The apartment was ok, it resembled a large studio apartment space and I couldn’t decide if I was kept or confined. I left boxes stacked in the corner, and eyed them from my perch on the coffee table. I’m not sure why I didn’t sit on the couch…… probably because my coffee would spill if I set it down. But cross legged and coffee saturated, there I sat. It was November, Hunter was set to come stay with me, I was nervous.
What if he hated it?
I found myself rocking back and forth, staring at huge canvas that adorned my barren walls. I had brought her with me, she kept me safe. My eyes blurred with tears, spurred from nerves that racked my brain……..
Hunter’s new home. I thought out loud……. Our new home.
I looked at the boxes. Even my unpacking skills didn’t offer any evidence to my statements.
I have no concept of home. No concept of what that is, or what I want it to be. But by God, here I am….creating it.
I blinked hard, and pulled my knees into my chest, full on “Girl Interrupted” style. My coffee steamed, and so did I. He’d be here any minute. Horrified of my own son’s opinion. Children have an innate ability to see through the bull shit of adults. They sense stress, and will call you out on fallacy. They have no interest in tact or political games. They are interested in reality, black and white. Unfortunately, the cold truth was, this was a downgrade for Hunter. It was a collection of things he didn’t care about, or desire to learn. They weren’t new, or shiny. They didn’t fit in the giant house he was currently in. I couldn’t compete, at this point. I knew that. I was asking him to come to this foreign place, and be comfortable. I was asking him to accept it for what it was, and love it with me. Or try to love it.
Someday we’ll love it.
My bear peered down at me. I was drawn into her, the same way I was when I found her on the mantle of home that was having an estate sale.
“How much?” I asked the lady in the kitchen.
“Not for sale” she clipped as she turned around to put a 25 cent sticker on a candle stick.
“Excuse me ma’am………” I growled.
She lowered her hands, but didn’t raise her hands. She let out a large sigh and glared at me.
“It’s not for sale.”
“Listen,” I barked. I was surprised by my audacity. “Everyone has a price, and I want that painting, I need her.”
“You’re welcome to go.”
“Ma’am do you own the painting.”
“No, it’s the estate owner’s painting and it’s not for sale.” “May I speak with him.”
“He’s far too busy”
“I doubt it,” I snarled…..”given the fact he’s selling all his shit, he probably has time.”
The shock on her face was priceless. I was out of line, and I knew it. But the painting was mine, I knew it the second I saw her. Raw canvas, a bear in water, sincerity ripped through the paint. She was the protector, and from her place on the wall offered strength, and love. She was mine. I wasn’t leaving without her.
The woman left her post, and wandered to a back bedroom. I was plotting my thievery. I was serious about taking this painting. A Christmas blanket adorned the banister I clung to. If I pulled it down low enough, I’d be incognito. “Christmas thief” I thought to myself. Ho Ho Ho Bitches. I giggled to myself. This was where my bull headed ridiculousness was going to surface in a manner that required no dignity, or grace.
She shortly returned with a large man dressed in nice attire, but festooned with stress and failure. He was selling his life, and watching it walk out the door with stickers that read 25 cents.
“Can I help you?” He peered at me from broken eyes.
“Sir, my name is Carrie Mae, and I HAVE to have your bear painting. I think it’s been mine since the moment it was painted. I know that sounds crazy, and I understand that you don’t want to sell it. But sir, of everything that goes out that door, I guarantee you, nothing will be more loved or appreciated. I will keep it for the rest of my life.”
“Hundred bucks?” he eased, beaten and overpowered. “Done.”
The woman gasped.
“Adam.” She punched the name out of her lips with enough force to make me brace.
“I don’t want to fight, take her money.” And he vanished into the back room.
It didn’t feel like a victory, it was just the way it was meant to go. I hadn’t felt any desperation in the fight. I didn’t feel an ounce of concern. She was mine.
I shoved her in the trunk of my car, and drove home with the mantra I wouldn’t allow out of my home ever again. My connection to that painting is hard to explain. It’s not that she’s beautiful, although she is. She is art, and she makes me feel something. Always has. I had hung her on the wall in both the Neola home, and the house in Roosevelt. Zachary wasn’t overly impressed, but he relented, knowing I would trounce any adverse reaction he even considered murmuring in my direction. This was a hard line for me.
She looked on me now. And I looked back. I didn’t feel anything positive now, I hadn’t felt anything positive in a long time. But I was driven to keep her, always.
My life in the apartment had required specific detail to financial obligations and how to make my life float without a company behind me. I was ….although very cliché……an island.
The night I exposed Zachary for the desperate little boy he was, I made lasting friendships with the company men I worked with. Both of them determined that night they would be help in any way develop the life plans I was looking towards. Gently they helped guide me through the door I needed to get my foot into, and on the sixth day of December, I became the safety rep for a small roustabout company. General oilfield duty, and some semi trucks hauling anything from water to oil based mud. The scope of my work was broad, and whether I be shoveling crude on location, or driving from office to office smearing on the charm, I was an active participant in the oil field life, and found myself doing well. The owner became my best friend….quickly. Rumors flew of a torrid love affair, and it was all Zachary could do to contain himself when the subject came up. It was very well known that he didn’t approve, and I was “subjecting his son to an alcoholic piece of shit.”
At the end of the day, he is an alcoholic. He is also one of the most generous, kind, intelligent and compassionate human beings I had ever met. He didn’t ask questions or push for information out of morbid curiosity. He was either a. perplexed. Or b. didn’t care. I choose to believe he didn’t know how to approach my situation, so we left it unsaid. The two men I met that night were new. They didn’t know the me who existed prior….they only knew what was in front of them.
Just ……Carrie Mae….undefined.
It was my favorite thing about them, their lack of understanding. I found that people who didn’t know my son, didn’t share my hurt. Although my heart aches for the void in their life, I know they can’t miss what was never there. The light that shone from my son is brilliant enough to leave an everlasting impression, those never touched, will never understand. But for my existence….it made it easier. I didn’t feel the need to help their hearts, and find the right words. All of their interactions with me, were based on me, and me alone. Selfish, but true. It was a world I could reinvent myself, and wasn’t expected to act a certain way. No one knew. They didn’t have to know. They would know, only if I told them……or someone felt it necessary.
I didn’t tell anyone. And when I was forced into a corner, and the connections were made. I was very vague. It is my story to tell. Mine and mine alone. Those I cast my pearls before, were far from swine……….
There was a knock at the door, and my mind shot back to the task at hand.
Hunter was home.
Mascara smeared on my cheeks, and a lack of sleep didn’t make for the best presentation. My poor baby was used to this scene by now. I opened the door and Zachary held a tiny package of heaven, curled into his neck, crying. My heart sank.
“Hi baby” I cooed at him.
He glanced up, whaled louder, and buried his face into Zach’s coat.
I looked at Zach, searching his face for an explanation.
“He doesn’t want to stay.” He said to me, matter of factly. I hated his tone. I hated his face.
“Why?” I eased, trying to control my rage. “Not his house.” He crushed.
I reached for my son, and Zach turned to the side, pulling him out of my reach, my arms still extended.
“Buddy, Daddy loves you, you HAVE to stay here with your mom, I’m just around the corner son, I’m just right there.”
Disdain painted my face. I wanted to rip his arms off of his body and hit him with them. Never once did he change a shitty diaper. Never once did he take the kids grocery shopping, or buy them clothes. Never once did he participate in all of the things that separate a parent from an uncle, or a friend of the family. He was a play mate, and now he was positioning himself in my child’s life to be his….what……protector……From what………from his Mom?
I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around him, turning him and pulling him into my chest. He reached for his dad. My defenses were at an all time high. What was happening? Never, in his life, had he preferred anyone to me. Ever.
Guilt. I must have deserved this. “Happy?” He snarled.
I slammed the door in his face, hoping it had hit him when I did it. Hunter whimpered and I felt my knees get week.
“ssssshhhhhh” I calmed, my voice breaking as I began to shake……”baby, don’t cry.” But I wasn’t convincing, I was crying too.
“What’s the matter.”
He said nothing. Just cried into me, but he was limp and not holding me back.
He said nothing. He just cried.
I made it to my bedroom, but only by a few feet. My legs gave up as it took all of my energy to hold up my heavy heart.
“Oh baby…….” I whimpered in remorse. “I’m so sorry baby.”
He curled into himself, the same way I had done a thousand times in the last year. I watched him fold up, just like his mamma. Look like his daddy, act like his mom. On my knees, I held him close, curled up like an infant, and rocked him that night. He just kept crying. He wouldn’t tell me why. He just cried. After what seemed like an eternity, I lifted our heavy hearts, and weakened bodies onto the bed. It was late, and he was tired. I figured we would start new, in our new place. I figured the next morning would dawn a new opportunity to redo this moment that was supposed to be a win. I laid him in my bed, and climbed in next to him. He sat up and looked at me. Tears in his eyes.
“Baby, lay down.”
“I don’t want to sweep wif you.” He said, with such assurance and conviction that I could feel the razor blade dig in.
“Hunter, why son?”
“I don’t want to sweep wif you mamma.” “Son, lay down.” I pleaded.
He was climbing off my bed, sliding his tiny body onto the floor. He grabbed a pillow and laid it on the floor.
“Son, no. Get up here.”
He laid the pillow down, and put his head on it. All of my hope in life was dashed in that moment. My son didn’t want me now. My son didn’t want me.
He rolled away from me, running his fingers across the bottom hem of the red curtain. I had never seen him like this. He wasn’t even the same person.
I pulled the pillows off of my bed, and grabbed the heavy comforter. I laid it over him, and lay down beside him. I wrapped my arms around his body, and pulled him into me. He squirmed away. I choked on my wounded heart that had battled its way into my throat. He lay under my red curtains, facing the wall, away from me.
I stared blankly into the darkness, waiting for him to fall asleep. Once his dark, lost eyes flickered shut, I lifted him onto the bed; refusing to allow my child to sleep on the floor, for any reason. I had never felt so small. I had never felt so inadequate as a human. Futile. Useless. Sleep didn’t come, the nightmares did. For both of us. Alternating and causing chaos and havoc. Every time he awoke, he would climb away from me, and lay under the curtains. I’d lay beside him, and lift him back into my bed when he would fall asleep.
After a month, of the same scenario, I was exhausted, and lost. I was beside myself, and he still wouldn’t talk. Zachary was breathing down my neck, insisting that my inconsistency was causing his mayhem. Finally, I fell apart to my child. On my knees throwing the same tantrum he had thrown for months.
“Hunter, no floor tonight. Get up here.” No response.
“God damnit……” I hit my knees in front of him, eye to eye, on his level. “Tell me why.”
“PLEASE, TELL ME, PLEASE TELL ME SON PLEASE IM BEGGING YOU WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO SLEEP ON MY BED, WHY WONT YOU LET ME HOLD YOU, BABY TELL MOMMY WHY PLEASE……”
gasping for air, wailing into him, holding his hands, and keeping him in front of me.
He stared at me, and make a shift to say something. “Mamma……” he started. “You don’t want me mom.” The bottom fell out of rock bottom.
“What?” I gasped. “Son……”
“My dad said you don’t want to live with us mom, he said you didn’t want our family.”
I have never been more hurt.
“Oh my God Son……” words escaped me. “Baby, I love you more than anything, of course I want you. Of course I want you.”
He started crying, different tears than I had ever seen. Giant alligator tears that streaked his cheeks, and broke on my knees, pressed firmly in front of him.
“Baby I want you. Baby, I want you. I want you. I want you.”
He leapt forward into my arms, wrapping his arms around my neck for the first time in two months.
Our relationship was broken, to say the least. It was tainted by the opinions of people who chose to carry on conversations in front of him that did a lifetime worth of damage to an innocent heart. My son questioned everything. And in the face of the disaster that had unfolded outside of his control, he was forced to adapt, and make it ok in his mind.
Children are black and white, right and wrong. They are see things as they are, or as they are told they are. I moved out. I left. He was told I didn’t want him. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I will spend the rest of my life, assuring the question is NEVER raised in his mind again. Mending that hurt will consume my every thought, forever, nothing is more important.