When I was sixteen I started hallucinating during the daytime. I was used to night terrors and hallucinations, but daytime was a new experience entirely. I had become increasingly suicidal and frightened of the tricks my mind was playing on me.
My mother and I had moved to New Hell, about an 40 minutes from Hell and 51 minutes from Purgatory. New Hell was slightly less rural than Hell. We were living with her “cash cow” (her words, not mine) boyfriend in a three bedroom rental house on a few acres of land.
I suppose I should have known my liberation was coming. During the couple weeks before we moved I worked on packing up the house. I was packing books that had been on the built in bookshelves along the living room wall. Many of them had been damaged by the cats and I was doing my best to clean them, tossing sleeves that were beyond salvage, and pack them away into boxes. Even the books reaked of cat. My mother emerged from her bedroom in the late afternoon, bleary eyed. She worked nights. I had stacked books to be packed onto a table to organize them better. When she saw what I was doing she came over, said something unintelligle, and purposefully knocked over the pile. Some books tumbled into the box, some scattered to the floor.
I was livid. Or more accurately, Big Sis was livid. She turned on my mother and demanded an explanation, fuming. We were finally as big as her, taller even. We could probably take her. We stood at our full height and I watched in awe as my mother shrank back from Big Sis, shock in her eyes that we wouldn’t back down and take her insanity. She sputtered nonsense that she was helping and her way was faster, then she turned around and left.
I don’t remember much after that. I remember picking up the books. It doesn’t really matter. The day before we moved to New Hell, she fanned a wad of hundred dollar bills under my nose saying, “Look, look at all this money!” she had got from Cash Cow. I wanted to vomit.
Cash cow was dangerous. He had that look. I can’t explain it. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out what he had in store for me. I left within a month of moving to New Hell. I left Cash Cow and Sad Daughter. SD was a nice kid. She was desperate for maternal affection as her own mother was a derranged cripple.
SD was about fourteen when I met her. My mother started cooking again, for her and him. She’d let us starve or eat the same damn thing over and over again for weeks at a time but now that she had moved in with him she was eager to please. I was disgusted. I felt betrayed.
I watched SD glow over the attention my mother gave her. I’d seen it before. She took in stray kids the way she took in cats and dogs. For some reason her own children were never enough for her. She always treated strays better than her own. Maybe she felt closer to them.
The day before I moved out, I warned SD as I sat eating ramen to be careful about loving my mother. I said, “Be careful because she lies.” It was the kindest advice I could give SD. I had nothing else to give her. I couldn’t save her, couldn’t take her with me.
I lost my faith in a closet. During that month I was living in New Hell, I began being tormented by my mind until finally I had enough. As I struggled with horrible images flashing through my brain, voices urging me to commit suicide and be done with it all, suddenly I had an epiphany.
NO ONE WAS GOING TO SAVE ME. I HAD TO SAVE MYSELF.
I used to pray a lot to gods of my own making. Big Sis would tell me stories, fantastic, wonderful, sometimes horrible stories to get me through the endless days of isolation and despair. She told me about her lives, her trials, her strengths, how she had overcome something against all odds. I clung to her, wanted to be her. She created a safe world for me to escape into. She gave me something to believe in. Even though she was in charge at the time, the face person, she still made time to share stories with me. With us. She gave us hope, she was our hope.
I told my mother about the hallucinations, about the suicidal thoughts, the voices. She told me I wasn’t crazy, I was just angry. That my sister had broken her heart, but I was “just angry”.
I was angry. I was also broken and dangerously close to ending it all. My boyfriend told me later that there were days he wondered when he would get the call that I had committed suicide. It would have been easy to do. There were periods where I was left alone for several days at a time in Hell. Just me and the cats and the dogs. Sometimes my mother was working, sometimes she was with men. I had access to a shot gun. Those were bad days.
I bartered stay in Purgatory with my sister and her husband, my Brother, into their one bedroom apartment. I lived in a dining room for a year and a half, eventually getting a curtain strung across it for a bit of privacy. I had an air mattress for awhile but their cats popped it so I slept on the floor. Eventually my bed was brought over from New Hell. I got to be house bitch. Cooking occasionally and cleaning, not that it was mandatory but I felt that I had to do something to repay them and it was all I’d ever been valued for.
The year I moved in was the year their marriage fell apart. Frying pan/fire… it was the beginning of my adult life and my social rehabilitation. Being isolated for so long left me weird. Not a good weird but an off weird. I had to relearn how to be around people again. And how to trust.