“Oh, don’t cry. It won’t help anything.” Mama’s voice sounded weak, but she was trying to remain upbeat and positive.
“I’ll come home.” I insisted.
“No. You won’t come home, Addy! You’ll stay in Boston.” I knew Mama wouldn’t want me to abandon my life just to come watch her wilt away, but I needed to be by her side. The letter said that she didn’t have much time left, and I wanted more than anything to help her spend that time.
That letter from my Mama was when my life began to spiral out of control. I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. I couldn’t stand the thought of being Motherless. I wanted to push it out of my mind, and somehow managed to. I called her every single day, but we never mentioned the cancer again. We talked about everything but that. Any news about her Leukemia came through letters, and I learned to dread checking the mail.
My life in Boston was unfulfilling. Even my cats couldn’t keep me happy anymore now that they had grown up. I needed a support system of friends or at least family, but instead had no one. I was for all practical purposes alone in the world.
Mama’s sickness sent me over the edge. I stopped visiting Athan’s Deli and started eating spaghetti o’s at every meal. Instead of heading to the office to turn in my articles, I struck a deal with my boss that allowed me to email them in instead. I became a hermit. On the rare occasion that I ordered a pizza, I left the money under the mat and waited until they were long gone to reach outside and grab it. I was the exact opposite of what I had always dreamed I would become. I was the exact opposite of what Mama and Penny had worked so hard to make me into-- all the shopping trips for cute clothes, all the parties that they threw in my honor just to get me used to people, all the promises for summer romances. It was all a thing of the past. I was now alone hundred and hundreds of miles away from my dying Mama.
I was taking a bubble bath when the news of Mama’s death arrived. Penny called me, she knew that I would hang up on Father. I couldn’t believe my ears. I dropped the cell phone in the temped bath water and began to cry. I was alone. I was an orphan. I had no one left.
The water grew colder and colder by the second, but I just soaked and stared up at the ceiling. Memories of Mama ran through my mind. Happy memories that I would always cherish. I knew that Father would feel even more guilty for cheating on her now that she was gone, and I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to feel half of the pain that was inside of me, which was enough to kill anyone. I needed someone to blame Mama’s Leukemia on, and it found its place with him. I didn’t know if I could face him at the funeral, and really didn’t want to face Anna either.
The house grew dark around me. I was still lying in the still waters, coming to terms with my new normal. I had, in a way, prepared myself for being alone by blocking the whole world out in the months that led up to Mama’s passing. In some ways, I had been preparing for years-- even before I knew about her sickness. I wondered for the first time in my life about heaven and hell. It was something that I hadn’t really concerned myself with-- we went to church, but heaven and hell was such a huge concept that I didn’t try to grasp it. Until now. Now I imagined Mama wrapped in white light, floating up into the arms of Jesus. She was safe there. She was away from Father’s deceit and unfaithfulness. I didn’t have to protect her anymore. I didn’t need to protect her anymore. At that moment, I decided to believe in heaven.
By the time I found the strength to stand on my own two feet, my fingers and toes were shriveled and I was shivering from the cold porcelain bath. The water spiraled down the drain, leaving my ruined cell phone and a mushy bar of soap behind. I wrapped a towel around me and climbed into bed. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but didn’t care. The hunger pains felt right.
I didn’t bother replacing my phone, but knew even without calling that I would need to head home. I had a funeral to get to. The next morning, I stuffed a few things haphazardly in a duffel bag, poured a whole bag of cat food in Lennon and McCartney’s bowl, and left. I had sixteen and a half hours to come to terms with the reality that awaited me in South Carolina. I had sixteen hours to sit, stare straight ahead, and remember Mama.
The sobs that escaped my lips echoed through the silent car and through the emptiness inside of me. The radio which was usually alive with song didn’t make a sound. I didn’t need distraction from the truth that awaited me. I ignored the speed limits, ignored the growling pleas of my stomach for food, ignored the snot running down my neck and chest, and just drove. Mama was gone, and along with her every hope for my future died too. I was nobody without her.