When I was twelve I babysat for a downstairs neighbor
. She had a son who was six months old and terribly sweet and delicious, with the cutest brown eyes and this sandy blond hair. I had the chance to hold him for awhile, give him baths and make his bottles. He was a very sweet little guy. I have not seen him in ages, I guess he would be about fourteen now. If I ever did run into him I would probably cry or something.
He had a weird life. Since he never knew life any other way I am sure he was used to it, like me. He was no stranger to a coked up mom in tight acid washed jeans and her fringiest black suede. The skuzzy new-boyfriend parade. Her jubilant “WHOO-HOO YEAH” and “Fuckin’ AAAA”, which she yelled full force at the slightest provocation, could be heard through the floor of our apartment. It was not that she didn’t love her son, and she was a very nice person.
It’s just that I can not think of her without reliving the weird moment when my mom was OD’ing in her bathroom and she kept saying “OH SHIT OH SHIT, C’mon, snap out of it, don’t die on me.” And her dealer boyfriend, who had a greasy mullet and open chested shirt with more than six gold chains, was in the bedroom franticly jamming coke and mirrors into his soft leather tote bag. He was saying, “Dawn, if you call the cops I will go to fucking jail, and you will go to fucking jail and your stupid bitch friend will go to fucking jail.” And Dawn was saying, “I won’t call the cops! Just the ambulance! We can leave her on the porch!” He told her he wasn’t going to jail for some stupid bitch that couldn’t handle her shit Then the door slammed and the greasy dealer and his soft leather tote were squealing away in his dusty Camaro, and my mom was still dying.
I sat in my own bathroom, near the floor register right above them. Dawn rocked my mother and I rocked her son. I debated with myself about how involved I should get. I decided to wait it out and not call anyone. My mother had done shit like this before and always managed to get it back together. When I was five she slammed her car into a telephone pole and flew through the windshield. She told me when she got home that she did it on purpose, that she was really pissed when it did not kill her. I knew about the creepy aftermath of calling the cops, where they would cart off her body and stick bandages on it and drop her off in the ward with the schizophrenic and delusional. Me, trying to keep the family together, meaning trying to keep my little sister with me. Trying to be the well-adjusted new houseguest, the punk kid of a mom in detox. Part of me had my fingers crossed that she would just get it over with, stop trying so hard to hold on to her crappy life. The other part was sending psychic energy toward her, edging her on to make it, to handle her shit, to puke it up and wash her face and then not even bother trying to talk to me for at least a month.
I remember trying to comfort the baby, looking at his eyelashes and rose bud mouth, for now still so innocent and perfect. It’s going to happen to you too, little man. Your mom isn’t going to get her shit together either is she? Singing the only song I knew, rocking and mostly forgetting to breathe.
Playyyyymate. Come out and play with me. And bring your dollies three…
Come on, Debbie! Debbie! *smack*
Climb up my apple tree….
Come on girl, get in the shower! Don’t you dare die!
Slide down my rain barrel, go though my cellar door...
Come on, Don’t fucking die!
And we’ll be jolly friends, forever more…
Good girl! C’mon and puke! WHOO-HOO YEAH. Fuckin’ AAA, you scared the SHIT out of me!
There were laughing-sobbing-choking-coughing-puking sounds, lots of water. My mother and her familiar dazed “What the fuck happened?” Then I cried. I sobbed into the floor. Dawn asked me about it the next day. Not directly, kind of from the side. There was no mention of the dying part.
What did the baby eat, how many diapers does he have left, here is your five bucks, why were you crying last night?
A boy, I tell her. My heart is broken.