The wind blew the screen door shut behind my mother. She was flushed, and for some odd reason, I didn't know why, I couldn't read my utterly readable mother. She wore her heart on her sleeve. In fact, she wore her whole soul on her sleeve. But not today. Not right now. "That was your father." she said sharply.
I inhaled sharply with her. My father was not a normal father. He left when I was 6. No. He ran. He ran as fast as he could towards this woman, who's name I can't remember. None of us can. He left us to fend for ourselves in a house that was almost falling down. He left. That was supposed to be end of the story but it wasn't. It never is. Around my 13th birthday, he started calling my mom, telling her about how he left What's Her Face, and wanted to come back. He wanted to see me. Us.
He wanted to come back to our half-falling-down house and watch the wildflowers in sway in the wind, just like we used to do. He wanted to hear the sound of the oven screech when my mother made her signature apple pie. He wanted to come back. How do you respond to that. How do you tell your father that you don't want to see him ever again. It's been seven years. Seven years of my mother and I wasting away, paying for food with whatever money I could make selling drawings, and her dead end job as a gas station cook. He wanted to come back.
She slumps into the old green chair. With an expression that mixed sadness with anxiety, she looked at me. I hated when my mother got like this. Like she pitied me. Like she thought I needed pity. I have to take care of her, so she doesn't repeat the One Bad Thing. After my grandmama died, I was the only one around. The only one around who cared. It looked like I was gonna cook tonight. My mother dragged herself into her room and shut the door. Her sanctuary. I wish I could help my mother. I wish for so much, I don't think the universe has enough shooting stars for me. I look inside our fridge. It's empty, as usual. I manage to find some almost expired pancake mix and a few eggs. "Sorry mom, looks like slog pancakes tonight." I whisper to myself. It's not like she would hear. When she gets like this, she can't hear anything. I hear the phone ring as I flip a pancake. It's just a telemarketer. Noone ever calls us anymore. Noone except my father.
I hear the bath water start running just as I settle into bed. I reread Catcher In the Rye. It's the only book I own. I saved what little was left of our money for 5 months for this book. When you are dirt poor like us, there are no luxuries like books. You have to work hard to feed yourself. I applied for a job at the farm supply store, but they said I was too young. I am running out of options, in our town of Lawrence, there aren't many to begin with. Our main road is a pothole ridden two-laner, lined with about ten stores and the rest is forest for miles. Our main exports are lumber and depression.
It's a lonely life. It's a life I can't escape. With no means of getting me to the closest school, which is 27 miles east, and no money for college, I am trapped in this dreary little town to live a dreary little life.
It seems like a life not worth living, but we find happiness in any way we can. I once started a town holiday of Game day. All five kids under 14 came out and played games like tag and hide and seek out in the meadow while the adults watched. I try so hard.
When I come home, my mother is still in bed. She missed yet another day of work. I worry that she will be fired and then where would we be. I decide to let her stay in bed for the night. One less paycheck, one less meal. I decide to go out for a walk in the meadow. As my mom has her room, I have the meadow. I always stroll through the meadow when I need to clear my head. I go and sit by my favorite bergamot patch and I lay down.
I am awoken by the sound of chopping wood. I wearily open my eyes. The sun is just rising over Meadow Hill. I run as fast as I can home to wake my mother. When I get there she's gone, probably to work. She knows how hungry we will be if she misses today. I gather up my drawings and head down to the corner of the main road and sit down.
Life goes on like this. You do the same things everyday over and over. You fall in to a routine. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we didn't have this endless routine. I shake off the thought. Thinking
like that isn't going to pay the bills. My mother comes home with a pink sheet of paper and a check. I know immediately what that means. My mother was fired. Now I must find another job, I have to.
I go down to the headquarters of the lumber business that currently holds the monopoly on Lawrence. Even there the building is wanting of paint. Inside there is an overweight man that's about 40. He is slurping on a soda and snarling down a hot dog that can only be made by my mother. I inhale slowly and then approach the desk the man is sitting at. "What do you want little girl." He says in a grouchy tone, as if I was only there to make his life harder. "I was looking to apply...um...for a job..." I squeak out. He looks at me through squinted eyes. He's studying me up and down. "We got a job as a secretary. You type?" I can, sorta, but I'm sure I will learn quickly. "Yes..." I almost whisper. "Good. You can start right now" he snorts as he grabs a rather large stack of papers. "You can start with these." I want to know how much I will be paid, but I am too afraid to ask. "You stick 'em in the machine one by one and then when they come up on the computer screen, you put them in that folder right there." He quickly explains. I start to put the papers in the massive machine but I don't know which button to push. I haven't seen many machines before. I press the green "go" button and hope for the best and the papers start to get sucked in on one end and spewed out at the other. I assume that's what is supposed to happen.
When I get home my mom is gone.
I don't have the energy to wonder where. I am exhausted from working 10 hours of organizing papers, getting coffees, and shredding papers. I plop down into a chair and fall asleep.
We fell into the same routine again, me going to work, her staying in her room. Life goes on. The forty-something guy warms up to me, and work becomes almost pleasant. I make enough money to feed us 2 meals a day, and I have almost enough extra to buy a book. The meadow slowly changes color, from colorful to a dulling green. When winter comes, we will have to buy new coats to beat our old enemy, frostbite.
I go to work as usual and sit at my usual desk. I do my usual work and take my usual route home. My mom is gone, which isn't uncommon, so I wait, because it was her turn to make dinner and she was making pie. I waited, and waited. After a while I had waited so long, that the generators were about to go out and I was forced to go to bed. When I wake up in the morning my mother still isn't back. The days pass and there is no sign of my mother. "This is new, even for her." I think to myself. I begin to believe that she snapped and finally left. But I don't want to. She wouldn't. She couldn't. She was MY mother. And yet she was gone.
I am wrested from my thoughts when I hear the phone ring. It's my father. No. No. Not now. Not right now. I can't deal with him now. I answer it. "Hello?" he asks, but I don't answer. "I just wanted to check in with you, Lauren, see how you were doin'." He was checking
in with my mom. Why would he do that? Why does he care? He hears nothing as I have my mini panic attack. He hangs up. I can't deal with my deadbeat dad and my missing mother. Not now. Not ever.
I think of what my future could be. Supporting myself, paying electric and water bills. I can't do that. I can't handle myself on my own. I think about asking another family to take me. But they never will. I would be just an unnecessary mouth to feed.
I walk out to my meadow. I look over the bergamot and Meadow Hill. And I just walk. I walk and walk and walk. I walk even though I don't know where I am going. But I can't seem to stop. I walk to the edge of the forest until I get to an abandoned corn silo. I open the door and it's empty save for a ladder leading up to the roof, a small ledge on the top of the building about 70 feet up. I just stand there. I stand there for what feels like hours, although it must have only been a few minutes. I gaze toward the ladder and I think of the top of the silo, so high into the air. I think maybe if I climb to that height I can fly away from this dreary
little town and have a better life somewhere else, somewhere beautiful. I start to climb, counting the rungs as I go. Counting down really. Counting down to freedom....74...75...76...I eventually reach the top and crawl out into the light. It really is beautiful. From here you can look out and see our town of Lawrence, my meadow, and forest for as far as the eye can see. I can fly, fly so far above this world that I know. I can be free. I step a little closer to the edge. I can fly to a better life, to find my mother somewhere beautiful. I bring both feet to the edge. I can fly to escape the forty-something man, to forget my father. I take a huge leap, and I feel the wind on my face, running through my hair. I close my eyes and
smile thinking of that better life. I feel like I am flying. I must be flying.