“I’m hitting rock bottom I think.”
I wrote to my best friend tonight. Our friendship is in a place where I can randomly send such a one-liner and she will know everything I mean.
I don’t need to say that today I got on the scale hoping to see improvement but instead saw a number I haven’t seen since I had an almost full-term baby growing inside me. I don’t need to say that my oldest child is struggling in school and feels like she’s dumb and brainless and her teacher doesn’t seem to care. I don’t need to say that my youngest baby is almost seven years old and doesn’t seem to need snuggling as much as he used to, and that I am simultaneously crushed and yet proud of his new independence. I don’t need to say how much I hate my haggard, saggy, dull, flabby reflection and how I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. She is proof of how far I’ve fallen and how much I have ignored. I don’t need to say I am starting to avoid leaving the house because I am so embarrassed about who I have become. I don’t need to tell her that my house is such a wreck that it looks as if someone turned it upside down and shook it. That between the overdue library books, the laundry, the endless dishes, the constant vacuuming of tufts of cat hair and dust, and the cheese sticks I made an extra effort to go out and buy today that are “too hard” and “just not the same as the other ones” and therefore inedible, that I am slowly losing my mind. She already knows there is no new status on my latest job application, that my marriage is in pieces, and that the income from such a job is necessary for my independence. I don’t need to tell her that my husband is still sleeping in my guest bed even though we separated almost four years ago, and that I can’t seem to get away and be happy, even for an hour. She knows I worry. She knows I am lost. She knows I am lonely. I don’t need to say that one small jam jar of pinot noir sometimes turns into three, or that I took the first few quick sips at 4:30pm because I needed it and couldn’t wait.
She sent me a heart, which burst into lots of little hearts and made bubble sounds come out of my phone. Tomorrow I will make changes, but for now knowing someone is listening is enough.
I was so worried she hadn’t got on the plane. My mother has struggled ever since her husband died of a sudden heart attack almost one year ago. She has insisted on living alone, on staying in her house, the home that her husband provided for her, isolated in a country hamlet, a town with one blinking red light. It would be great if she had friends or a support network there, but she doesn’t. There are a handful of older widows in her small neighborhood, but house bound eighty-somethings are not going to keep her active and engaged.
My mother has stopped taking care of herself. She often doesn’t eat, or drinks only coffee or boxed chardonnay, after throwing the box away and keeping the enormous plastic bladder of wine in the bathroom clothes hamper under a pile of towels. I dumped two of those down the sink while she slept when I visited. I stabbed the bag with the scissors in several places and watched the pale golden liquid swirl down the drain. I inhaled and breathed in the scent, wishing for one frantic second that I had thought to drink it all myself. I understood. I know that need, that need to feel good and make it all go away. I know how the wine makes me feel a little bit warm and better inside, when everything is going to hell around me. Just enough to make my head sway and make reality swirl. I felt guilty for denying her that escape, but I needed her in my life. In my children’s lives. I needed her alive and would do whatever I needed to make sure she stayed that way.
When she came through the arrivals gate, my first response was to sigh and put my hand to my chest, because I am the worrisome parent now. Even her hair was frail, bleached into cotton candy wisps and twisted up, gently bobbing as she walked. The bright, pink Seattle Starbucks sweatshirt she bought just before our Alaskan cruise together five years prior hung loose and baggy on her frame. She looked thin and confused, her face creased with deep lines and shadows.
Or at least I thought they were merely shadows from far away, but as she drew nearer to me, I saw she actually had bruises on the side of her jaw, a full black eye, and a goose egg swelling in the center of her forehead. She attempted to cover the bump with her bangs, and pretended everything was fine when she gave me a shaky hug hello.