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Same Old Routine
I opened the fridge and took out some raspberry jam. I'm the only one who eats it at my house because my mother says it looks like "dog innards." When she says this, I turn my head to a slight angle and pretend I am inspecting it; I pretend I can see the gore she does and I respond "Yeah, oh well."
So-see-oh-path-ee. The word I first read alone and now call myself alone because no one knows and I have every intention to keep it that way. I learned to smile when They did when I was old enough to realize that it came naturally for Them, like breathing. I learned to laugh at only the "appropriate times," even though I don't ever feel much of an urge to make my chest convulse and my breath ragged. I learned to look concerned and to look shocked (it's all in the eyebrows, you see). I learned when They wanted to see each expression. The night before my grandmother's funeral, I even taught myself to squeeze out a few dramatic tears and to make words sound "heartfelt"-- a phrase I've never understood, because what you feel in your heart is most often heartburn. And the funny thing is, They buy into every word of it. Perhaps because They want to? I don't lie when I don't have to, since it leaves too many loose ends, but I find you don't have to say very much because They fill in the rest. Sometimes when They are too close to me and want to know too much, I mention to Them that I lost my dad when I was little and I've never been the same since. From there it's "oh my goodness you poor thing" or "I'm sorry for your loss" and then They leave me alone, because no one really knows what to say to people who are sad.
I don't mention that my mother keeps finding new men who come to the house late and wake me up with their drunken off-key singing or arguments with my mother or ravings or loud television watching. I brought up the topic with her once, one morning when she had a black eye and was silently watching the Weather Channel. I watched her roll off the excuses, about this man's rough childhood or his "recovering" from addiction, and that she should have know better than to provoke him when he was in that state.
And now one of them lay in pool of blood on the kitchen floor, his eyes already glazed over. I had heard that killing was wrong, but the way I see it, the lines between wrong and right are far too blurry. I have never really understood how the government killing someone in an electric chair was so different than, well, taking matters into your own hands. Might as well save the prison system the money and trouble.
This one had been particularly disruptive. He was an angrier drunk than most, had left my mother bruised more often than not. I had mainly stayed out of their way; I figured she was in no mortal danger, and if she decided to surround herself with people like that in the first place, what could I really do? But last night he had gone too far. My mother told me she had peed on one of those little electric sticks and it had responded with an affirmative pink plus sign. I wasn't thrilled by the idea of a small person hanging around the house, adding noise and subtracting my alone time. But when he found out, he kicked her in the stomach. Hard. The room had stood still after his foot made contact; I don't really get emotion the way most people seem to, but I saw the way my mother's face paled and froze in pained horror. She had run into the bathroom and vomited. I stared at him, wondering how someone who wasn't like me, who could actually feel, could do something like that to another person.
-Are you insane?- I said, surprising myself by sounding angry.
- If you tell anyone about this, you won't wake up - he said, lurching out of the front door.
And so, because I knew she wouldn't take matters into her own hands, I took them into mine. I didn't feel anything when I plunged the knife into his throat, the way people do in books. There was no rush of excitement or regret, just a wet choked sound and a bit of a mess.
But sitting in the kitchen and eating my sandwich, ignoring the meaty smell, I was faced with the dilemma of how to explain the scene. My mother would be coming home from work soon, and I realized that finding the corpse of her boyfriend with her ever-calm son would not be the best greeting. I set down the sandwich and rummaged under our sink until I found a large plastic trash bag, hoping the thin plastic would prevent the body from emitting more of its metallic odor and from spilling more gristle. I opened the door between the kitchen and the garage and stepped into the cutting icy air. I heaved out the gardening wheelbarrow, and covered it with the plastic, stretching it over the cold iron as precisely as an undertaker. I then set the wheelbarrow next to him and shoved him into it, quickly righting the wheelbarrow and pulling the trash bag over the entire body. It was no easy feat; I had to bend the legs in and shove the head down a good ways, so his body was crammed in an unnatural position. After wiping down any traces of blood and placing the floral paper towel into the bag with the body, I wheeled the package out of the house and into the driveway, then lifted the body into the truck with a shovel— just in case the plan changed and I had to bury the thing. I moved around the car and sat in the driver's seat, starting the wheezing car with a gasp of visible vapor and setting out for Banshee River.
When I came back, my mother was reading a book in her favorite spot on the couch. I asked her how her day was, and she responded in the usual way - not bad but very busy and yours? - I shrugged and picked up a copy of the day's newspaper. I began reading, and before long I realized my mother was staring at me.
"What is it, Mom?" She looked at me intently, and for a second I wondered if I had made some fatal error, had left some blood on my shirt, had forgotten to clean up the gore properly.
"Am I a good mother?"
I nearly laughed at the ridiculousness of it, but seeing her solemn expression, I responded, "Yeah, Mom, of course."
She seemed slightly reassured, but then she remembered something else. "Did Michael call today?"
I paused. "No, Mom."
She sighed deeply. "Another runner, I guess."