"Do things for yourself," my father had told me as a little girl, "not relying on others is living. All other things are weakness. If you can't learn to live without depending on me," he blew a puff with his cigar between his words, "then quit living." It was then I saw just how weak dependence was. From then on I did everything myself.
I started living that day.
I started living that day.
Nothing I ever got came from another person; I grew up knowing I needed to stand on my own two feet, no leaning on others for support. I wanted to be worth living. I wanted to prove to my father I was worth having a life. And well, here I was a full grown woman, standing on my own two feet for sure, but not really moving, just standing.
I had not done all too much in the past few years. Mostly, but not limited to, sitting, sleeping, drinking, smoking, more drinking, and the occasional popping of a few pills. Not a real full life or anything, but it didn't matter too much.
That afternoon it had been my fifth cigarette and my fourth drink... I think. I lost track pretty quick of these things. My doc's fed up with all the drugs, those being the lightest of drugs I've done in while. I guess he's got reason to be so bull with me, his job is to keep me from dying, but I wouldn't really care if I dropped dead this moment. I might even be a little happy, you know? I think that's 'cause I would get to see Nel again.
Nel was my boyfriend, longtime boyfriend, and the kids' father. I loved him, still do, he was the only person I've ever loved. I can't say I needed him to be happy, because I don't need people, but he sure was nice to have around. The night I found out he had been killed in that car wreck almost made me put a bullet in my head. Though I didn't, that would have meant I depended on him, and like I said, I'm better than that.
My front door creaked open some and the sound of little footsteps could be heard. Jody and David were home from school, the kids, my kids. They slipped off their coats and hats, stomping the snow from there boots, and running straight up stairs. No hellos between us, but it was fine that way.
Jody was nine and her brother was seven. That was as much as I really knew about them. Me and the kids didn't speak all too much, we just kinda shared a house. Before Nel died we used to at least hang out together, after that though I stopped talking, started drinking, and they learned to do what all people have to do; they learned to live without help. Some could argue it is a little early for them to be taking care of themselves like they do, but that's the age I learned, and hey I turned out fine.
They make their own food, they wash their own dishes, they even do their own laundry. They didn't need me much less than I had needed my father. Or Nel.
Jody and David I could at least tolerate the presence of. Most children I can't stand.
Eh, kids. I don't know why people like 'em so much. They're just another bother, another burden, they take so much out of you 'cause they rely on you for everything. Hell, I didn't want them! Kids are just annoying little brats, I hated myself as a kid even.
It was pretty slow for most of that day, like all days went for me, slow and quiet and even slower. I sat there with drink in hand and a cigarette pressed to my lips when I noticed something moving behind me out of the corner of my eye. I got up and took a look outside, the bones in my back cracking into place as I did.
There was small ashy colored cat lying on the concrete slab out there that was supposed to be some kind of a patio. The thing could not have been more than a couple months old. A big puff ball of fluffy fur with big eyes and push pin needles for teeth.
I didn't mind it there, it wasn't bothering me really. Well, it hadn't bothered me for a long while, then not too long later the started pacing. Next was it's face pressed to the door. And lastly, came the meowing, and the more meowing, and the more insufferable meowing.
After some time of it, I felt like I was going insane. Eventually, I started to get a little frustrated.
"Shut up!" I screamed from my chair in the living room. "Shut up, you imbecile!" It kept on going. "My god! Quiet you ******* *******, piece of ****!" I believe I had hit my ninth drink by then, my colorful vocabulary was starting to show. Up from my chair now, I was at the door. "What do yah want! What? What is it! Food? Is it ******* food you want! Well here! Here!" I took the first thing from the pantry I could find which ended up being a bag of chips and threw it out the door, slamming it shut. "Happy?"
It wasn't. Stupid thing didn't eat. "Oh, COME ON!"
"She doesn't like chips," a little voice had chirped. I whipped around to find it was Jody, David peeking out from behind her shoulder. "The kitten, she likes cheese." She spoke quiet like a little mouse or something, looking me dead in the eye. I was realizing then that I hadn't heard her speak to me in weeks, my own daughter's voice unrecognizable until paired with a face in my own house. But hey, nobody's prefect. With David though, it probably had been years. The kid never opened his mouth. I'm not sure if I know what he sounds like.
"What do yah mean about the cat liking cheese?" I said. "You been feeding it?"
She nodded her head, silently, those massive deep set eyes of hers staring coerce to make contact with mine. "She's been coming to the door often now, but you're usually sleepin' when she does, and we'll go outside and play with her too. We've tried giving her all sorts of foods, the favorite is cheese."
I looked back at the cat, clawing my sliding glass door. "Well then give it some cheese so it'll get out of here!" They jumped up at my words and rushed to the fridge and got a slice of cheese I didn't even know we had, I sure as hell didn't buy. They used their combined strength to get to push the door enough they could get a hand through. The door jammed a lot, I was the only one who could get it open really.
A few hours passed and it was still at my door. Not meowing anymore, thank god, but just resting. Then it started to rain. It was light at first, only drizzling, but not before long the drizzle became a pour. The cat then finally got up from my patio, however only to go stroll through the goddamn rain. What the hell is it doing! I thought, It's winter! It's like 35 degrees out there! I wasn't going to be scooping a dead animal off my yard any time soon.
I forced open the sliding door and ran into the rain. "No, no no, you stupid animal!" I yelled at that little fur ball, running out into the rain. My now soggy cigarette burnt out so I just flicked it away. "Do yah got a death wish or something? Only a complete idiot would think its a good idea to go prancing in a storm in February! You're gonna get yourself hypothermia! You want that?" It made no response, barely even a turn of the head. I sighed.
"Look. You seem to be missing a great deal of sense, and I don't like helping others and all, but I'm just gonna give you some guidance, some direction. Don't think I'm necessarily doing stuff for yah, I'm just giving a hint sorta, but you gotta do the rest. Okay?" I leaned down and picked up the slippery wet cat, the fur clinging to my fingers. Gross, I tell you.
Holding it up, the kitten gave me this look of all innocence and stuff. Then it went on purring and pawing at me. "Nice try," I told it, "but I'm not gonna fall for that 'love me I'm so cute' crap. It may work with the rest of the damn population, but not with me." I brought it to the front of my shed, put it down, and opened the door. "There. That's all I'm gonna give you. Nothing else from here." I began to walk away, looking back every couple of steps to make sure it went in.
But the stupid thing didn't go inside; it just sat there looking at me. I could have just continued on with my life, ignored the cat, yet something came on to me, a weird feeling that just would not let me turn my back. I gave in to it and started back to the furry thing. "C'mon, get!" I yelled, pointing to the shed. I was soaking now, drenched from head to toe and not very happy either. "Look see the shed right there, that nice dry place to stay in a storm? Yeah, you see that!" It turned and glanced at the shed before coming around right back towards me. "Don't come to me! Ugh!" This thing was driving me crazy, it was so retarded it couldn't even figure out the basics to survival! "Fine fine!" I hollered at it. "Do you know what!" I picked it up and trudged through the mucky grass back to my house. "I at least know you won't get yourself killed in here."
I plopped the cat on the shag carpet in the living room, closed the sliding door best I could and then poured myself another drink. I could change out of these wet clothes after.
The cat was so fascinated by the house, it explored every little part of it, such a curious thing. When it was done checking out the downstairs, it went up.
When I put down my then emptied glass, I went up to go change into something dry. At the top of the stairs I could here the kids giggling over something. Wondering what all the commotion was about I made my way to their room and carefully creaked open the door enough to see inside but not disturb them. They were playing with the cat, giving it things to toy with while they stroked its soft fur. It was, kinda sweet actually. I watched them together a bit more. They were so happy with that cat, but also with each other. Quite shortly I forgot about getting changed.
I continued watching from outside the door. I must not have been as non-disruptive as I thought I was because eventually they noticed I was there. I felt sorta weird just watching now they saw me, and I launched up and pretended I was not paying attention to them. Though before I finished standing up, Jody opened the door.
"Do you wanna come sit with us?" She asked, a smirk curling up the side of her lips.
I'm not sure if I answered her out loud, but I walked in and sat down on the floor in my damp clothes with my back to a bookshelf. David watched me hesitantly, squeezing the cat to his chest. Jody came in after me and sat down too. There was an awkward silence in that since I came in, and after watching them I had a question, so I broke the ice. "How do you two get along so well?"
David remained silent as usual despite seeming like he had something to tell me and Jody answered for him. "You learn to get along with the people you need," she said.
This sat with me for a while. The people we need. That was an interesting philosophy. Does she think we all need people? But that would mean we were all weak. That didn't make sense to me. "No, not all people need people, some are fine on their own. Those are strong people. Needing and helping others is dependency, a weakness."
Jody appeared to find that funny, I didn't know why, then she started talking. "I don't think it's a bad thing to help and need people, the strongest people need a hand every now and then." Her big eyes shifted to David, snuggling the fur ball to his chest. "And the youngest need it the most. I take care of David, David takes care of Daisy. And David and Daisy together take care of me as best they can."
She lost me for a moment. As far as I know I only had two kids. "Who's Daisy?" I asked.
Jody ran her fingers through the cat's thick grey fur. "She's Daisy, mama. Daisy taught us all that about helping others.
She got her ways of thinking from a cat, and yet they sounded logical. Her words were in every way the opposite of what I'd been telling myself my whole life.
"Mama, I think now that daddy is gone, you'd be happier if you let us take care of you? It's hard for him to do it from all the way up above our heads."
That hurt to hear. 'Daddy' they still remembered Nel, and as their father. Daddy was a phrase no one in my house had muttered since he died. I felt tears rolling down cheeks, my face getting kinda hot. I tried to wipe them away with little success. "I didn't need Nel. I'm not weak."
"Oh no, of course not! You're not weak." Jody told me, a mother's instinct in her voice. But she was only a child, my child. I'm supposed to be the mother, right? Why was this not me? I was the child and the adult but not the mother. I was never the mother. "Needing every now and then isn't a weakness I'd say. It's living. Without it, you might as well not be alive at all."
With her sweet, wise words the world made sense to me. What I needed to be alive, to be happy; it was a family.
I started living that day.
The Oven House Synecdoche Essay
It is an old door. Bound by rusty, loose hinges and rotted out wood, iron nails that barely had a purpose anymore, bent and twisted so out of shape they were more Tetanus hazards than hardware. Yet despite it all, the big sheet of aging maple with two dead bullets buried at its center still remained in place.
That door has weathered a lot of storms in its time, ones of the sky, and ones of others. The others are what wears it down the most, they are always blowing through it's chipped paint frame. Sometimes that door is left wide open, the cool air coming in to push the hot air out, or as much as it can. There is a lot of hot, suffocating air behind that door. Other times the door is shut and locked, a barrier between the house and the rest of the world.
Often the door is opened with careless swings, big and wide, the brass little knob warmed to the fingers grasping it; those times are in the day. But then evening comes and cold makes the tumblers sticky only to be nearly ripped off the hinges with a single thrusting motion. The knob smeared in skin oils and sweat, and the friction of a too-tight wedding ring burning heat on the brass. This was contrary to soft and gentle push received after midnight, and again before dawn. It was where the knob shook timidly, no warmer a touch than the night frost already made its metal, later razor scuffs and blood wedged in fingerprints patterns find their way on the brass. They will be rubbed off to prepare for the first careless swing of morning when the evening's hot air can start to be pushed out.
To the Attempts of "Lightening Up" Angry Letter Essay
I understand fully that it is the interests of both of you that I am happy and healthy in my childhood, I am fully and totally aware of that. However, there is a piece to this parental behavior that I must make clear is a frustrating one in my eyes, and this behavior is the one of touching or moving of my possessions without my forewarned knowledge and/or consent.
It has been, since I was very little, that I have liked to place personal belongings in specific places to enhance my own environmental comfort. Although, when said items are tampered with, it can leave me rather frustrated and distraught. I place things where I place things because I want them there, not because I am "too busy" to move them or am "too lazy", it is simply that I thought no more a convenient and appropriate spot for those objects to be. There is also the fact of how I remember quite clearly the particulars of where these belongings have been place, rearrangement of these could lead to catastrophic effects to my organization.
If something of mine is to be borrowed without my knowing, I would appreciate if it were to be placed back from where you had taken it. Otherwise, to be in my shoes and come home from school (being the first one in the house after a five hour period roughly) only to see objects moved out of place leaves me question what might have occurred while the house was kept unattended. You two, of all people, know I am a very anxious person with a overactive imagination to say the least about it and would prefer not to feel obligated to rummage the house in attempt to discover what might have been stolen from us. Not to mention the two people in which this high leveled anxiety was inherited, *cough cough* yourselves, therefore meaning you may and should sympathize with what, through experience I have learned, appears crazy to most outsiders of our family.
This I have described is only a last resort, however, because ultimately what I am wanting of is for my belongings not to be touched without my permission overall. That is most candidly what I desire. It is not enjoyable to get back from summer camp to find my closet rearrange, or my toiletries awkwardly placed at the bottom drawer of our vanity. These things bother me greatly, and I am deeply sorry if this comes across as a form of "sass" to you, that is not intentional, all that is intentional is me trying to get my point across. At this point in my letter, you are probably associating me with Francis (Psycho) from the movie Stripes, honestly I do not blame you. I must sound like him, and also much like him I probably need to "lighten up" as the famous quote goes, yet that is not an easy task without your cooperation. Thank you for reading.
Love, Your Daughter,