Scrolling through the Ello feed, I stumbled across a photo of a sculpture, made from chicken wire and river stones. The artist had sculpted a woman, in a grief-stricken state, her body was slumped over on the floor in pain. Her frame was filled from top to bottom with the heaviness of the river stones. The weight of the pain the artist demonstrated, caused an eruption of thought and feeling. 14-years before I had been slumped over in this same position; a slave to the weight of loss. As I sat entranced with the image, my mind entered a state of commemoration.
I was an insecure 13-year-old in the tail end of the first trimester of my freshman year at Willits Union High school. Willits, a Northern California township of 3,000 residents is a one mile stretch of road three hours north of San Francisco. When you hit the first stop light on HWY 101 North, you have arrived. The small rural town consists of three stoplights, two grocery stores, two bars, two parks, one hospital, and one movie theatre. Part of Mendocino County, the town is positioned in the center of the “Emerald Triangle” and smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Though nestled into the heart of Northern California’s Redwood Forest, it’s not the kind of place you go wandering about by yourself. There is an eerie consistency of backwater rednecks, liberal hippies, and the occasional Cartel members.
My graduating class consisted of 200 students that I had grown with since the 1st grade. I knew every one of them by first name. Though I grew up with these faces, I didn’t feel close to any of them. Taunting and teasing of my developing body and poverty throughout my middle school years left me unsure of myself and of the new shape my body was taking. The uncertainty left me with no sense of self understanding or acceptance. I did the best I could to hide my womanly breasts and ample hips under the a hoodie, I had gotten for Christmas two years before. This hoodie provided coverage and security of a body that I felt shameful of.
Despite a childhood friend’s compassionate attempts to make me part of the “group", I spent most of my lunch periods in the art studio with my art teacher Kathleen Kirkpartrick, working on various art projects (or at least pretending to). It was easier for me to sit in the art studio quietly with Kathleen, than it was for me to pretend like I belonged. That I was just another normal teenage girl, for the hour that took for us to grab a single slice of pizza at our favorite hole-in-the wall pizza joint, down the street from the high school. Most of the girls that belonged to this group, weren’t even allowed to spend time at my house. They and their parents all saw the circumstances I was surviving under, though most of them were kind enough not to mention it.
I lived in a 2-bedroom town home on the edge of town, right off HWY 101, with my mother, twin brother and sister. The twins were just two years younger than me, but looked to me for guidance and security. Most of our life I had played the “mother” role. I had even potty trained them. Though when I potty trained them I was just 4 years old, barely having things figured out myself I hadn’t yet learned that boys stand up to pee, at least in our country.
The town house where I spent the two years subsequently to my father’s death and my mother’s divorce from my step-father was small but clean. The building was made up of four units and was privately owned by woman that cared a great deal for the property. The 6-foot fence that separated our building from the complex that stood on the corner was hand painted with an original mural of Iris flowers, dragon flies, and water falls. The owner allowed my sister and I to assist with this project.
Our home stood two stories tall with slightly weathered blue paint and Gerber daisies we had planted the spring before in the small sectioned-off patch of soil in the front yard. The first floor with its salmon pink colored walls and light blue carpeting, clashed with my mother’s small upholstered fish pattern pull out couch, that was mostly green and red in color. A vintage two tier maple side table and matching coffee table, that had belonged to my grandmother, sat adjacent to the couch. A mustard yellow dresser that held my mother’s clothing, supported the large CRT TV upon it’s top in the corner of the room, across from the couch. A small kitchen with enough room for a dining table and four chairs made up the bottom floor. My mother was particularly proud of this pull-out loveseat; this was the first piece of new furniture we had ever owned. Though she was plagued with arthritis in her spine she slept on this pull out couch every night, so that her children could have their own beds and their own space. Space was a rare commodity in our house.
My mother, a single divorcee with a fresh diagnosis of Bi-polar Disorder, and 3 teenagers grieving their recently deceased father, she traded in 6 years of sobriety for a Gin &Tonic and just couldn’t put it down. She poured the Gin & Tonics hard and heavy, unable to cope... with the day to day reality. After taking a big gulp out of her beverage, clear in color, thinking it was water; I spit that burning substance, in one fluid gaseous motion, all over the antique coffee table and her beloved fish sofa. Though barely a teenager, I realized there was something wrong. I started finding empty large plastic Gin bottles hidden in the oven, under the sink, in the bushes in the back garden, and her car trunk. I started questioning her, which was not easy for insecure 13 year old, but I had my brother and sister to think about. Her answers consisted of defensive yelling, slaps to the face, and pulls of the hair. Once a struggle that left her hands wrapped around my throat, my body smashed up against the fridge, and gasping for air.
Then the day came. A day that started off like any other day, but a day that would change my life forever. I woke up that day in December of 2003, my mother called up the stairs, “THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING! GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED!” I lazily rolled out of bed and looked out the window. It was dry that morning, which is unusual for Northern California in December. It was cold and overcast, thick bulky clouds of charcoal grey and purple hung low, lining the highway, visible outside my second story bedroom window. A sure sign of a storm to come, I put on a t-shirt, a pair of jeans and a black hoodie I wore everyday with sprawling script across the chest that read "NorCal". I ran downstairs skipped breakfast and rushed out the door to catch the school bus at the very last minute.
I have never been a morning person, I slept through first period most days. Math was my least favorite subject; I have never been a morning person, unaware at the time I was suffering from a severe form of depression. I had a hard time socializing, concentrating, doing anything but sleeping really. Then second period geography with a teacher no one took seriously. The rumor was he had a habit of sneaking peaks down the shirts of unsuspecting female students.
10 AM brunch could never come fast enough. I usually enjoyed brunch, mostly because I never ate breakfast and consequently, was starving out of my mind by time brunch rolled around. I waited in line, got my snack and wandered out to the quad. I joined the group of 5 or 6 chattering girls, observing the still heavy ominous clouds, gradually seeping into the noticeably closer landscape.
I felt a jolt of pain deep in abdomen so severe that my body shuddered and the group of peers around me began to fuss in concern. My stomach in knots, my hands shaking, and an overwhelming need to vomit, I assured the people around me that I was okay. Insisting that it was something that I ate. I did my best to listen attentively to the conversation at hand, the eerie feeling that something was wrong, lurking over my body. I had never felt this kind of intense emotion before. Every bone in my body was aching with this truth that something was coming.
I spent the rest of my day strenuously trying to ignore the persistent, nagging feeling that a dire fate was awaiting me. I thought I was crazy. With every thought of disaster, I did the best to counter it with an “I’m paranoid” note to self. Wednesdays were supposed be my happy days. Wednesday’s were the day I got to go mutual group. Mutual group was a youth group for teens in the Mormon faith. It was the one night a week I got to go hang out with other people my age and pretend like I didn’t belong to the family and circumstances I was wide awake too. I could pretend I wasn’t facing the problems, that no 13-year-old should have to rival. Instead of living in chosen ignorant bliss this Wednesday afternoon, I was battling these agonizing feelings of fear and anxiety.
I rode with the Southwick family, like I did every Wednesday for the past several months. The Southwick's were regular church goers with a girl my age, and from the outside, they seemed to be the perfect family. The closer we got to the church, the closer we got to my home. My home was almost cattie-corned to the Mormon Church on the opposite side of highway 101. As we inched our way closer to the church and to my home, the debilitating feeling of despair grew inside me like devil’s ivy. Crawling up my spine, fingering onto each vertebra, and curling into my spinal column like a newly rooted cutting.
The moment I walked through the church doors I had this staggering need to see the Bishop. Bishop Colwell would know what was wrong with me. He would know what to do. I walked half way around the building to his office. With each step my need to see him and the sickness inside of me grew stronger. By the time I reached his door my whole body was shuddering and the thought to call the police had control over my mind.
I knocked on his office door, Bishop Colwell opened it. Before he could say anything, I blurted out “Call the cops! Send them to my house! PLEASE!” Bishop Colwell to my surprise did not react to my panic and he did not hesitate to comply with my desperate request. He hastily walked over to his phone sitting on his neatly organized wooden desk and dialed 911. He asked the 911 operator in a calm and concise voice to send police officers to 10 Manor Way. Bishop Colwell held on the line while they dispatched a patrol vehicle. I stood solid and still on the threshold of his office, watching every facial expression intently. My eyes narrowed in on Bishop Colwell’s face, while I looked for social queues of distress.
After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting he spoke. He said “The door is locked. Do you have a key?’ Pain slammed into me, paralyzing my body like a freight train meeting flesh and bone. I cried out in pain “NOOO!!!”, losing strength in my legs, I fell limp into a heap on the floor. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk or stand. The image of my mother’s lifeless body drowned my mind and filled the surrounding area. My soul felt like it was being jaggedly, flited into bits, by a thousand dual knives. I squirmed pain in and apprehension. The kind of pain that moves your body in ways that the brain has no control over. This was the most torment I had ever felt; all I could do was howl out and gasp for air.
I was almost completely unware of the small group of people that had gathered around me in outside of the Bishop’s office. After hearing my shriek of horror, I had let out moments before, around me stood Crystal and Aaron Watkins, Kristen MacLean, and Keely Southwick. Everyone else including my brother and sister, faded into the background. An echo of Bishop Colwell’s voice, broke through my agony. He said “They broke down the door, there’s a note on the coffee table.” I already knew what had happened. I already knew my sure fate. Her sure fate, I had seen a glimpse of what was coming. I had felt it nesting inside of me throughout the day. Scratching, burrowing, vomiting, buzzing; like wasps colonizing in the cavity of my soul. Bishop Colwell’s lingering voice reached my far away mind. He said “Your mother is unconscious on the bathroom floor. She isn’t breathing.” These words just sustained the visions that I had already foreseen. Saturated in the soul blistering pain of losing my mother, I laid almost lifeless myself, on the floor in hallway of The Mormon Church. Through the fog of devastation, I heard Bishop Colwell once again, say “They resuscitated her! She’s breathing!”
Those words hit me like a tidal wave, crashing upon the rocks and earth. Washing over me, they shook life back into to my soul. My body suddenly had strength again. I rose off my knees and lifted my head, the agony of loss lifting off me like steam from a hot spring on a cold day. I knew that my visions of fate and death were not so. It was over, the storm had passed. We had survived, tousled and damaged,like a ship in the night, but we had SURVIVED. The cavity in my soul that just moments ago, had spilled over with pain, was now hosting numbness and confusion.
I later discovered, my mother had slit both of wrists and took an almost full bottle of sleeping pills. She laid unconscious in a pool of her own blood and vomit waiting to die. Intuition had allowed intervention in that moment. Another two minutes of blood loss and my mother would not still be on this earth. I was left with a scar and a chain of events, that would eventually leverage my strength and creativity. Both of our destinations were altered that day. Or maybe they weren’t, maybe this was fate, spinning her intricate web of cause and effect. Needless to say, I don’t ignore my intuition anymore.
@ellowrites @elloblog #blog # write #growth #suicide #intuition #mother #childhood #pain #truth #voice #emotion #weight #fate # journey #destination