My father walks in, a belt in his hand, he loops it around his waist. The whole time, staring at me with an emptiness which had grown over time. His eyes were glossing over with clouds of disgust. I hate this man so much, yet I was only four when I held this hatred. The deep abyss in my soul grew. When my dad walked out that morning, you could tell he was never coming back.
Every night I could hear my mother crying in her closet, hoping I wouldn’t hear. I would try to hold my own tears back, but sobs would cry out from that deep abyss inside of me. At least I had my mother, I told myself, yet I always switch to, at least I’m alive.
The art studio bursts with color, my easel holds a huge painting. It shows a person now from my imagination, with red sparks sprouting in the background. This person was my best friend, the only one who could’ve made me laugh, smile, and enjoy life. When they took her away, it was one of the hardest times I have ever had. Including my father leaving. It’s harder to bear that weight when you don’t love a person when they leave than when a person leaves you, and that person was the only light in your life.
I turn back to the painting. I have used colored sand to make details and mixtures of paints for the background. I add blue and light grey streaks behind her. Adaliz comes up behind me examining the painting, “Who is this?” She asks with her thin German accent.
“Someone I used to know,” I tell her. I then turn to critique my work. Adaliz, or Ada as I call her, is my only teacher in art. Her grey hair is always held up in a bun with a sharp pencil sticking through it. Ada is a very haggard person. I refuse to ask her about her past, afraid I will bring bad memories. You can see in her eyes the sorrow she has been through. She always gives me the same luxury. Yet still, she smiles. She’s that person you always want to be with.
I feel like I can see the sadness in the painting’s bright green eyes, I have painted a tear going down the tan skin of her cheek. Her wavy black hair seems to fly in the wind and her mouth is filled with laughter, that was the first sign she was crazy. When she was with me, her eyes held madness, yet she talked to me sane. Her name was Taylor.
One day, beneath the glow of concert lighting, Taylor broke down crying. Sobs came from her lips as the people around us jumped, danced, and cheered. Her racking cries turned to laughter, the laughter of a mad person. In my mind, the world turned silent. Just like I knew that I lost my dad to hatred of his family, my mom to desperate pleas for him to come back. I knew that I just lost her to madness.
I store my painting in an old supply cart, I then wave goodbye to Adaliz. I turn away and start to run home, the sun starts to set over New York City in the distance. It displays beautiful colors across the blue sky. I don’t have time to enjoy it because my part of town is not a good place to be at night. I feel the blood pumping in my ears and my heart speeds up. I push myself harder and harder until my legs are cramping and pain shoots through my stomach. I have arrived at a dark street with run down houses, each with windows boarded up in a flurry of nails and wood. This is my home. I walk quickly down the worn street. The sky has turned a deep gray and I can see the drunks lurking in the shadows.
A laugh comes from an alley and a man with knotted hair and a long beard emerges. He carries a beer bottle in hand. He stares into my eyes for a long minute and I freeze. He throws the bottle violently against the street and it shatters. He staggers and turns to run, screaming all the while. He falls face down into the pavement and no movement comes from this man. I keep walking, avoiding the stiff body.
I turn, then walk into my house. Wood is nailed to cover the windows, the frame of the house is rotting. We have no yard and no sidewalk. I go through the doorway, which also sits rotting, and I see boxes stacked up against walls. Other than those boxes, the house is completely empty of furniture or my personal belongings. My mom’s footsteps echo loudly through the house, she appears the in the doorway of my room while I stand in the living room. Her eye bags stand out sharply and her back slouches with exhaustion. Gray hairs mark her head and they go out in every direction, having a life of their own.
“Why the boxes?” I ask her. I tap my finger against my leg, I’m anxious for the answer. She seems to rack her brain how to respond.
“We are moving,” she quickly says.
“Why?” I ask again. My eyes dart around the room, I don’t want to leave this place. It holds bad memories, but it is my home.
“Well, your father died, so we are moving to the house he used to live in,” she said precariously, almost with no emotion. Her eyes dart around the living room. A small tap, tap, tap comes from her foot hitting the floor. She’s nervous for my response.
I choke out a gasp. My throat feels like it is closing, my tongue feels tied in a knot. My stomach is filled with dread. “When did this happen?” my voice is raspy, my eyes burn. I shut my eyes, but a tear escapes and slides down my cheek. Why do I care? I don’t, at least, I don’t think I do. Yet more tears fall from my eyes, my knees give out and I fall on the floor. I’m at the point where sobs now rack my body. I still don’t know why I cry for a person I hate. My mom stares as I crumple to the floor, offering no comfort. She walks out of the room, but I wish she wouldn’t. I want to yell, to scream at her, tell her that’s not what I need. But I let the sobs go on. I think I cry for the loss of a family member, for the chance missed to restore the relationship between him and myself. I know deep inside he would never come back, but I think I have held onto the idea of having a father who cares.
The sobs stop, and I stand on wobbly legs. I walk to my bedroom, past where my mom had stood, with the intent to fall on my bed. Of course, my bed has to be gone also, I lazily fall on the floor and lay cuddled with myself. I fall asleep with a silent tear sliding down my cheek, and I don’t bother to wipe it away.
I wake up with crusty eyes, my mom’s footsteps echo through the empty house, each step makes my head pound. I find a ragged blanket laying on top of me, one comfort my mom has given. I still lay on the floor and my body aches. My stomach grumbles loudly, begging for food. I sit up slowly, my head pounding faster and faster, harder and harder. I stand up and walk to our dated kitchen, I aim to turn on the microwave, it doesn’t work. I murmur to myself, “Yay, electricity is out.”
My mom comes in, she immediately says, “Change your clothes we are leaving for the train station in fifteen minutes.”
I grumble, “Fine, as you wish…” I sulk back into my room, my feet dragging with each step. When I am far enough away I finish the sentence, “…my queen.”
We walk down the street to our local train station. My mom and I walk apart from each other. We reach the train station in a few minutes. We go through the ticket booth and wait for the next train into the city. I sit on one side of the bench and my mom sits on the other. Many other people wait with us, dressed for work. The train arrives, it stops and the doors open. I quickly stand up and rush on the train, not bothering to look back to see if my mother made it safely. A flood of people board and I rush to find a seat. The train doors close, it slowly starts to move, then faster, until its speeding through the station. I look around for my mom, nothing. She always sits at least close to me.
I stand from my seat and head to the next section of seats, nothing. Next section, nothing. Again, and again I search, but she doesn’t show. I finally end up at the back of the train, it is deserted of people. I sit down, eyes wide in shock. Yes, I ignore my mother, but I still need her. My breaths come fast and hurried. Again, I think, why do I care, I think its just the family member thing. I mean, she birthed me, I can’t not care. I stare out the window, the fact that she is gone has still not settled in me. I stagger to the next section of seats and plop down. No one in here either, my breathing becomes even faster.
I’m starting to panic now, my hand twitches and my knees bounce up and down, making a thumping noise. What happens when I get to the city, do I get off the train. Part of me knows I should stay on the train and head back to my town. Yet, I hesitate, what if my mom comes on the train, intending to meet me at the station? I don’t have a phone, I can’t call her. The other part of me wants to get off the train in the city and run, run from the life I live now and start anew. I don’t have the courage for that, yet this urge is the strongest I’ve ever felt. I want to scream, to cry, to not care about any person I meet. If I did that I would be just like my father, which I need to avoid by all costs.
So, I hold in every emotion I feel and breathe loudly. Louder and louder until I’m practically gasping for air. I’m doing this again in less than twenty-four hours, I’m going through this pain again. I haven’t exactly lost her, but when panic sets in, I can’t get out. Silent tears drop down my cheeks.
The train speakers beep for the next stop, I’m going to step off this train. I wipe the running tears away, leaving my face a bright red. My lips feel set in a permanent frown. Do I even want to smile again? The train doors open wide, providing my one opportunity. No one is there to see me leave my old life behind and step into a new one. One step towards the door, two steps, three, I stand at the opening. I still hesitate. The speakers beep with a warning of the doors closing, they beep a second time, and then a third. They slowly start to close with my opportunity. I run out the doors and they slam behind me, marking the end to what I once knew.
I walk through the subway and up the stairs into open air. I’m free. Free from all my worries and troubles, I’m free.