I ring the doorbell and hear footsteps from the other side of the door. They are in a hurry, rushing towards the composer of the ding-dong. I know why they are in such a haste. A flinch shudders through my body as the sound of things crashing down and an audible “Ow!” is heard. I hear the towers of unread books fall down and the rows of water bottles, littering the bookcase, impacting the unseeable floor. She fights to get to the door, to reach the handle and receive something, perhaps another hat or a seventh globe to cram in our house, already bursting at its seams. But it isn’t one of her beloved packages, it’s me, her only daughter. She hopes to see the postman, holding out a cardboard box, standing in our doorway.
The handle is pushed down in a flurry and I catch the whiff of gin on the women who now stands in front of me. The smile that had placed itself so high on her face now drops. A loathing stare takes its place.
“What are you doing here?” she croaks, her voice scratchy, almost inaudible.
Her nose is red and her eyes are swollen. As they so often are these days. She opens her mouth and I see her graying teeth, her breath wafting in my face, makes my eyes tear.
“School is over mom, this is the time I come home every day.” I push her aside to get into the house.
I am already accustomed to the decaying smell of food and the sight of rubbish littering the floor. The one time I decided to bring home a friend, she had taken two steps into the hallway and had stood there, for what felt like an eternity, looking at my mother. She was unable to cover the shock in her eyes and stop holding her nose from the stench. After that, she never spoke to me again.
The trophy in my hand is slippery as my clammy hands grasp it even tighter, one part of the handle digs into my hand. I have memorized the engraving scratched into the golden plate, screwed into the Marmor look alike. “Kate Wellington: Winner of the President’s Award for Educational Excellence.”
This is gonna be my golden ticket. With this, I will get out of this hellhole.
At that moment I look at my mother. Really look at her. Analyze her. There is a ring around her jaw-line, differentiating her white, hinting at yellow, neck, from the orange paste smeared on her face, leaving more prominent lines around her mouth and eyes. Her eyelashes are flecked with chunks of mascara, that has dropped to the visible bags under her eyes. I have to shut my eyes whenever the sequins from her dress reflect the little light, this house gets to feel. It’s the kind of dress you are afraid to see your mother in, the one that she keeps for memories, but never actually wears. I have come to see these types of dresses quite often on my mother’s frail frame. I don’t know where she gets them from, but I do know why she wears them, or should I say for whom. Black, leather heels encase my mother’s feet. The material is peeling at places and when you look closely, you notice that the toe cap has been run down and a glimpse of gray canvas can be seen. She is ready to strut out the door, get in the car to drive to New Jersey, to hammer at the front door of my dad’s new home.
Perhaps a little boy will answer, looking up at my mother with a lopsided smile and missing teeth. He’ll ask her what her name is and she will look at him until his eyes will wander to his shoes, and his face will be all flushed. My mother’s eyes will bore down on him, until his nails find the spot on his head, trying to scratch away those absorbing eyes. No sound will be heard as the door falls into its lock. Then she will drive back home, stopping at a gas station, to buy cigarettes. The lucky strike carton will stay in our house until the mice eat it. As soon as the 2-hour drive is over, the front door will be banged shut, letting the whole foundation vibrate, and she will spurt to the kitchen, reaching for an unfinished whiskey bottle.
I already know that I will not get a full night’s sleep tonight. At 3 am the drunken slurs of my mother will wake me, as she sits by my bed trying to tell me how I messed up her life. How I destroyed her marriage. How she lost her job that she loved so much because of me. How I left her in this unrecognizable mess of what she once was.
“Mom, what are you wearing?”
“Do you not like it,” she looks at me stunned as if no one in their right mind would ever not love this dress, “I got it today, it’s beautiful isn’t it?” She twirls around so I can take in every last bit of this dress. “No I don’t, take it off mom, you’re not going anywhere today.”
“I will if I want to, what right do you have to tell me what to do?” she screamed. “You don’t know anything, you don’t do anything, you don’t see anyone. You think you’re so much better than everyone, but you know what? You’re not. You’re insignificant. Your life will never be fulfilled, you can trust me on that.”
Her voice changes as she speaks the last part, she sneeres at me, reminding me of a snake seeing its prey through dead grass blades, slithering closer and closer, seeing the rodent in front of it quivering with fear, unable to move from the striking beast.
I dig my nails into the palm of my hand, I bite my lip until the taste of blood fills my mouth, but the tears still come, a dam that has been forced open, by years and years of wear at it, unstoppable. The sides of my mother’s mouth lift, but there is nothing to see in her eyes, the smile doesn’t reach them.
“Look at you,” she laughs, “Crying now are we?”
As I lift my hand up to wipe at my nose, my mother spots the trophy. “What do you have there?” Her blunt tone makes me look up. I realize what she has seen and it makes me remember why I’m mad at her. I remember feeling overjoyed at the prospect of her coming to the award show. I should have known that she wasn’t going to come. Her promises never mean anything. I see her standing by the dining table, just two weeks before, shouting in delight that I had been nominated for the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. She had promised to come to the award show, to cheer me on if I won and to comfort me if I lost.
I had searched every face in the audience today, trying to find her graying hair and those blue eyes, that would be smiling at me, encouraging me. But I couldn’t find it. I feel so stupid to think that she would have come. Why would this time be any different than the others?
She grabs my hand and pulls the trophy from its rigid grasp. My eyes search for some kind of emotion in her face.
My ears catch the sound of a chuckle. A gasp of air. Until the whole room is filling up with my mother’s cackle. I feel the heat crawl up to my cheeks until my face feels as if it’s going to explode. My hand reaches out to stabilize my, now melting legs. I catch myself on one of the porcelain figures. My hand curls around it and heaves it up. My arm reaches back. I look at my mother, laughing in front of me and I let the statue whizz through the air. CRAASHHH.
The scrutinizing eyes of my mother meet mine. I look at her and smile. Another one of her statues crashes against a bookcase.
This time she begins to sob. I have never seen my mother sob, but it scares me that I like seeing her like this. Small and insignificant. She is just another one of these figures, fragile and easy to break. Her hand reaches out to save the last of them that is on the verge of becoming a million pieces. But it’s too late. They’re all gone.
I make my way through my mother’s junk, past the tower of books and the never-ending line of broomsticks. Ironic too have so many broomsticks in a house where they will never be used. I smile as I shut the door to my bedroom, looking at my made-up bed, the hardwood floor and the organized pens on my desk.
The doorbell rings. It pulls me out of my ecstatic state, bringing me back to reality. The house is filled with excitement, but it isn’t mine. I feel deflated, a shell that lies on this wood.
A cry of happiness is heard, as my mother opens the door and receives another package.