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Who Was Abraham Lincoln? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I was a freshman the first time I saw my mom drunk. On that night, she emerged from a strange black car and stumbled into the house. I sat at the kitchen table with piles of books and a laptop. My fingers flew across the keyboard, pounding out sentences about Abraham Lincoln. When she threw the door open and it banged against the wall, I did not look up. I sat still, not daring to move. My fingers hovered above the keys, waiting. She tripped over my little brother’s sneakers and fell on the floor. I closed my eyes, knowing what was happening but not wanting to see it. Then I heard a sickening sound that echoed through the kitchen. As her vomit splashed on the tile floor, I closed my laptop.

I stood and turned toward her. There she was, sprawled out on the floor, her hair tangled and her clothes disheveled. Her body jerked violently, then, her eyes bloodshot and teary, she stared at me angrily. I grabbed an old towel from the closet and tossed it to the floor. She picked it up and wiped the slime off her face. I leaned down and grabbed her arm, trying to pull her up, but she shoved me. I tripped over my backpack, falling with my arm twisted beneath me and my head hitting the floor. I rolled onto my side with a groan. Pulling my arm in front of me, I felt my shoulder pop back into place. I looked at my mother as she struggled to pull herself up. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know what to do.

I was not the kind of kid who went to parties or drank, ever. I had heard stories about how funny kids were when they were drunk, but this was not funny. My mom staggered past me and went into the bathroom, slamming the door. I let out my breath, not realizing I had been holding it. I walked toward her mess and the odor surrounded me. It enveloped me, suffocated me. I grabbed paper towels, and knelt to wipe it up. My only thought was to get rid of the smell. I started to wipe my tears but stopped when I saw my hands coated, and I gave up, letting the tears run down my face. With knees throbbing from kneeling on the hard surface, I continued cleaning up the mess. I wanted it to be gone, to disappear so I could pretend it was never there. The bathroom door flew open and my mom staggered out, sneering at me.

“Well, I guess you’re good for something after all.” The malicious words fell out of her mouth, tripping over each other. I looked at my mother, who sat at the table, her head down, fast asleep. Saliva dribbled from her mouth onto my math homework. I went to the sink and turned on the hot water, letting it run over my stained hands. I used half a bottle of dish soap, but I could not get rid of that sickening smell. The slime would return like a bad dream, night after night. I would spend hours on my knees, scrubbing this floor, but no matter how hard I scrubbed, that smell would never go away. Finally I gave up. I shut off the water and sat down at my computer. I typed, “Abraham Lincoln was ... damn.”

God, help me. What am I supposed to do? How am I going to face my friends or teachers tomorrow? They can’t know about this. How am I going to hide it? Won’t they see it in my eyes, those betraying windows of my soul? I am not a good liar, they are going to find out. No, God, please don’t let them find out. It will be all right as long as they don’t find out. I can handle this, I can clean up the kitchen floor, but how can I tell them that it’s my fault? What will they say when they find out that I am the reason she got drunk? I should have been smarter. I should have brought that B in biology up. I should have had the dishes done when she got home, or swept the floor, or something.

My knees still ached from kneeling. Why, God? What did I do that was so wrong? I clenched my fists, trying desperately to let out some of the pain, some of the confusion, some of the guilt. Finally I got up and crawled into bed. I stared at the ceiling. There was a hollow feeling in my chest, like a deer, gutted and hanging in the sawdust room waiting for the butcher. I was squashed by the agonizing weight of guilt, crushed until my rib cage nearly collapsed. I rolled onto my side, trying to relieve the pressure.What did I do?

I closed my eyes but all I could see was that night’s scene, my mom stumbling in and falling to the floor. Then I saw myself at my last softball game, squatting behind the plate. The pitcher released the ball and it soared at me, then by me, whizzing past my glove. My mom turned away her head in disappointment. The sounds of her vomit splashing on the floor echoed in my mind, mixing with the cheers of the crowd and the thud of my cleats on the packed earth. It echoed until the field was lost and all that was left was my mom, doubled over on the kitchen floor, her body jerking with convulsions. Then I was pacing in the back of the auditorium, calling cues. “Curtain. Music. Lights. No, wait, too fast, the dancers aren’t ready!” But the stage lit up and the dancers were caught like deer in headlights. They scurried to their starting places and tried to catch up with the music. My mom, sitting three rows from the back, shook her head in disgust. I was on the floor, scrubbing. Scrubbing with all my might, but it doesn’t help. And the smell, the overwhelming smell will never go away. And then we were at the academic awards night. My name is called for the Book of Knowledge Pin, but nothing else.

“That’s it?” my mom muttered as she stared at the tiny pin. She stood over me, glaring down at my feeble attempt to clean up the slime. “I guess you’re good for something.” Her words played in my mind, over and over. And her eyes pierced through me. Those unforgiving, crushing eyes that glared down at me.

My eyes flew open, my room was blurry through the tears in my eyes. I lay there, trying to push the haunting memories away, but they kept coming back. Like someone kept pushing rewind when all I want to do is eject the tape of memory.

I pulled myself out of bed and sat at my desk. I turned the laptop on and waited as it hums to life. I started again.

“Abraham Lincoln was an inspirational leader ... damn, damn, damn.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

kate12345me said...
May 29, 2012 at 2:16 am
More people need to be able to share their sorrows like this. I don't believe in 'share your happiness, not your pain'. This is actually amazing and please stay strong! You are amazing for even having the courage to write about it and please, pretty please, don't let anyone else tell you that you're nothing but perfect. You're gorgeous and I don't know you! But, the way you write grabs at my heart and, really, that's all I need to know.
 
BaiLiHua This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 9, 2010 at 10:43 am
Thank you for sharing this awful experience and I do hope things get better for you. And you know ... I do believe they will. They did for me and they WILL for you.
 
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