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Behind White Curtains
Ethnicity: Caucasian and Hispanic
Relationship Status: “Complicated.”
I looked through the glass and let my mind wander for a moment. I had a sudden hope that she might open her eyes and wink at me just one last time. Her chest was still, and calm, like an ocean would seem when you imagine it asleep. Yet regardless of her being dead, she still wore her same old mischievous smirk. I mentally fought to keep in the tears but they seemed to be pouring out like an overrun bathtub. I nodded curtly to the Medical Examiner; he pulled the white sheet over her face and closed the blinds shut, leaving me and Chris to ourselves. I assume that his way of attempting to comfort me was by putting his hand on my shoulder. I asked myself why I didn’t shrug him off, and the only answer was that I, Jesse Rockwood, needed some form of comfort. I tried not to give him much of an opportunity to say anything, but it all came out anyway. He opened his mouth a couple of times to talk, and then finally he said “Jess, I loved your Mom…and we both”. I gave him a simple, “Shut the hell up” kind of look. He opened his mouth to say something else, closed it and walked off with the pitiful expression of loss. I knew that he was gone because I could no longer hear the outline of his boots scratch the floor with every step that he took. Somehow no matter how much I wanted to think that this was the end to my life, of my entire existence as a whole; I struggled with keeping the truth in the back of my head.
The truth: It was only the beginning.
Forward. Rewind. Play. Skip to next chapter. Stop. Play. Pause. I constantly went over these commands to my life memories. Menu. Chapters. Christmas of 1995. In my thoughts I watched as my Mother tied my Superman cape to my back, picked me up and started swinging me around in circles pretending that I knew how to fly. I don’t ever think about this holiday, ever, at all. The reason is simple; it was our last real Christmas as just the two of us. “Jesse!” I jumped out of my mind and realized that I was standing on a stage with about 15 people looking at me like I was an idiot. “Hello?” she said with her face about 5 inches away from mines. “Earth to Jess!” Hilary was standing next to me with a sword. “I just killed you,” she said. “The script says that this is where you dramatically fall to your knees and die. Come on, quit kidding around. We’ve been over this.” I had the sudden urge to be the jerk that I’m claimed to be, and replied in a sarcastic tone and said, “Ah, ah, you killed me. Damn you.” And then I lightly sank to the floor feigning dead. Hilary didn’t like the response and decided to say, “You’re a jerk Jesse!” with a personal bitterness etched into every word that she spat at me. A few of the members of the cast were pretty p***ed off at my random behavior and decided to walk off calling me a variety of muffled insults as they stomped off of the stage.
I left the theatre and started taking the cold walk across campus to my car. Of all the crap that I owned, my Mazda Rx8 was my most prized possession. I opened the door and threw my book bag against the passenger door window, and watched it slide onto the seat. I got into the car and immediately turned on the heat, setting my head back and enjoying the cracking sensation of my knuckles being pressed against the steering wheel. All the blood rushed from my legs and into my toes in a matter of seconds after my butt hit the seat. The clock said 9:36pm. I decided to close my eyes for a few seconds and was immediately engulfed into the vast universe of my mind.
“Hush little baby don’t say a word,
Momma’s gonna’ buy you a mockingbird.
And if that Mockingbird don’t sing,
Momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”
Pause. Have you ever heard someone say “Geez’, they sing like an angel?” Well, my Mom had a voice ten times better than that.
“How much do you love your Mommy?” She asked.
“This much Mommy,” I responded extending my arms as wide as they would go.
She laughed the most beautiful laugh then said “You’d better, kiddo!”
I then gave her a tight hug and asked the same question. She responded by saying
“More than any other Mommy in the world can love her baby.”
I fought my eyes to open before being blinded by the orange glow of my dashboard. The clock said 11:49. Shoot! So much for studying I guess, right? I rubbed my eyes, changed the gear to D1, and took the shortcut home; going down Farmington Avenue and by the Hospital. As I pulled into my driveway I saw the black Charger that Chris drove parked on my curb, and Riley’s green Civic parked parallel to it. My initial thought was to turn around and rent a room at the Marriot Hotel. But too late, he’d already started getting out of the car. I had no choice but to shut off my engine and spark a conversation with my late Mother’s fiancé. As he walked toward me with open arms, I noticed that he still wore his engagement ring. In that moment I felt some remorse for the guy. During my lack of “Jerk Tendencies” he noticed that I hadn’t shrugged him off and so he tightened his embrace. The first thing he asked was
“How yah’ been kiddo?”
What was I to say, “Uhh, crappy”? I didn’t think that that was a reasonable response and gave him a decent one by saying,
“Okay I guess. How about you, how have you been?”
“I’ve been alright, but then again I’ve been better. Just got out of the office; really long day. They’ve got me working a new case. The State’s prosecuting a man with two counts of rape, and that’s never easy. But I’m sure that you don’t want hear about that.” He forced a smile and then said, “How’s school going?”
“It’s alright,” I said “But then again it’s been better. Damn director complains about everything. He complains about what I don’t do, and then when I actually do it, he complains about how it’s done.” He thought that that was pretty funny and started laughing.
“Ya’ know, nobody ever said that it was going to be easy. Some battles you have to pick and choose. And you’re going to run into jerks like those in life, you know that. You just have to kill the enemy
with kindness. “
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” There was a really awkward silence for a few seconds. The kind of awkward moment where the hair on the back of your neck stands on end and you suddenly feel goose bumps on your arm. “Did you want to come in? It’s pretty cold out here,” I asked.
“No thanks. Not tonight Jess, I just wanted to stop by and check up on you.” He gave me a fatherly “fist pound” and started walking back to his car. He must’ve noticed that the first hug was lucky, and that a second was just out of the question. He looked over his shoulder at me and said “See you kid.”
He began to twist his body towards his car, and as he began to walk away I found myself suddenly falling backward. I had no clue as to why the sudden lightlessness in my head had occurred, or why there was a tingling feeling in the pit of my stomach but then everything went white. I started pushing my hands out in front of me, trying to feel something that I might be able to grab hold of and keep myself steady, but there was nothing. “Chris? Are you there?” I hesitantly pushed the words out of my mouth, scared of hearing no reaction. Little by little my eyes began to adjust and I was able to see again. Except that the surrounding I was seeing wasn’t my driveway, or of Chris walking to his car. I was in the living room of my Mother’s house. Utterly amazed I looked around. The house that I found myself standing in had been burned down years before, as to why, or even how, I was in it now, was a complete mystery. Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself running into the kitchen.
“Mom?” I tried to keep the tears of excitement behind my eyelids, but I couldn’t help it. I just felt them tickle the edge of my nose, and dance down my cheek onto my lips. My eyes raided the room for even a shadow of my beautiful mother, but nowhere could I see her. It smelled of fried seafood. And sure enough, when I looked on the stove there was a wok with oil kissing its edges, and medium sized shrimp decorating the inside of it. The shrimp in the pan needed to be turned; and out of instinct I reached for the plastic red handle to the cooking spoon; but as I was reaching my hand out towards it a sudden noise behind me made my stop.
“Crap” she said, running into the kitchen, with her freshly manicured hands stretched out for the spoon. She looked beyond beautiful. Healthy, and beautiful. I watched as she looked over shoulder at the clock that said 4:40.
“Mom?” I said hoping that she could hear me. “Mom?” I reached out my hand, and for a fraction of a second, I believed that she might just be tangible – that maybe I could touch her again. But my hand seemed to slide right through her as if I weren’t even there. The headlight of a car fought its way through the blinds on the window, and shone its way into the kitchen. Sure enough, Chris came through the door a few minutes later carrying a huge cake with racecars drawn all over it. He had an air to him that I couldn’t clearly remember anymore – a kind of radiance to his smile that made me realize how much he had changed in the last two years. He walked over to the table placing the huge cake on the surface of it.
“What’s that baby?” my Mother said to him looking over his shoulder, and kissing him on the cheek.
“It’s a cake that I picked up for Jesse.”
“You didn’t have to do that Chris. Besides, he already left to stay with his friend Connor for the night.”
“Oh.” He said, with his chin now tilted towards the ground, and his former demeanor now a bit less glamorous. “Well, can we sing happy birthday to him tomorrow?”
“Of course we can. I’m sure he will be really happy.” She kissed him on the cheek again before turning around to turn the shrimp, and as she turned, I felt that sudden weightlessness in my legs again, along with the tingling feeling in the pit of my stomach. Once again, everything was black, and I couldn’t see; yet I could still smell the seafood lingering on my clothes.
Slowly, I could see the glow of the street lamps, and the outline of Chris walking towards his Charger. As my eyes began to slowly continue adjusting, the words fell out of my mouth as if gravity had hold of them;
“Hey Chris, gracias por todo.”
He raised his both of his eyebrows and said, “For what?”
I gave him the only honest answer there was. “For being a Dad.”
He forced the corner of his lips to fold up, looked me directly into the eyes and said, “No problem kiddo, don’t be a stranger. Got that Mr. Hollywood?”
“Sure thing Chris” I replied. He looked at me and said “Portate bien” with a really bright smile that made the wrinkles on the corners of his eyes pop out. It was one of the few things that my Mother taught him to say in Spanish.
“Y cuando no soy?” I responded with an ear to ear grin.
He looked at me with his head tilted to the left, lifted his right eyebrow, and said “Huh?”
“Never mind” I chuckled out.
Before anything else could get too weird I broke the eye contact, and decided to run up the steps, shove open the door and slam it before Chris could get my attention to say anything else. Walking to my room, I could hear the shower on down the hall. I changed in the dark, and was walking towards my bed when I saw a shadow of light hit the floor in front of me. It disappeared along with the sound of the door shutting. A gentle, small, damp hand had found its place on my shoulder, and was followed by someone’s skull being pressed against the back of my neck. I found myself pushing thoughts away from my mind; and thought only of her gray eyes and tender lips. I turned around placing my arm around her shoulder and slid my head so that it was leveled with hers. We looked into one another’s eyes, and from there, I went to a place outside of my head, and outside of my daydreams. She took me into a land of unconditional affection, a land of physical paradise. A land of ecstasy.