A Short Story By: Jennifer Patrician
There are times in life when you reach an impasse. A cornerstone in which you need to make a decision that could make you or break you. There are no winners when this decision needs to be made because it is the reality of the world in which we live that is hitting you in the face like a ton of bricks. It is a choice between what you love to do and what you will do to those you love. It is a choice that you can never undo and it is a choice that will undoubtedly bring an end to one aspect of your life. So what happens when the choice is made?
Well, that depends on the situation. But I have made that choice and I have to live with the consequences that it brings. It’s not every day that you are seen as a disappointment in the eyes of your family. It’s not every day that you are criticized for wanting to better yourself by letting go of those who have been hurting you for 18 years. Those who almost made you break so deep that you barely made it back at all. But, it doesn’t matter what they did to you. It doesn’t matter that you still have nightmares about the shit that they put you through. It doesn’t matter that what they did cut so deep that you were willing to throw it all away. It doesn’t matter that it has taken you nearly 12 years to put yourself back together and avoid temptation. All that matters is that you are giving up on them and because of that you are undoubtedly damned to hell because you should never turn your back on family.
He says there are no excuses for my actions. He says that I am no better than they are. He says that my mother would be so disappointed in me and that she would be turning in her grave because if she knew what I was doing then it would have killed her anyway. He says a lot of things that make me realize that I’m not who I used to be and I can’t be who they want me to be. I can’t be her because being her or anything like her is too painful.
So, you fall a little deeper. Never one to really let people in because it hurts too much when they walk away. And because of that you are tired of the hurt. It’s easier to just give them enough information so that they can understand your mood swings and trepidations, rather than opening yourself up completely and watching your world continuously fall apart.
So, I keep to myself and deal with things in my time and my way. I try not to bother people with the politics of a mundane life and I go about my business as if nothing has ever happened. I keep my emotions in check and I never let them see me cry even if tears should happen to fall over my eyes and roll down my cheek. I won’t give them the satisfaction because I can’t. I’ve put too much out there and now I’m so far out on the limb that I can’t come back without crawling on my knees. Part of me wonders why it matters so much, but the other part of me just wishes that things could go back to the way that they were before everything started going wrong.
I used to love the smell of the ocean on a cool fall night. Sitting on the rocks by the pier. Watching the wave’s crash into the wall as Mother Nature unleashes her beauty. The waves never falter. They never give up as they recede back into the ocean and then bring their fury down on the rocks below one more time. I used to close my eyes and listen to the sounds that the calm night would bring. The wind howling, the owls hooting, the ocean calming down as the moon’s light shines down upon it. Everything settling in for a peaceful night until the sun rises again. It’s one of the most freeing experiences of your life. Sitting on those rocks was the one time that I didn’t have to think about anything else that was going on. It was the one place that I could be myself. The ocean doesn’t expect anything from you. It doesn’t ask you be someone that you aren’t, or to do something that you don’t want to. But, it can teach you so much about the cycle of life. Those rocks and that pier were the one calming place that I had where I could be free. And for a split-second, while I was thinking about all the things that I wanted to be, I would feel as though somehow everything was going to be ok.
But, now I’m not so sure. As I look out into the dark vastness of the ocean and all it has to offer, I begin to think about how I became this person that I am today. I haven’t been here in nearly eight years and it still has this pull over me. Maybe it’s because it’s my official thinking spot, but really it’s because of the memories that were made in this very place that brought me back tonight. Ironically enough it was those same memories that kept me away. You see, I tried running away from the pain but I learned that eventually it all catches up to you. I wasn’t happy then and I’m not really any better now. So why come back? Truthfully, I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I need to find what I’ve lost. I don’t know.
With my eyes closed, I take a deep breath and let the cool breeze fall over me. I don’t even know how much time passes when I feel a shift in the wind. I take another breath and there it is. The smell that I miss more than any of the others. A cool mist of Jovan Musk fills my senses and it calms me. I haven’t smelled that scent in so long but right now it seems as though it’s only been an hour. I keep my eyes closed as a tear rolls down my cheek. This place is the only place that I allow myself to fall. The only place that I will bare my soul because I know that I will not be judged. And then…
“Alexandra.” A voice says softly.
I freeze. Not wanting to open my eyes. I know it’s not real but I need the familiarity right now.
“Alexandra.” The voice says again a little more impatiently and I realize that I must be going crazy. I would’ve heard someone walk up. Right? I couldn’t have been that deep in thought to…
“Alexandra Marie, if you don’t open your eyes and speak to me right now…”
My eyes shoot open and I turn my head around so fast that I swear I could have gotten whiplash. But as my eyes focus on the woman standing before me, they go wide in disbelief. I know this can’t be happening.
“What…” I say almost breathless.
“Oh…stop looking at me like that. I’m here because you need me to be.” The woman says as she sits next to me on the rocks with a smile on her face. “It’s a lovely night out. Don’t you think?”
I turn my head back out to the water. At least that makes sense to me right now because nothing else does.
“Why so down?” The woman asks curiously.
I look at her with wide eyes and shake my head. “Are you kidding?”
“Ugh!” I say standing back up. “This cannot be happening. I’ve officially lost my damn mind.” I say flailing my arms up for dramatic effect. I figure if I’m on a one way trip to the crazy house I might as well go out with a bang. Right?
The woman laughs slightly and reaches up for my hand. She grabs it and I freeze again. This is all so insane. I close my eyes as tears threaten to fall over my lids once again, and her grip on my hand tightens as the familiarity comes flooding back into my senses. To say I’m confused right now would be the understatement of the century.
“Sit down and talk to me. We don’t have all night.”
“I don’t even know how we have right now.” I say quietly under my breath. But I know she heard me as I sit back down with my hand still in hers.
“Ally, what happened to you? You used to be so full of life. You knew what you wanted and where you wanted to go. But now…now you’re different. You’re not who you used to be.”
“People change.” I say with a shrug of my shoulders, not daring to look at her.
“Not like this, Alex. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.” I said softly. “I guess I just have different priorities now.”
“Don’t be foolish.”
“You are. Your priorities have been the same since you were a little girl and you never let the bad things stop you before. You never let me or anyone else tell you that you couldn’t do something.”
“Yeah…well that was before everything happened.”
“What everything?” She says turning her head toward me. “Ally, you spend so much time worrying about other people that you don’t even see that it’s tearing your world apart. You don’t see that you are letting everything that you want slip away. You can’t live like that.”
“Alex you aren’t me. And no I didn’t.”
I roll my eyes and turn away from her. She grabs my chin and pulls my eyes back to hers.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me. Just listen for a second.”
I nod my head for her to continue.
“I loved my family and my friends. I would do anything for them, but I also had to do for myself. I’ve made some decisions that I haven’t been proud of. I know that you have been hurt more than people realize. I know that there are things that no one knows because no one wanted to listen then and you kept them to yourself. I know a lot more than you think I do, Alexandra.”
“What does it matter? It’s not going to change anything. He hates me. Everybody hates me and for what? What exactly am I going to get out of making a choice that hurts more people than it helps? I can’t even get away from all the bullshit.”
“And you…I must look crazy talking to you right now because you can’t be here!” I say angrily.
“I told you I’m here because you need me to be.” She says evenly.
“You’re dead, mom!” And I stop as my anger turns into tears. “You left and everything changed. I know it’s not anyone’s fault but nothing stays the same forever so why should I have to?”
She nods her head and looks out toward the ocean. I pinch the bridge of my nose to try and gain some composure when I feel her hand gently lift mine off of my face. I’m sure that I’ve officially lost it but I don’t even care anymore. What good is any of this going to do? She’s going to go away like she always does in the brief moments that I think I see her face. And every time the pain is that much more difficult to deal with. I look over and I know that she’s thinking really hard, but she’s still holding my hand trying to calm me down like she always did.
“You’re so full of anger, Ally. I never wanted you to be like this. I never thought that this would happen. What I wanted was for you to be happy. You deserve it, Ally. No matter what you think.” She turns to look at me and I almost lose it again. “Tell me.” She says softly.
“Tell you what?” I ask tiredly as I look away from her.
“Tell me what’s going on, Alex.”
“Why? So you can hate me too?”
“Alex…” She pleads.
I look into her eyes and all I can see is the sincerity that lies behind them. I missed that. But that doesn’t mean that telling her is a good idea. But if I don’t tell her then what if she hears it from someone else? That wouldn’t be good. Wait…what the hell am I saying? She’s dead and I’m still having a hard enough time believing that she’s here. But I guess even if it is just a dream, it’s nice to be able to see her face again. I was beginning to forget what her voice sounded like and what she looked like. Isn’t that horrible? How do you forget your own mother? What kind of person does that make me?
“Alex…” She says again softly, effectively pulling me out of my rambling thoughts. I suppose I should just get this over with.
“I wrote Eric off because he won’t stop.” I start slowly. “He nearly destroyed me and I almost lost everything because of him. I have a test in a few months that I’m just praying I pass to make everything worth it. I haven’t really written in so long that I think I’ve lost my touch.” I pause to try and calm my nerves before I continue. “My nightmares keep getting worse. The phone calls don’t stop. Nothing stops. I don’t think I’ve ever been so alone and I feel like I’m 11 years old all over again. And I miss you because you are the only one that never really expected anything from me except for me to be there. You listened to me. You understood me. You kept everything in line and now that you’re gone everyone expects that from me. Everyone is pulling me in different directions and I don’t know what to do.”
I stop to compose myself before I start crying again. My mother releases my hand and stands up on the rocks. I look up at her as she turns and walks over to the sidewalk, turning as she reaches the edge of the grass.
“Come on. I want you to see something.”
Well, this certainly can’t be any crazier than I am already so I get up and follow her as she leads me away from the beach. I wonder if they’ll have a nice padded room waiting for me when I get home. I wonder if they even realize that I’ve lost my mind. I mean it doesn’t get much crazier than talking to your dead mother. But I suppose worse things could happen. I just wish that I knew what all of this meant. I wish I knew what was going through her mind because the fact that she hasn’t said anything scares me a little. But I’m going to find out before she leaves. So we continue walking down the street and after what seemed like an eternity in silence, she begins to speak.
“You can’t make everybody happy, Alex. You can be there for them. You can help them. You can encourage them. But you can’t live your life around them. You can’t settle. You can’t make excuses.”
“I’m not making excuses.” I say a little defensively.
“You are. So why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?”
“Alexandra…Don’t lie to me. What’s holding you back?”
How the hell can she still read me like a damn book? I don’t even know where to begin. I’m not even sure that I want to. I mean even if she isn’t really here, I still don’t want to be a downer with the small amount of time that we have left. She has no idea how much I have wanted to hear her voice again. How badly I just wanted a little more time to talk to her. And now that she’s here all she wants to talk about is me. All she wants to talk about is this disaster that is currently my life. And I don’t want to waste time doing that.
“You’re not wasting time.” She says as we continue to walk.
“Can you read my mind or something?” I say a little confused.
“Or something.” She says with a smirk on her face. “You know Alex, I might not be able to answer you all the time, but I do hear you. I hear everything that you tell me. But, you haven’t said anything to me in many years and that’s why I’m here. You need something but you’re too afraid to ask for it.”
“I’m not afraid.” I state firmly. “I’m not afraid of anything.”
“Oh no? Then tell me what’s holding you back.”
“Nothing.” I say folding my arms across my chest.
“Ally….” She says sternly.
“What do you want me to say? That I’m scared. That I’m terrified of failing. That I’m terrified of ending up like you did. Do you want me to say that while I’m so busy dealing with everyone else’s pain, I neglect my own and it’s killing me inside?!” I say as the tears start falling once again. “I’m scared that maybe I can’t do this. I wonder what the point is if I’m just going to keep ending up in the hospital. Everything is so frustrating. I can’t seem to do anything right. So yes I’m scared ok. I’m scared of being alone. I’m scared of losing dad. I’m scared of losing myself in this shit storm and I’m scared because somewhere along the line I lost control. But it doesn’t matter. My feelings never really did.”
I fall to the ground crying on my knees and she wraps her arms around me. I missed my mother so much. She always made everything ok. She made it all tolerable. Everything was so clear when she was around. I didn’t have to worry. I didn’t have to deal with everything alone. And having her here. Now. Holding me while I cry is something that I never want to give up. Maybe it’s because I never got to say goodbye. Maybe it’s because of how everything changed over an eight-hour period. I don’t know why things happened the way they did. But right here and now, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore because with her at least there’s hope.
“It does matter.” She says softly, breaking my thoughts. “It always did, Alexandra. Your brother’s need to learn to be on their own because it’s not your job to take care of them. You need to fight for what you want and do the great things that you always wanted to do. You need to write because it makes you who you are. You need to believe that you can meet your goal and pass your test. And you can’t worry about all the medical stuff.”
I look up and notice where we are. I don’t even remember getting here but as I stand beside the only person who ever really understood me, I have a flood of realization wash over me.
“Alex, life always comes full circle. I did what I needed to do on this earth and I loved every minute of it. I always said no pain, no gain. You have to feel the pain of the bad in order to appreciate the good. But you can never give up, sweetheart. Never.”
She wipes a tear from my face and walks in front of me.
“I don’t think that I could ever tell you just how proud of you that I really am and I could never hate you. But, Alex you need to let go of this anger because if you don’t then I’m afraid of what might happen.”
“I’ll try.” I say quietly.
“You need to believe that everything happens for a reason and that we get to where we need to be when the time is right. You’re a brave person, Alex. You just gave up on what you wanted to make other people happy and you can’t do that anymore. Trying isn’t an option, sweetheart. It’s something that you need to do.”
I nod my understanding as I look into her eyes and see the love that still radiates from them. I don’t know how I let everything get so out of control. I don’t know why I let it all go without really noticing. But as the air shifts, I come to understand why it is that she showed up tonight when I seemingly needed her. She was here to prove a point and as the air shifts one more time, I know it’s time for her to go again.
“You leaving now?” I ask softly.
“For now. But I’m never really gone. Remember that.” She says as she places a kiss on my temple.
“I will.” She smiles and takes a step back towards her final resting place. “I love you, Mom.” I say quietly with my eyes closed as she slowly fades away into the night.
I keep my eyes closed as I hang onto the feeling that being around her brings. I feel something fall at my feet and I open my eyes to see a rose lying at my feet. It’s a symbol of hope between the two of us and it is at that point I realize that sometimes, the best thing we can do is take a chance on the unknown.