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by Kelly Girnas 5 months ago in family · updated 4 months ago
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A life Unplunged

Mother, my little sister and me, 1975.

When the toilet backed up I knew. Proof was the floating wads of sepia streaked tissue, heavily scented with feces/urine, and whatever else comes out of a body that takes in everything meant to destroy it.

Clothed in nonchalance, he enters and sidesteps a muddy puddle, escaping his own waste, as he usually does. Methodically, he plunges dirty porcelain, wearing no shirt, and an unblinking doll's gaze. Forearms tattooed by art and addiction, a scarlet dragon pulsates, as he tries to unclog an overflowing mess. He truly is a (barely) living ode to bad choices.

Years ago, he reminded me of a halcyon world I once embraced. Youth overpowered fear. Depression had not yet introduced itself. I was so eager to shed my inexperience. Now, sometimes my only wish, is to cloak every inch of myself within the shiny, gossamer folds of girlish innocence. In the beginning, violet whispers colored autumn evenings. Our smooth skin, yet unlined by life's bright disappointments, became a warm surface that lit our passion. Fresh souls evolving under a shimmering moon, baptized by dashboard light kisses. The roar of a thousand promises, echoed in our heartbeats. We were explorers, navigating life's roadmaps, traveling a swift journey to adulthood.

A million moments have since passed. Life catches me somewhere in between - holding on and letting go. Memories fill empty spaces, bringing to life slivers of youth. My mind, bathed in heady nostalgia, rests on the edge of the world. Just for a moment calm overcomes chaos. Desires and dreams that I once held sacred, are faraway stars that twinkle with each precious memory.

During my visit with the past, a childhood photograph taunts me. Me, my mother and little sister. The three of us look so normal. Like a real family. Almost happy. Yet, I clearly remember the moments before we were baptized by a Kodak flash. Sharp words cut fresh wounds into the humid flesh of a late August afternoon. My mother had "that look" again. I see it all lurking behind photographic nostalgia. Her green eyes tinged with fresh anger, hidden behind oversized Foster Grant shades. Delicate beauty disguising deep sorrow-turned rage. Lips pursed tight, like a mauve bow with no gift to adorn. A profile in depression - madness seeping in. Little sis and I, recipients of her mental abuse, and heirs of remnants left behind.

Still, I proudly share found photograph on social media, relishing numerous likes and comments that speak of my mother's beauty, and how much I favor her. The attributes we share go far beyond dark hair and chartreuse eyes. My "genetic inheritance" infuses my mind with repetitive assaults on my self esteem and sanity. The mental equivalent of a hamster on a wheel.

Branches of my family tree are bent out of shape. Gnarled limbs weighted down by years of separation and sorrow. No shiny green adorns brittle stems. Cozy nests that once cradled new life, have been long abandoned. Which is how I ended up with HIM, on a weed filled trail that at one time, seemed like the yellow brick road. Great oaks beckoned, tickling breezes fondled my desires, senses and even my fears. As he took my life in his hand, it seemed like an endless day in the park. Hope chased pain around a bench, while laughter visited. He represented peace, prosperity, normalcy - until he didn't.

After his first punch, my nose bled. By the nineteenth or maybe it was the twenty-eighth, I lost my baby. A sudden rush of crimson and then nothing. Empty. Fragile hopes and last chances gone with one quick flush. He dries my tears and the apologies start. Again. Tells me I am beautiful. Even then he lies. Beauty is reserved for cheerleaders, girls without bruises and women with healthy babies. Beauty doesn't favor overly sensitive girls with mentally deranged mothers, and absentee fathers who never deliver despite a million promises.

I feel like a pale statue wrapped in moonlight. Caught between sorrow and terror. I have been orbiting this dark star for too long. A chaotic human puzzle - scattered, pieces missing, and others never fit. Haunted by memory's ghosts, battling demons that I birth. Losing the war, I am in danger of being a casualty of my own life choices.

While he plunged, I inhaled the stench of him reeking from my every pore. My internal dam finally broke. Nothing left to hold back a ten year flood. I let it wash over me, willing to drown in regret, shame or just my own pathetic choices. Putrid, wet tile, stained by his internal discards, became the altar to which I pledged my existence. Baptized in his real shit, I no longer needed the bullshit. That day, me and my amputated spirit, got the hell out of hell. He became dead to me, and so did the girl who lived that life.

Six years later, which included two years of intense therapy, and one year as a very happy new wife and mother, I visited his freshly dug grave. Remembering how much he hated flowers, I left a brand new plunger. Just in case.

N

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family

About the author

Kelly Girnas

When I create, I feel alive.

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