never even gotten her a present. Not even a card. They don’t call her. They don’t realize what it’s like to be a little sister who’s brothers were there one day and gone the next.

I’ve felt like throwing up every day for the  past week. I’m not pregnant. My husband thinks I’m just heartbroken. The body has funny was of dealing with pain and stress.  And mine apparently chooses for me to feel like I’m going to throw up on the floor.

However time marches on. I wanted to work on music with my son. It never happened. He just wasn’t here long enough. He had overnights with friends, parties here, parties there, a little sister to play with and everything else that gets in the way of everything you try to do. Maybe one day.

My consolation in all of this is that despite the distance I know my sons love me. They may be forgetful and even selfish as most teenage boys are but the love is there, the bond remains unbroken. I like to imagine one day playing with my grandchildren, the pain of the past a distant memory. My sons seem to be growing and thriving which on one hand hurts because I selfishly want them to need me more, but on the other hand and the most important point is that they are well, happy and cared for. I would never interfere with a son’s need to be near his father. That relationship will shape the men they will become.

As I said before I clip and prune my roses when they have bloomed fat and fragrant. The hardest part is waiting for the new blooms to open and cover the bush with beauty. It’s the same way with my sons. They come to me full of blooms and I gather them up and breathe them in, every last bit of them. They leave their blossoms all over my heart. All over their sister’s heart. And then when they have given all they can and the clock strikes the time of leaving I watch them go, still strong, green leaves and branches with the tender buds I sowed that will grow over the long months until I see them again full of new life. Until then I can only love them, miss them and wonder what color their roses will be next.

The Other Side of Beautiful continued

Her mother stayed home with her, hating every minute of it. Everything about her was cold and disapproving. Everything but her food.

The graceless way her life had developed was not novel. It was not even unusual. Her world seemed to the onlooker like a once delicate, yet slightly tragic garden overgrown and marked by neglect. She thought about how she saw pain and loss in each direction she looked. Her failures sprung up all around her, as the only flowers left in her sad little garden. The petals were colorless and with twisted stems, choked by weeds and sorrow.

Her mother wanted little to do with her, Her father even less. Often as a child she felt like there was some kind of clear partition between she and them. At the dinner table they would sit there, her father reading any one of a number of articles on corporate finance, the rise and fall of whatever company, international trade. Her mother would smoke cigarette after cigarette, her mouth a thin angry line. Sometimes the line would open. “Eat your peas.” Her mother would eye the pile of green orbs she kept piling on top of one another and letting roll back onto the plate. Her mother was an excellent cook. But Arabella was lonely. A battle over peas was better than nothing.

“I don’t like peas.” She would answer defiantly craving the attention an argument would bring. Unfortunately even that was beyond what her parents were willing to give.

“I didn’t ask if you liked them. I told you to eat them.” Later, after dinner was cleared, the kitchen cleaned and her parents watching television in the next room she would kick the table leg rhythmically with the tip of her shoe watching the peas bounce against each other. She would take her fork and smash them into the plate, their sides splitting and green flesh spilling out. “Eat the peas Arabella or they’ll be waiting for you in the morning!” The edges of her mother’s voice sailing through the doorway over the muffled sounds of the television set felt like tiny knives up and down her arms. She pushed the plate forward and laid her head on the table in silent protest, knowing exactly what the cold peas would taste like gulped down with water the next morning and not caring.

Her father ran a consulting firm. He had a head for numbers and a firm grasp on the market. He was well-respected and his firm had netted their clients millions of dollars in revenue from their well-placed changes. He was proud of his work. It was essentially all he cared about. He was not an emotional man. He was sparing with his words, his advice, his affection. Her mother stayed home with her, hating every minute of it. Everything about her was cold and disapproving. Everything but her food. Yes, she was an excellent cook. She made Arabella oatmeal and blueberries in the mornings with a sprinkle of sugar on the top. Sometimes she made pancakes or french toast on weekends, the dough always gold and fragrant under the swirls of melted butter and caramel syrup. A cascade of soups- tomato bisque, cream of chicken, southwest chili- appeared on the table at lunchtime always with a side of four buttered crackers. Her dinners were flawless; tender slices of beef paired with roasted carrots and potatoes steamed from china plates. Bowls of clam chowder beckoned. Crisply fried chicken dripped deliciously onto neatly folded paper towels. It was as if her mother put all of the love she had into the food she cooked. There was none leftover for Arabella. Truthfully she had no need to smile. Her cherry pie smiled for her. She would stare angrily out the window, smoking her cigarettes. Almost as though she were waiting for something or someone to come and rescue her.

When Arabella became pregnant with Luke her mother sniffed and said to her father without looking at him “Well I could have told you that would happen.” Arabella stared at her mother, clutching her abdomen.

“My baby is not a mistake.” Tears slid from the corners of her eyes and tumbled over her quivering cheeks.

“Tell that to the rest of the world.” Her mother spit the sentence at her before getting up to clear the breakfast dishes.

Her father looked at his watch and then back at his article.

“You have always been a liability, Arabella. Twenty-four with no college degree, no job and now pregnant by a man who’d as soon slap you as look at you.”

“He’s rich and smart and he’ll marry me, you watch! I don’t need your judgment or your ridiculous pity! He loves me! He said so! I’ll never come back to you for anything ever again!” She yelled these words even as she herself did not quite believe them. He was rich alright and he’d probably marry her. But Love? That was a whole different story. She doubted he could truly love any woman. Not after the life he’d had. But she loved him. And in the back of her mind she swore she could make him love her back if a thing were even possible. She knew she was THE ONE. It just might take all she had to prove it to him.

*to be continued

The Other Side of Beautiful

She watched them head down the hallway and wondered what things would be like if Michael hadn’t left them. She wondered if Maisie even remembered the way things used to be.

This was an ugly time for her. The laundry lay in a messy pile, the sink was full of dishes. Her teenage son slept lankily on the couch, his limbs hanging off the edges. She cursed the tiny one bedroom but it was all she could afford. In fact she’d be lucky to make rent this month. She ran her fingers through her curly hair, grey at the roots, dark brown at the edges. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been to the salon. She looked at her hands, her bitten fingernails. She sighed and decided there were more important things to worry about. Like yesterday when she saw her son squeezing his feet into his shoes, wincing slightly. She’d have to come up with the money for new shoes and soon. She wondered if her boss would give her an advance on her paycheck. They could eat ramen and hotdogs for a month if they had to but he needed new shoes now.

She shuffled over to the coffee pot and pushed the button. The familiar gurgle gave her some reassurance she could make it through another day working the checkout line. She never thought she’d be scanning other people’s groceries at forty-one but life happens and she found herself with few if any other options. The coffee pot was full enough to pour a cup so she grabbed her favorite mug from the shelf and filled it with the hot liquid. After adding the milk she put it back in the fridge. The coffee was hot and perfect. If only she could stay there in her slippers and threadbare robe with the hole in the side drinking coffee at the tiny kitchen table. If only she didn’t have to change into the formless black polo and slacks, affix her name tag and drive her old, blue camry to greet the line of impatient shoppers.

”Mommy! I peed!” Her daughter’s voice rang out through the silent apartment.

“Did you pee in the potty Maisie?” She prayed for a yes.

”Yep and I wiped front to back!” Maisie’s pride in her accomplishment was palpable.

“Good job baby! Now go start getting dressed!” She looked over at her son on the couch starting to show signs of life.

“Luke! Maisie is up, she’s getting dressed. I need you to get her breakfast. Remember you’re on duty today. I have to work.” Luke groaned and reached for his cell phone.

”Jesus mom it’s Saturday.” He scrolled his Instagram, his eyes half closed. “Are they ever going to give you a fucking weekend off?” His voice was annoyed yet protective.

“Luke don’t swear! And I know what you mean. We’re short people right now you know that. There’s nothing I can do.”

”What about Dad why doesn’t he ever take her? It isn’t fair.” He threw his phone down on the couch in disgust.

”It’s complicated baby you know that.” Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and anger. Life was a lot of things but fair was not one of them.

”I love you!” Maisie bounded down the hallway and jumped into her brother’s lap.

”I love you too Maisie girl.” Luke smiled at his sister. “Are you my supergirl?”

“Yeah!!” Maisie began jumping up and down on the couch. “Pow, bang!” Luke started laughing. “Supergirls need clothes Maisie! Not just underwear! Gross go get dressed!” He lifted her off the couch and led her down the hall to the bedroom she shared with his mother. “Go find a shirt supergirl!” She watched them head down the hallway and wondered what things would be like if Michael hadn’t left them. She wondered if Maisie even remembered the way things used to be.

The way things used to be. She almost laughed. She knew exactly how they used to be. She could forget a lot of things but never the afternoon she’d come home early from the caterer. She could never forget hearing the barely audible sighs and whispers from her bedroom as she made her way up the spiral staircase to the carelessly half open door. She could never forget opening the door the rest of the way to witness the rise and fall of a pale, freckled back in a swath of turkish bedclothes. Bedclothes she’d picked out; pale grey sheets and a deeper grey duvet cover with tiny, yellow flowers.  She could never forget that image, that moment. The slender, white back that wasn’t hers stretching and curving with an unfamiliar passion her bed had never known. She watched with morbid curiosity as her husband’s dark familiar hands held the girl’s hips gently, guiding them. They were oddly quiet, serious almost. Passionless but for the occasional sigh. Followed by a hushed reassurance as though they were both complicit in their lie. Their shared pretense that their orgasms held no consequences.

She closed the door gently and made her way back down the stairs. She set her single package on the counter and then her forehead, the cool stone stilling the the fury of betrayal thundering through her mind. Hadn’t she seen this coming? Could she truly say she cared? Their marriage had been dead long before this latest betrayal and she knew her husband cared even less about this woman- not even a woman- than she did. The thought brought her some comfort, but not enough to override the humiliation. She felt broken. It was only a month before that the IRS had started looking into their finances. She had seen the notices on the counter, by his bedside table. “Is everything okay?” She asked, knowing nothing was okay.

“Of course babe, they audit everyone eventually. I got this.” He had it or so he said. She had to admit she knew he’d had nothing. But she didn’t care. She knew that the car, the house…even the endless parade of women was merely a front. She knew he couldn’t let them see that barefoot boy he used to be and still was with his tightly curled afro and overalls two sizes too small getting knocked to the floor by his angry drunk of a father, glasses shattering on the dirty floor. “Get up and clean that shit up, you good-for-nothing excuse for a son!” White foam grew at the corners of his father’s mouth. “You heard me! I said get the fuck up and clean up this mess!” Through a swollen eye he watched his father loosen his belt and head towards the bedroom where he could hear his mother softly crying. He knew she’d be screaming soon after each whip of the belt. He cut his fingers on the broken glass on purpose each time she cried out. It was his penance for being born.

*To be continued*