what i need versus what you want

you have done this my whole life: crow about your impending death. on a nearly daily basis, it was some variation of these statements, “i’m dying! i feel like death! kill me, please! you don’t love me! you don’t care! you’ll be sorry when i’m gone!” you threw those statements at us like grenades whenever we weren’t showing you enough attention or sympathy or something. you threw them at me all the time, and in a panic i would scramble to reassure you, mother, that i do love you, that i do care, that i’m sorry for being such a spoiled and burdensome brat. i wonder if that is why my memories of my childhood are so foggy.

i am almost thirty years old and i have moved five hundred miles away from you. you are dying of cancer and these guilt trips are getting worse. after nearly two years away from you, i cannot seem to find within myself any more love or care for you–you’ve been dying my whole life. now that there is a time stamp on your death and it has become a reality, you want more love and sympathy and attention, and there is nothing left to give to you. i have given you all i have since i could echo you, you beautiful narcissicus. you have sucked all the love and care and sympathy out of me, and i have been empty for a long time. i don’t even have enough to give to myself, much less to you. is that why i am here: to make you feel loved and cherished and wanted? if so, then why did you insist otherwise? why did you insist that i was free if really i was just supposed to be your puppet? why did you even have me?

now when we talk, i get angry when i hear those statements you throw like a net to catch whatever sympathy or reassurance you can get out of me. the guilt and the anger are volatile. i was in a foul mood yesterday, and i regretted answering the phone when i hung up. and now i’m supposed to call you, and i dread it. i dread it the same way i used to dread coming home from school when we turned onto our street. i dread it the same way i do whenever i have to drive into el paso. i want to scream at you and tell you nasty things and hope that you live forever so that if we never speak again, i can live without the guilt that i didn’t even care if you died.

it’s my party

i had worked the night before, and so i was off by the time midnight rolled around. i did my usual buying-everyone-a-shot-after-work thing and received a couple of shots in return, and claire paid for my bar tab. i drank six drinks total and was slightly hungover the rest of the day, after i woke up.

my mother called me in the morning to say, “happy birthday! by the way, they found cancer on my spine, so i’m going in for radiation treatment in a little bit, but you have fun on your girls’ weekend!”

lauren and liana picked me up at eight thirty pm. by then i was hungry, but lauren didn’t want to stop anywhere since we were already late, so i loaded up on junk food from the gas station and tried to nap on the way to dallas. we got into dallas and at joanna’s apartment around eleven pm. my stomach was grumbling at this point, and joanna had prepared a lot of food. i stuffed my face while the girls talked, then sat back to digest while they kept talking. their conversation took short breaks of turning to me to ask, “what’s wrong with you? why are you being so quiet? are you mad? are you upset about something?” and also asking me questions, telling each other my answers to those questions, and then moving along in conversation without me ever having said a word.

they sang “happy birthday” to me over a giant and delicious chocolate fudge cupcake. they asked me what i wanted to do because “it’s your birthday!” so we smoked some pot. i smoked a lot and then went to lay down on a large sofa chair. the girls kept talking and i kind of faded into the background. after a while, joanna got out the air mattress and offered me the couch, and i fell asleep listening to them talk about everyone we know, including me.

i was grumpy in the morning. i was first to take a shower. i walked out to them sitting at the table and having breakfast together. liana got in the shower next and i started changing and putting on my face. we had plans to go get bikini waxes together at one pm, and i wanted to look cute, and i was hoping that i would start to feel the way that i looked. lauren showered while liana got ready in joanna’s room. joanna and i sat in the living room, alone for the first time in almost a year. she made stilted small talk with me before asking, “are you mad at lauren?” then she launched into a rundown of everything i had been doing, or not been doing, since i got there. then i got really upset. we argued for a bit before i asked her what she wanted from me. she got quiet, and said, “you’re a shitty friend, mariel,” and stood up, “a shitty, SHITTY friend!” and stomped to her room and slammed the door shut.

i asked her if she was being serious, and i could hear her crying and babbling behind the door. i was alone in the living room and realized the shower was no longer running. visions of the rest of the day and the evening to come flashed through my mind and i decided right then that i would not be staying another night and that i would not be getting my bikini line waxed that afternoon. i changed my clothes and packed up my two bags and knocked on the door to tell them, “i’m leaving.”

the door flew open and lauren and joanna spill out of it, both of them talking at once. joanna ran to the front door to stand in my way, tears rolling down her red face. she insisted that i could not leave until we had talked, and i told her that she doesn’t get to call me a shitty friend and expect me to take it. she insisted that she can call me a shitty friend, while lauren is telling me that she didn’t mean what she said. i asked joanna to get out of my way, and when she refused i started to get really, really mad. i started to rage, “if you don’t get out of my way, i will flip my fucking shit.” and then i started to scream it. i wasn’t about to get physical, so i went over to the balcony and threatened to climb over it if she wouldn’t let me walk out the front door. she told me to do whatever the fuck i wanted and stormed off to her bedroom again, and i walked out the door with my stuff.

it took all of my energy not to cry until i was alone, and once i was out the door the tears just rolled out of my eyes and i couldn’t stop myself. i managed to find my way out of the complex and was grateful that i was awake for the drive to her apartment and that i had paid attention, because i knew which direction to go once i was out of the complex. i walked two blocks and decided to camp at jack in the box, and that coffee was the most difficult order i have ever placed in my life. i sat in the corner and cried until i was able to stop myself. liana text messaged me asking me not to leave, to let her find me, and to stay or let her drop me off somewhere. she called while i was up getting half and half for my coffee and left a voice message in the same vein, and i messaged her back saying i would be fine and that i had found a ride back to austin and not to worry about me. she expressed concern for my safety, to which i let her know that i was safe. lauren text messaged me saying not to leave and “you don’t want to talk about it?” and i apologized and said nope, and she told me to be careful.

i found the nearest greyhound station through my phone and then counted my money. i opted against taking a taxi since it was a beautiful day and i had a whole half day to walk the two miles to the station. i got to greyhound around one thirty pm and bought a ticket for the 4:55 to austin, and then walked to the nearest bar. i ordered a shot of well whiskey, a pint of shiner bock, and the first meal of the day–a rather large b.l.t. sandwich with an enormous side of fries, all of which i shoved in my face in an attempt to keep the universe from expanding inside my throat; it didn’t work, so after i ate, i ordered another round and checked the time. i went to wash my face and put on some makeup so i wouldn’t feel so bad about myself, and then one more shot before i paid my tab.

i walked to the next bar and ordered a bottle of lone star and a shot of well whiskey. a guy at the bar bought me my second round, so i ordered an extra shot. then i was starting to feel tipsy. i checked the time and saw it was just after four, so i had a final shot before leaving. i was back at the greyhound station by four twenty two pm and i slumped in a chair to rest.

i must have fallen asleep. eleven drinks in two hours will do that. i woke up to a guy talking into my face, trying to kiss me, saying, “just come with me and i can bring you back tomorrow and you can leave then.” i think it was the guy who sold me the ticket, but because i was so wrapped up in my self i’m not sure. i shot up and checked the time again: five thirty two pm. i had missed the last bus out of that station–i would have had to take a taxi to the downtown location and tried my luck there, but drunk me didn’t think that far ahead. drunk me thought, “fuck you, greyhound,” and decided that banging on the glass doors and yelling would be better. so i did that. i’m guessing that the guy who tried to take me home was the one who called the cops, and i’m guessing that i was difficult and belligerent and crazy, because i woke up in a reclining chair in a pair of grey slipper socks feeling like i had been in a fight and like i was going to die. i woke up feeling deeply ashamed.

i woke up to find deep bruising on my left hand with a super swollen pinky knuckle, cuts and scrapes and bruises on both wrists, and deep bruises on the insides of both of my arms. i woke up with a raging headache and my body feeling lumpy and bruised and aching. i woke up sweating.

i woke up to flashes of memory from earlier–screaming my head off and crying as hard as i could and telling the officers to put me out of my misery, that if they let me go i wouldn’t stop. i remember hearing one of them say, “tase her again, maybe she’ll calm down,” but in that officer voice that is full of contempt for assholes. i remember that the sun was still up when they brought me to the treatment facility, and i remember thinking that i had never been in the back of a cop car before. i remember not being able to sit still while being processed and that they had to call another scrub-wearing person to help the nurse do a “skin assessment” because i didn’t want them touching me. i remember them laying out the contents of my wallet and taking a picture of everything and telling me i had thirty four dollars in cash and i would get everything back when i was discharged. i remember thinking that that’s what happens when you carry around a lot of cash.

and then it was lot of waiting. there were a lot of people in there who didn’t belong in jail but didn’t belong on the street, either. not bad people, but people who need help. i tried to sleep. i cried a lot. i threw up that b.l.t. and fries i had eaten earlier. they wouldn’t let me go to the restroom by myself, and i had to be escorted and the escort had to keep a foot lodged in to keep the door from closing all the way. i noticed that not everyone had an escort and i felt more shame. not everyone had three bracelets on, either, most people only had one, so more shame.

after throwing up for the third time, a guy came by to tell me he was my nurse and that if i felt any pain or needed any medication, all i had to do was ask. he asked me why i was throwing up, and i told him i was hungover. he offered me food, and i ate most of a rather decent sandwich. after the fourth time, throwing up barely digested ham and cheese sandwich and being glad i hadn’t eaten the doritos that came with the package, i went to his window to ask for that anti-nausea medication he offered earlier. he gave me a pill to help me sleep and told me he would come by to give me a shot for nausea.

then a different guy came by to tell me he was my doctor and we spoke in an exam room for a few minutes. he asked me if i was in any pain. he asked me why i was there, and i started to cry. he asked if i remember breaking the glass window at the greyhound station. i did not, and still do not, and he said that that was the reason the officers had brought me there instead of to jail, because they thought i was “unstable”. he asked me if i felt like hurting myself or others, if i felt like killing myself or others, and if i had a history of depression or mental illness. i said all the right things.

after the nurse gave me a nausea shot, they moved me to another place within the facility. i got to lay down and i tried sleeping. a different nurse gave me another pill and some vitamins. i kept throwing up. i met with a different doctor who asked me the same questions as the first doctor. they woke me up every so often to take my blood pressure and temperature. they woke up me up for breakfast and lunch, which i waved away. a social worker came by to talk to me about being discharged. i ate after they told me they were releasing me soon, only because i wasn’t hungry until then.

they discharged me sunday afternoon along with two other women. i was surprised that the only thing missing from my belongings was the cash(not counting those thirty four dollars). it was freezing outside. they gave me a bus pass and directions to the greyhound station downtown. i thought i would take the bus until i realized i would have to wait for an hour in the freezing rain, so i walked back to the facility and called a cab, and i gave the driver the last bit of cash i had left. the clerks let me transfer the ticket for the next bus leaving to austin, so i didn’t have to buy another one. we left dallas just after four pm. because of the freezing rain, the roads were iced over and there were dozens of accidents along the way, so what should have been a three hour bus ride turned into a six hour bus ride wherein we were stuck for almost two hours without moving.

i called claire to pick me up from the bus station. she listened to my story. she let me talk. she hugged me and offered me her presence and time, and assured me that i was not a shitty friend. she dropped me off at home.

when i was finally home, i brushed my hair out and brushed my teeth. i peeled off the clothes i had been wearing for two days. in the shower, i saw deep bruises on both knees and along my right leg all the way down to the toes, and a cut on my right foot that is still healing. while i was washing myself, i found two sets of taser marks on the back of my left thigh, which are also still healing. i washed my hair and face, and felt a scrape on my left cheekbone. i looked in the mirror for the first time since leaving the first bar in dallas and took off the rest of my makeup. the scrape looked worse than it actually was (i was able to cover it with makeup for work). i dried off my hair as much as possible and climbed into bed, and then i cried myself to sleep.

happy birthday to me.