Page 13 Cartoons

Recent Bedroom

September 2, 2010

I walk into my room. It smells of the old sweaters that Grandma gave me when I was a kid, the ones that I only wore when mom told me to because she’d yell at me if I didn’t. The mold in the air itches the back of my throat, that same feeling that I get when you know you’ll have a cold in a few days. It comes from the melted wax from that old air freshener Mom put behind the night table and against the radiator after I left home. She must have known I wasn’t coming back for a while, and decided that if she ever had to come into my room she wanted to smell honeysuckle. At least that’s what the label says: the smell of cutting sprigs from the bush by the railroad ties, of the nectar of blooms in sugar water on the kitchen table—put there by us. But the air freshener had long since gone stale.
I flopped onto my old bed.
The same pictures are still hanging, framed, on the wall opposite me. There’s the one of me as a baby, lying on my stomach on some department store photo studio carpet. I’m drooling, but smiling, though my thin black hair lays matte with sweat across my forehead. There’s also one of me when I was a seven or eight hanging next to it. I’m in cleats, light blue socks, white baseball pants, a light blue shirt with “Marietta” ironed on in script across the front, and a light blue hat that says “Aboff’s Paint.” I’m holding a tiny aluminum bat, standing as a righty would, but with my left hand on top and right hand on the bottom: all wrong. I never really played anyway. They just stuck me in the outfield for half the game, and that was only because everyone had to play. I kept it hanging though because of Mom— “It’s nice, the uniform matches your eyes”—she always used to go on about how pretty my eyes were, and how all the girls would love them when I was older.
I submerge under the sheets, swaddling myself with my blankets. But I can’t close my eyes with that picture staring at me. It’s a polaroid of the family leaning on my bureau against the wall right below the Little League photo. My sister is behind me holding the top of my wheelchair. My mom has one arm around her, and her free hand on my exposed shoulder. I’m shirtless. The translucent grey crawls up from the linoleum hospital floor and under my skin. I can’t stop staring at my arms, and legs, and concave stomach, and sunken in chest and cheeks. My skin stretches thin, about to rip, over the hollow bones it covers. I’m the closest thing to the undead you’ll ever see.
When I see that picture I remember a whole summer of my life smudged and faded like chalk when your middle school teacher is too lazy to erase the blackboard completely, or the haze that clouds your mind for weeks, after a three-day acid bender riding across the state of Georgia, in your dad’s stolen car.
Looking at that picture, I remember how losing a whole summer sucks. How waking up from a two-week coma and not knowing where you are or why you’re there sucks. How it sucks being addicted to hydrocodone when you’re sixteen because of the pain just to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing. You last for a week on nothing but a single ice chip an hour. You thirst and hunger, beg the nurses for something, anything to put in your mouth. You sneak bites at the cuticles on your fingers. They taste like the rivers of milk and honey God promised to Moses. Rivers that you read about in the Bible your mom left at your bedside. Rivers that you knew didn’t exist, but used to hope for anyway.
The girl that was in the hospital bed next to mine, Madeline. So sick, her screams never stopped, as if her shrieks were the loop on the last groove of some vinyl record playing next to us. No one’s here to help us, to lift the needle, both of us too weak to do it ourselves. Music, my refuge, was ruined. But I didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault.
But thankfully my sister is not Madeline. She’s the one there, smiling at me and not at the camera. That smile reminds me of the time before surgeries, before complications. When she and her friends would dress me up in this very room, in dresses, and we would play house together. We would always play right when the sun would go down, when this golden light would shine on their faces. Their skin feeling like smooth nylon, as their hands brushed against my arms while they zippered me. In their eyes I could see myself smiling. We were sisters.
But sometimes, I would be too sick to play. I was always sick. After all the doctors’ visits, where I would beg my mom to take me home so I could play with my sister, she would tell me I could throw a fit if I wanted. And I wanted to. I wanted to badly. She even said I could curse as much as I wanted. I would laugh instead. It was just plain silly, hearing that from a woman who was a lector at Holy Cross.
I slowly lift myself off my bed, walk to my bureau and pocket the photo. It’s funny how the one Christmas I’ve come home for the house is empty. What a shame that I brought presents and everything, too.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments