I had a borrowed Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, a curfew, and a six-mile walk ahead of me. Two sweaty hours later, I trudged up the gray cement steps that led to the freshly painted white front door and new deadbolt. I pulled out my house key and entered an empty house where cigarette smoke lingered underneath my mother’s floral perfume and bleach. As I shut and locked the door behind me, I could almost empathize with the inmate making the final walk on death row.
I was home with a half-hour to spare, but my obedience would go unrewarded. Being late, though, always carried a heavy penalty. The forceful precision of control that my parents so freely shared with me had numbed my soul. Being around them required a polished skill of always agreeing or, in other cases, remaining unseen. Over the years, I’ve tolerated flaring tempers, aggressive anger, and the opposite end of the spectrum, unlimited extravagance.
A loud sigh escaped as another headache began beating on my head, and I reached for the aspirin my mother kept in the kitchen cabinet. As soon as the welcomed tablet slid down my throat, I saw a note on the cold, white tile counter.
It indifferently started with my name.
We will be late tonight. We are going out with some friends for dinner after our game.
Do not take a shower or wash your hair. Make sure you feed the cat, and there are TV dinners in the freezer for you. Don’t stay up past 10:00. Tomorrow is a school day.
Rage filled my fourteen-year-old body as I crumpled the note and threw it on the floor.
“Don’t wash my hair!” I screamed.
Did they think I enjoyed going to school with thin oily hair and being that girl? I’d found my way around it by using baby powder or a ponytail, but their cutbacks were always at my expense. Sure, there was a drought and a projected water shortage, but that didn’t stop my parents from washing down the cement backyard or cleaning their cars every week. It certainly didn’t impede them from their daily showers—only me.
My fury wasn’t from that single moment of entering an empty house or reading a note. It was an accumulation of many, many moments. Mental and physical abuse beats you over and over until that one time when it breaks you. This was that time.
I carefully removed the vinyl record from the well-worn cover I had brought home from my best friend’s house and cranked up the volume, hoping the Beatles would soothe my soul. Unfortunately, even music didn’t help. All my defenses disappeared as fast as my logic. I wanted to tear the yellow grasscloth off the walls, rip down the horrible orange curtains, and shatter the new crystal wine glasses. What little sense I had left stopped me from destruction, but that pushed the pain inside.
I automatically went to the one thing our family had in common, the fully stocked bar. I grabbed the vodka bottle as I’d done many times before, but this time I didn’t just take a swig—I guzzled.
“This will show them when they find me dead.” I smiled. Yes, too much alcohol kills.
After I finished what had remained of that bottle, I turned the album over and moved on to the scotch, then gin and tequila. I kept drinking and drinking like I had been lost in a desert with no water. I gulped and gulped the burning liquid as time moved forward.
A pleasant numbness flowed through me as I stumbled across the room. Was there enough alcohol coursing through me to end this miserable life?
“Mot nuff.” My words didn’t say what my mind knew. Keep drinking.
I reached for another bottle from the bar. It didn’t matter what it was. The room spun around me, and life faded away…
There was nothing, that I remember, until the moment I found myself in an unfamiliar place. I had a bird’s-eye view of a young girl in a hospital bed who was hooked up to beeping machines and IVs. Next to her, sitting in a brown vinyl chair, was my mother. It was me! I was floating above my body and feeling a peace I’d never felt before in my young life. It was an amazing sensation, and I could only feel pity for the body I’d left behind.
Right then, a deep male’s voice spoke. “It’s not your time. You have more to do.”
I looked for where the voice had come from but saw nothing. “I don’t want to go back!”
The voice calmly answered. “You must.”
Before I could respond, I was back in that body I’d just observed from above. Rage filled every cell of my being. My eyes opened to a clinical ICU room with an overwhelming smell of disinfectant. The very first thing I did was rip off the heart monitors and my IVs.
A grandmotherly nurse rushed in and held my arms down.
“It’s going to be okay.” The nurse tried to reassure me.
My mother sat unmoving in her chair. She looked more like a painted picture than a real person. The doctor soon followed, and that’s when my mother displayed her motherly concern.
“She’s going to be okay now.” He smiled reassuringly at my mother.
“We were so worried.” She dabbed her dry eyes.
No one mentioned it was only her. Her better half wasn’t there.
The doctor bent down. His breath was a nasty mixture of coffee, cigarettes, and onion that made me gag. “Can you tell us what you took?”
“Took?” I repeated.
He glanced at my mother. “Yes, what drugs did you mix with the alcohol?”
“I took an aspirin for a headache.”
He sighed loudly and then shook his head. “You were in a coma for the past eight hours. It’s highly unlikely you did that with just aspirin and alcohol.”
I shrugged as the nurse stepped in and took my blood pressure. “I did.”
The doctor ignored my response and directed his attention to my mother, explaining how much alcohol was in my blood and how lucky I was to be alive. He finished by handing my mother a card.
“I highly suggest she see a therapist, Mrs. Jones. You understand?” His shaggy brown eyebrows furrowed together as he glanced at me again.
My mother, whose makeup was still perfect and her pink lipstick fresh, tucked the card away in the red purse. “Of course. Thank you, doctor.”
That was it. I saw a therapist one time. When the therapist suggested the entire family come in, my parents decided therapy wasn’t necessary. After that, the incident was never discussed again, and the neighbors believed my trip in the ambulance was from food poisoning. But it was a night I’d never forget as I went forward and survived the next four years in that house.
That fourteen-year-old girl did have some living to do. Even now, some fifty-plus years later, I think of that voice and know I still have a lot more to do with the life I’m blessed to have.
About the author
D. L. Finn is a multi-genre author. Her work includes the paranormal, poetry, memoir, romance, fantasy & children books. She is also a blogger, photographer & reader and encourages everyone to embrace their inner child.