I was listening to Jaymes Young’s song Moondust this evening and it conjured a scene in my mind I just had to share with all of you. It’s a sad reality for some, that it seems like there are some things that have a pull stronger than love.
“What are you trying to say?”
She paused at the door, turning slightly so that the early morning light that seeped through the window fell across her face. I watched her mouth open, then close. She tapped a nail against the wood of the door and let out a sigh. “What I’m trying to say is…”
“Just spit it out, won’t you? Break my heart,” I shouted, pushing my palms against my eyes to keep the tears from coming. “Break it into a million little pieces.”
I felt a touch like the tickling of a feather against my knuckles and dropped my hands to my sides. Defeated, I looked up into her eyes, at the emerald pools that shimmered there. It felt like years since I had seen them so clearly, so precisely that I could make out the minute changes in color, like stones below the surface, glinting in the sun. I longed to stare into her eyes a little longer but she lowered her gaze, resting in on the floor.
“It wasn’t my intention to break your heart,” she said. “I’m doing this to protect your heart from all the pain I’m doomed to cause it. Please believe me.”
She wasn’t making sense to me. She was saying one thing, but her tone implied something else. I glanced at her in confusion. “Don’t leave me. You’ll only hurt me by leaving.”
“You know that’s not true. I’ve been slipping for a while. I can’t keep it together. I’m not that strong.”
“You’re doing great. You’ve been trying—“
“Dianna.” She pulled up the sleeve of her frayed sweater above the crook of her elbow. A dozen ugly purple marks contrasted harshly against her pale skin. She looked up at me hesitantly like I might hit her.
My voice was a whisper. “Mom…”
She backed away from me as if she were afraid her very presence might wound me.
“You were doing so well,” I croaked. “I just got you back.”
“I told you. I’m not strong.” She shoved her sleeve back down and pulled her pack from the floor, slinging it over her shoulder. She looked like some wayward traveller, already tired from nights of sleeping in bus shelters against cold concrete.
I stepped toward her, the image slipping from my mind, replaced by some frantic need to keep her here. If I could keep her here, I could keep her safe. “Dad. We can tell dad together. He’ll help you. Yeah, he’ll help you find a treatment center that’ll…” I trailed off as her expression changed, falling into shallow peaks and valleys. “If you won’t stay for me, what about Mercy, hmm?” I made my voice hard. “What about your other daughter. She’s only five, she needs you.”
I cut her off before she could piece together another flimsy excuse. My resolve slipped from my chest like sand through my fingers. “Get clean! I know you can do it,” I pleaded.
Mom rubbed her arms slowly in little circles. “I can’t.”
“Just admit it. You love the drugs more than us. More than your own children.” My words sounded hollow, like hearing a church bell echoing from miles away. The truth lingered heavy between us, hovering like some thick fog. Neither one of us had had the courage to say it before. We both thought it before, many times. But to actually say it was something different. It had a strange finality to it, like it was the start of terrible ending.
“Maybe I do,” she whispered so low that I thought I’d misheard her, but when she reached for the door knob, I knew I hadn’t.
This was it. This is how it was going to end. She was going to walk out of our lives, with Mercy sleeping soundly in her bed and dad away overnight on business. A trembling began in my knees and made its way up my torso to my shoulders. I felt like I needed to grasp onto her, to her arm, her leg, to keep her here by shear force, but that was absurd. I couldn’t make her stay. My love wasn’t enough to change her mind.
She drew open the door and stood silently, silhouetted against the street lights for a moment. Desperately I tried to memorize her features. My eyes traced over her cheeks, her lips, her brows. They were so familiar but I felt they might slip from memory the next time I thought of her and then she’d seem more like the ghost of some distant aunt I’d met once when I was eleven.
“You’ll be better off without me,” she said. “Mercy won’t have to grow up going through what I put you through.” Her voice broke and she choked back something like a sob before continuing. “I… I love you.”
I stood frozen as she shut the door quietly and disappeared out of my life. It felt cold in the room suddenly and I sat on the floor, curling my knees to my chest. I hated her, but I loved her all the more, and that was what made me hate her the most.
“I love you too, Mom.”