Trigger warning: this story depicts self-harm and suicide.
Growing up with a masochist for a mother was something new and different. No one else had one. But I did.
I would wake up hearing screams and moans emanating from my mother’s bedroom. These weren’t sounds of pleasure. My mother would hurt herself through the night. At eight years old, I didn’t know what to do. Then at nine, ten, eleven years old, I still didn’t know what to do. Now I’m eighteen, about to move out of my childhood home and I’m forced to face those awful memories.
I remember thinking that my mother was entertaining boyfriends but the truth was that she had been hurting herself. As I packed up my trinkets and the photo album, I noticed that my mother never looked happy. She was never smiling. There were scratch marks on her arms and legs. By the time I turned eleven she didn’t even bother to hide the truth anymore. She had stopped covering her bruises and scratches with foundation, she began to wear shorts and tanks but none of this stopped her. Even though she had come to terms with what she did, it didn’t stop her doing it.
I remembered crying outside her door, curled up in a little heap when I was eight, wondering what was happening. I would sob and cradle myself, crying into my arms. All I could think was, “What are you doing?” “Why?” “Why are you doing this?” I wished I could ask someone what all the noises meant. It didn’t sound like fun. When we had to draw pictures of our family at school, I would etch red scratch marks on my mother’s arms and legs. I never drew her looking happy. She was always crying or sad. Huge blue tear drops were scribbled near her eyes with an upturned smile where her mouth should be. My teachers always thought that something was wrong, but this was the eighties. They didn’t interfere.
I remember asking one of my mother’s boyfriends, way back when I was nine. He just said that grown ups can’t always deal with their problems and that Mom would get over this in time. She never got over it. I just turned eighteen and she had never stopped doing it. I first found the knives hidden under her pillow when I was twelve. I didn’t know what to do so I just put them back where I found them. They were crusty round the blade from her blood. There were blood stains on the bed sheets. When I saw Mom later that day, I pretended that I hadn’t found anything. Instead, I made her a card. I had drawn a picture of us sans blood and scratch marks and we were smiling. Inside, I wrote “I love you Mom.” We were holding hands in the drawing, which was strange because we never did that. But Mom didn’t notice. She just said thanks and stuck the card to the fridge with a magnet in the shape of a dog. Mom loved fridge magnets. I dint have many good memories growing up, but that was one. And even though I knew that the card was a lie, I packed it up with the doggy magnet in one of my boxes, intending to take it with me to my new home. Mom wouldn’t need it anymore. Not where she was going.
I had to move. I couldn’t live here anymore. It was just too sad. I had been the one to find her. I did everything I could. I called the ambulance and the police. They made me sign a statement but the coroner proved that she had died before I found her. There was an empty bottle of pills beside her lifeless hand. They really shouldn’t give those to just anyone. Beside her other hand was a knife dripping with her blood. She really went the extra mile this time. Her wrists were slit, the blood oozing from the wounds was still fresh and sickly, sticking to her skin and drenching both her clothes and the sheets with a deep crimson blood.
By the time the paramedics came, her bed was soaked. It seemed that there was more blood on her sheets than in her body. Even though I knew somewhere deep inside that she was gone, I was still clinging to the hope that she would be fine until the moment they declared her dead. My whole life she had been the only steady thing while I was growing up. The one constant. Her boyfriends had come and gone. My boyfriends had come and gone. So had our friends. But she had always been there even if she had never actually been there for me. Now she was gone and I was left alone. I couldn’t stand to see these walls anymore with their magnolia paint and the floral wallpaper. Looking at the walls you would think that the family who lived here had been happy. There weren’t really any photos of us on the dresser or the walls but the house was pretty. I hated it.
I had never really liked living here even before my mother killed herself, but now it was pure torture. It wasn’t the décor so much as the memories. I hated the memories.
I left the vases with their fake flowers where they stood on the dressers. I figured that the new owners could either keep them or throw them. I didn’t want them. They were just more sordid memories of a woman who didn’t love me. A woman who didn’t care enough to put me first and stick around. She was so obsessed with her illness, that I never came first. I was always second fiddle to her convulsion. I sometimes wondered what she got from all this. Why she would put her body and mind through everything she did. Why she did this to herself for years.
She never understood that every time she hurt herself, she hurt me too. When she killed herself, she killed me, too. Even though somewhere deep inside I know I loved her, I also know that I hated her. I hated growing up in that house with the bloodstained sheets and the bloodied knives hidden underneath the pillow. I hated the lack of photos on the walls and the falsely floral wallpaper. I hated coming home from school and falling asleep crying into my pillow and trying not to listen to the pain coming from my mother’s room. Sometimes I would wonder what if I had gotten her help? Would she be here still?
I packed up the last of my things and bundled the blood-soaked sheets in a black waste bag. There was no point in trying to get the stains out. No one from Goodwill would want these. I dumped them by the dumpsters, the last vestibule of the mother who brought me into this world.