Monday, May 16, 2011

A long slow death

I hated getting out of bed then.  I was about 13 and suffering from a pretty severe case of my own melancholy. Not the way normal teens did.  It was much, much worse.  But it was hard for her to notice.  Because of the way she just sat there.

I used to come down the stairs loudly, hoping it would make her snap out of it.  I thought that perhaps she would put on a show of being okay just for me.  She didn't.

Outside, the sky was always gray - a constant miserable bleakness that only seemed to make the kitchen more gloomy and unbearable than what it was.  I hated that time.

She always sat at the end of the kitchen table in her dark blue furry bathrobe.  It was old and worn in plenty of places and she usually had not washed yesterday's makeup off so her mascara would be smeared around her eyes.  She sat in the dark and held her head up with her right hand leaning closer to the wall, just in case she couldn't hold it any longer, I suppose.

She chain smoked with her left hand.  One cigarette after the other.  As I tried to work around her silence, I would rinse the coffee pot, trying to make some coffee for her so that she would seem more awake.  But she just sat there.  She wouldn't even move when I needed to get into the drawer behind her.  She'd just let the drawer hit her in the back. 

The tip would light bright fiery orange and she'd breathe in and hold.  As she stared straight ahead, she'd seem to relax a bit as she exhaled - a long soft sound that sent the smoke swelling out into the room and sent her back to being still for a few minutes until she suddenly put the thing back to her lips and started all over again in a simple, small, slowly choreographed motion.

She would sit there like this for hours.  Some days I wasn't allowed to turn the light on.  Other days she would just forget.  She would just sit there - sad and alone, silently contemplating some hurt that I had no way of comprehending and that she would never tell me for fear of accidentally passing that inertia on to me. 

The same way I fear I am going to accidentally pass it on to my own girl.  Like killing her slowly with secondhand smoke.

(written in response to the above photo as a prompt at the RedDressClub)


  1. Yikes. I'll finish my merlot now.

  2. Very vivid. Perhaps keeping secrets is no protection for our children. Brutal truth may be better.

  3. This one cut right through me. How many cigarettes did my mother smoke, sitting alone at a kitchen table? You brought me right back.

  4. The same way I fear I am going to accidentally pass it on to my own girl. Like killing her slowly with secondhand smoke.

    Wow. Very stark and sad. Well done.

  5. For your mom not showing much emotion your post sure did. Very sad. Well written!

  6. I know those grey days, and the bathrobe in the dark. Sometimes I think religion is the only reason my mother wasn't a raging drunk. My aunt was the smoker ... DNA doesn't have to rule us. Thankfully.

  7. I hated getting out of bed then. I was about 13 and suffering from a pretty severe case of my own melancholy.

    This view of yourself that you start with...
    After reading the whole piece I think you don't give yourself enough credit. The courage that it took to get up and not only face this scene day after day but to reach out as caregiver (making the coffee for example) is beyond what i can imagine. This was a brave and resilient young girl you write about!

  8. Amazing as always!
    I'm so glad you linked up!
    This is such a raw post and a brilliant look into mental illness.
    Great writing Selena

  9. Wow. I have the exact same fear. Like I have tainted them or something. Thanks for writing about it.


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