Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
[Happiness is something that we make for ourselves. It's foolish to rely on other people for satisfaction in one's life. Joy is long-term, self-established. It's something that can only be created and never discovered. Granted, there are many instances in which an individual may find herself hard of thought and love, and thus impaired in the establishment of her joy. I had long contemplated this concept growing up. At one point, I came dangerously close to solving my future, of taking the easy way out. Joy is a journey that you must work for. If it comes easily to you, the universe will challenge you.]
When I was little, things were different. My therapist said that I grew up in an "extremely neglectful environment" and those painful words still seemed very unreal to me. I mean, I understood, and agreed, quite frankly, that I wasn't taken care of in any sort of manner that a child should be taken care of in- I was poor, frequently disciplined by a hateful maternal mouth, set up for failure and called horrible names (mostly surrounding a theme of anti-christ, demon, spawn of satan, etc.) Mama spent all of the child support on prescription drugs to keep her head in in the sky. Sometimes, she'd get emotional in those long, workless days that she'd spend vegetating on the couch watching television, and so she'd flush all of her pills down the toilet and banshee scream into the stars with drooling rage. Eventually, her heavy addiction would leave her seizuring on the couch with little ten year old Sage rushing in all directions to try to rescue her only friend. Mama kept me isolated very well. She didn't want me to have real friends, and so I didn't have real friends, because God forbid I dared to disobey that cruel woman, she'd slit my throat in my sleep and drink my blood like Nosferatu, or worse, she'd just overdose and leave me to clean up her rotting remains. We, at first, had a house full of pets and creatures, and she didn't keep it well at all. She called me a vicious slob, an evil, cruel curse placed on her innocent soul from the devil himself. Eventually, I grew quiet, stopped fighting until she'd pinch the profanity out of me.
"You bitch," I'd roar,
"How dare you!" She'd moo, then call my father (who was also noted in her biblical mind as the anti-christ) and tell him that I abused her. She'd bellow and whine, sob-sob hypochondria. She comically failed to mention that she'd tried to kill me, that she didn't feed me, that she shooed away my social world and kept me out of school to keep her company. Regardless of her lack of nurture, he'd run to her rescue, to my unfathomable dismay, and spring into action by choke holding a little girl.
Oh dangerous, was I, this little weak child, so scarily underweight that my ribs shot out like shelves from my frail chest. I deserved to be strangled because my mother told me that if I left to school she'd eat the dog and shoot herself. I fought her on it. I couldn't allow her to do such crazy things, to say such crazy, frightening and horrifying things, because it worried and bothered me. I was punished severely with death-threats, with nightmares, but it was my duty to keep her alive. I had to swallow my pride and take each brutal conversation, which most commonly came with slapping, punching, scratching and pinching, or I knew I'd lose everything I ever thought I'd have.
Sadly, my fears kept me very quiet. How could I confront her? How could I stop her when I had only her. I had only the trust that sometimes she'd buy food, that sometimes she'd hold me (or rather, I'd hold her while she complained of my adultering father) or kiss me with her cigarette face. If I told anyone, she'd be arrested, and I knew that. I knew that how she treated me was wrong, that no person with a heart or soul would render laws to allow such terrors. I knew that the words, the physicality, her rapid and religious insanity- it was all wrong. I knew she was abusing me. I couldn't stop it. She guided me into therapy, pledging to the insurance company my father paid for in between his wine-and-dining with expensive could-be step-mommies like Charla that I was just horribly damaged by a divorce that happened when I was too young to care.
"I just don't know what to do! Ahh boo hoo hoo!" Mama cried to every new psychologist. They'd stupidly nod with uh-huhs and I-see's, and that'd be that. Then they'd sling me in there, tell me to hug one of the ugly pillows and talk about why the divorce made me sad.
I repeated the words as if they were my own
"I just miss my daddy and mommy"
meaning to say
"She beats me, he tries to kill me, they call me a worthless failure and a filthy whore. She never buys food, I'm hungry forever. I've tried to kill myself three times. She calls me evil. I'm scared, but I don't want to be ripped out of the ground. I don't want to be somewhere unfamiliar because she tells me that I'd had better love her forever and ever because you only get one mother, and that one mother will always love you and care for you more than anyone else on the entire planet. More than that, I'm sure that if I'm gone, she'll kill herself and I can't stand the idea of learning that one day because I'd blame myself forever."
Those stupid doctors proved that a degree means less than nothing in real life. No matter how many hundreds of dollars you charge per hour, you're still perfectly capable of perpetuating child abuse. Sadly, nobody wants to think that. As long as you make money, money, good money, fast money, so much money, then you're as good as God himself.
I remember waking up early in the morning in the 6th grade and desperately searching for something to wear to school. I was the rotten stinky cigarette daughter of a rotten stinky cigarette mother who didn't pay the water bill because she prioritized cable television. No showers, no tooth-brushing, no toilets. I'd ask her, beg her, rather, for something to wear to school, and she'd fish through an infinitely filled clothes hamper and pull out some ratty outfit for me and throw it at me.
Stinky girl, ugly girl, stupid girl, and silent girl. That was little Sage, and everyone knew it. My friends were limited, non-judgemental people who dealt with a lot of psychosis from me. I pushed them all away as hard as I possibly could, because if I had real friends, Mama'd lose her head and kick me into the streets. One girl pushed back on her own, but she's for another chapter, as these pages couldn't dare to serve her nobility.
My teachers all loathed my order, my aura, my entry, but when I put pen to paper, which I rarely ever did, they'd marvel at my words. I bled through that pen, letting sticky sweet ink define my every pore and thought. In a backpack cramped with lose assignments that I never did, homework that I never did, report cards and parent-teacher conference forms that would never been seen, there'd be a little composition book, and cover to cover, it possessed every mythical thought and moment of my entity. Sometimes, I'd get angry and rip poems and pages straight out of it, wad it up and throw it at people. Teachers would warn me not to cast my pearls at swine.
I missed lots of school, often weeks or even months at a time, but I always showed up for writing tests. I loved to write. When the topics bored me, I'd make it all up as I went along, because when I was little, things were different, and grades were just false promises that I made to my social worker. I'd stand up straight out of the blue and read to the entire class, carefully emphasizing words with eye-contact. They all just thought I was creepy, but they liked to hear me read. They assumed I was smart, but didn't know how, because I was never around to learn anything.
Things were very different indeed. I wasn't happy.
When I was twelve years old, my mother kept me out of school for 28 days in a row. She told the social worker that I had cancer or something bizarre like that. When the social worker showed up at our doorstep one day, Mama told me to fake a cough and act as sick as possible, and I obeyed. The lady didn't buy it, and shortly after, she called the school and told them to contact my absent father. Of course, at the time, my mother and I were completely unaware of the circumstance.
Mama'd managed to pay the bills for that month, but she damn-near lost her job anyway because she sat around the house playing games on her computer for sixteen hours a day and excusing herself from retail restocking with another cancerous disease. She bought several packs of energy drinks and we stayed up for days on end, me drawing and writing and singing to myself, and her with her drugs and video games. One of those days, she broke down, her spirituality spewing out of her like water through a hole in a pressure cleaner, and opened the thick curtains that she used to keep our apartment smothered in darkness.
She went and sat outside and started her infamous bellow over a pack of cigarettes. I watched quietly from the walls. She looked so heartbroken, so genuine, and I bet that she was, too, and ashamed of herself and worried. I walked out to her in the sunrise and sat on the filthy floor of the miniature patio. She suggested that I leave, run into the streets, do whatever I could to get away from this bitter life. I knew that I couldn't, or she'd die. I couldn't leave her to die. I couldn't leave Mama.
I puffed up and sighed with tar lungs. I had to fix this fast. If she gave up, I'd be forced to give up. I'd be turned in. I'd be separated from her and what would she'd do, she'd die, she never cooked or cleaned so what would she eat and where would she sleep and I would be so irresponsible if I just left my mother and let her die.
"Stop!" I yelled into the sunrise. The entire complex shook with my rage. She was very bothered and looked into me with disturbed wide blue eyes and teeth baring. I had to think fast, to think primarily, because she was a primal being, and I had to choose my words carefully. I told her that she was worth more than this life. I told her she was in control, that God was with her, that she could write her future from this day forth and make her life anything that she wanted it to be. I punched my hand into the tile and demanded she look at herself and look at her survival. She'd been through so much, I reminded her, survived such terrors that her life shouldn't be rendered terrible and insane, but she should reclaim the happiness she deserved.
For the first time that I can remember, the insanity seemed to drain away from her visage. She smiled warmly, no longer bellowing, but crying softly. She pulled me into a long hug, and while I loathed her stench- scented candles and sweat- I liked that I made her right. She replied to me with a full heart, decided that this was it, that she was going to change, that this whole thing was going to change and that everything we'd ever need in our lives would be worked for and achieved. We were happy to share the conversation.
Then someone knocked on the door. The world might as well have split clean into two. Volcanos erupted through our minds and souls, and everything went into slow motion.
My mother rose, the queen of the ocean, and moved with an apparent eloquence to answer to the calling of our fate. I followed, the princess of the sea, close behind her. She looked up through the peep-hole of the last barrier of our secrets, her chest and palms softly against the wood, then gazed down to me. Mutually, we understood one another. I silently begged her not to open it, but everything was white and clean and beautiful, and so she had to do it. We were in gowns of feathers, heavenly blonde hair and wings on our backs, and her smooth hands turned the nob, white light screaming out of her palms with a jagged sharpness.
The angels were opening the door to reality.
Woosh- and did it fly in and suck the breath and life and souls clean out of their bliss. There he stood, this man, a gun at his side, dark sunglasses on his face. We were not angels anymore, no longer the hierarchy of the waters of the world. We were messy mistakes, both at least a little drunk, matted hair and unwashed bodies, wearing ratty clothes stained with blood and fast food.
I screamed when I saw him. I screamed when he pulled me outside. I screamed when Mama fell to her knees with tears. I screamed when he told me he'd have her arrested unless I got into the truck. I screamed when he closed the door against my flesh. I was silent the entire way to his house.
He commanded I wash my hideous disgusting body. I obeyed, showered cold ice, shampooed my hair, scrubbed the dirt off of me. I dressed myself in old clothes that had been lost at his house.
Hope was lost. I had finally given her a chance, finally given Mama a reason to seek help and betterment and make her life worth living and make my life worth living and we were going to build the perfect empire together and finally, finally we were going to be happy. But then he came and shattered the glass, tore down our kingdom walls, burned our unfinished constitution and kidnapped the princess.
I tried to explain this all to him after I had calmed down, but naturally, he didn't listen. To my father, there was only one God, and it was him. His word was untouchable law, his daughter was his object, his girlfriends were his hobbies, his ex-wives served as his tools. I yelled at him with passion, begged that he just give her a chance and give me a chance and cried that if he'd ever known what love was, he wouldn't be so cruel and he'd let me do what it was that I needed to do.
He responded with a fake concern about my grades.
I'd never been more disgusted with a human being before. I'd never believed more strongly in evil. My mother was on her way to cures. I was on my way to cures. I could have been clean and happy and well. I could have undone all of this evil, a decade and then some of evil, of mostly his evil adultery. I had given her the hope he stole away. I had rejuvenated the spirit of her that at one point he was deeply in love with. I had given life to the woman who bore his child.
His interest was supposedly in grades.
Letters on papers that he truly didn't understand.
He couldn't have cared less about my happiness, my mother's happiness, the spiritual growth and development of us as people and our goals and dreams and needs and fate.
He just wanted an excuse to stop paying child support.
When I was little, things were not all that different. The only thing that's ever changed is me. Where as I used to be 5'0, I grew to be 5'3.