Saved from a certain fate

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Write about a character who has to rely on the hospitality of strangers.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Sad

Here's the thing about people: they're extremely nice. They offer to help. They give. They sacrifice. They share. This is a good thing. Of COURSE it's a good thing. The problem here is not the people. The problem is me. I have no wish to be the receiver. I don't want the niceness and the sacrifices because it reminds me of what I can't do for myself. I don't want it because it makes me feel like a parasite. I don't want ANY of it because I don't truly believe that I am worthy.

"You are worthy," a woman said to me once. The offence I felt in response to her intrusive and presumptuous words was almost palpable. Who was she to proclaim that obvious fact to me as though I had not the slightest wisp of belief in my own worth? 

I was a woman of worth. I respected myself and others respected me. This was true. It was. It was true to me, but was it really the truth or was it just a warped perception of the truth?

The metallic bread bin resonates with a sharp clunk as I bang it shut. Only two slices left. Great. I have exactly seventy-five cents to my name. That's not even enough to purchase a piece of bubble gum, let alone a loaf of bread. I regard the bread solemnly as my stomach rumbles for something to eat. There's nothing to make here. I can't finish Uncle Roahl's bread. He bought it, not me. I'll be fine.

"You're such a dog," my older sister exclaimed to eleven-year old me. "Wait until I hand them out later today and stop being such a dog." She had baked some cookies and all I did was ask for two. I was hungry and needed to eat. Why did everything have to be under such close inspection and control here? I have an appetite which needs to be fed. Why is it not fed? Is eating bad?

Those two slices of bread ended up in the rubbish bin, dotted haphazardly by moles. Uncle Roahl hardly eats at his own home. 

The extra bedroom is to be occupied by myself for an unspecified duration. It is spacious, with my lone bed in the middle, and clutter all around that I carry around unnecessarily with me. Why do I do that? Sometimes I think it's because deep down, I fear the loss of material possessions. I was raised by a hoarder who valued material and success as the ultimate success. I guess that's why I hoard, too. My behavior is learned and not my own. If that is the case, what IS my behavior? What is it and how do I find it?

I'm alone here most of the time. I can watch movies on a screen that is not my own. I can freely make the coffee that I did not buy. And I can feel comfortable while I'm at it. This sense of comfort, however, has a gross tendency of slithering away like a frightened snake every time my lonesome bubble is burst. It's almost a physical sensation. When that person with a complete different energy to me just walks in and bursts my bubble. It might not have anything to do with me, but I take dark vibes personally. I misinterpret them in my head until I have convinced myself that they do think that I'm a parasite. My job should be to give, not take. To let go of, not to receive.

It puts my emotions into a frenzied mess, the fact that I cannot do for myself what others can do for me. Do they think that I'm doing it on purpose? Surely not! I am not the kind of person who just wants to settle into a mediocre existence of living a life not designed and created by myself, but designed and created by people's moods, opinions and whims. It is that bad. Mamma always made sure that I paid horribly if I did not do what she said. The force of her moods, opinions and whims still drives my behavior today. You see, she's my initial and most influential programmer. It is such a pity that the programmer extensively lacked the knowledge of administering humane treatment towards her offspring. I am a sheer product of someone else's misguided habits. Will I pass this down to my own offspring? What is to become of them?

I sit heavily on a peeling couch and imagine that I had fruit to munch on. I don't feel like asking Uncle Roahl buy any for me. If he cared, I wouldn't be in the position of want and need. After all, he did tell me that he was not prepared to be my caretaker, that he could only manage to provide shelter and nothing more. This was at least better than begging in the streets or selling my body.

This man, to whom I refer as Uncle Roahl but whose real name is Sebastian, has neglected a pregnant woman's basic needs. This summons up feelings of ungratefulness towards favors which have already been extended. This man took me off the streets and gave me a roof to live under. I ought to be grateful, but my grumbling stomach deviates my focus towards the lesser scopes of resentful bitterness. Once there, it becomes extremely difficult to get out.

"I'm going to bring some friends over," he tells me on a sun-bathed, rather scorching afternoon. He joins me in the balcony area, where I've been wallowing for many minutes, wondering what to make of my life and going into heated dialogues within my head, yet paralyzed completely to act on anything I suggest to myself.

"Cool," I respond sunnily, hiding a sudden feeling of dread clasping my insides. See, I want my own space. I do not like being imposed upon. But this is not my home, not my place, not my house, so I have to find a way to accept the situation. I have to do that despite myself. I am, after all, the imposter, not the imposed upon.

"You're OK with that, right?"

I nod nonchalantly at the poorly-veiled trick question. "Of course."

Is lying still wrong when you're trying to spare their feelings? Or is that an excuse I use to justify my own feelings and intentions? Perhaps a portion of both. None of the above make me feel any better about the situation. Who gets to scrutinize my life this time? Who gets to witness the pregnant woman from the streets living "comfortably" in shelter that is not her own, eating food that she did not provide, sleeping in a bed that she could not have been able to afford with a year's worth of beggar money. Who got to kiss uncle Roahl's feet for his incredibly considerate gesture of taking a beggar girl into his home?

"Why me?" I had asked when he picked me up from the middle of a busy street. I had gotten into the car because I knew that an opportunity like that was not likely to repeat itself again. I had collected a few notes for the day, a contribution of a generous stranger in a white hummer. I had been only one month pregnant. That first month had brought such a wonderful and drastic positive change to my life, that I could hardly believe it. Roahl had been the ultimate kindred spirit, and I was the receptor of seemingly never-ending generosity. 

"I have cancer," he had responded simply. "Before I die, I want to have helped someone in a significant way. I saw you, and my decision was made."

Despite Roahl fulfilling his last wishes through me, and indeed helping me in ways that no one else has, there was still a stabbing fear which I suffered from on a daily basis: What will happen when he finally passes? I see how he coughs excessively these days. I've observed how the frequency of his check-ups has increased in the past two months and how his friends and family members have begun visiting him more frequently. Some of them are very nice to me. Others give me looks of disdain, as though they could handle a single day in my position.

"So what qualifications do you have?" One such visitor asked me. "Perhaps I could see what I can do for you."

I didn't want her help. I did, however, want her contemptuous eyes off me and her crooked nose out of my business. "None," I said curtly and waddled my way into the bedroom that was not mine.

Roahl was nice to me in spite of my attitude. When he and his visitors parted, he came into the bedroom that was not mine and assured me that no one was being judgmental towards me, and that I needed to learn to openly accept help. "You are shutting down all opportunities that are coming your way," he expressed. But I knew what I saw. 

"Defend them all you want," I spat bitterly. "I hate every second of being here. You should have just left me in the streets."

That night, I had a dream. There was a gigantic figure standing tall before me, clad in white and a certain glow to its face which masked its features. 

"If you do not learn to have gratitude, then even what you have left will be taken away. Finish what is there, and more will come," The figure's voice was deep and booming. I did not say anything in the dream; I just stared. I wish I said something. I wish I said a bunch of things. Like the fact that I feel neglected. I'm a pauper who is perpetually exposed to people who have the one thing that I do not. I am about to imprison an innocent human being into the same fate I suffered. There is no FOOD in the motherf*cking kitchen!

Today, I'm thinking a lot about that night. I'm busy cleaning up Roahl's fucking mess. My back is aching and it is difficult to bend. I have just returned from my sixth-month check-up at the local public hospital. I am exhausted, and returning "home" to this mess triggers the ever-present resentment that I feel for the sick man. I do feel sorry that he has a terminal illness, but his daily habits make me want to run away from his space forever.

"I think I saw my little girl today," he says to me as I silently fume. His tall and lanky form stretches along the open door frame behind me. I conceal how startled I am by the pallid sheen of his skin and exclaim, "I didn't see you there, Uncle Roahl. And I didn't know you had a daughter," I add after an awkward pause.

"She's not with us any more. Passed fifteen years ago," Roahl looks at me with the saddest eyes I've ever seen in my entire life. Suddenly, I feel guilty for all the petty fretting I've been doing right up to this moment. "She would have been around your age."

"I'm sorry," is all I can say.

Roahl smiles sadly. He looks so tired. "How was the check-up?"

My arm instinctively rests on my enlarged tummy and I feel an eager response of soft flutters from within its core. "She is a girl," I say proudly.

Roahl's face brightens, but only a little. "Congratulations."

"Thank you." It is easier to mean it from a place of compassion. 

"Burgundy is coming to fetch me. I am not feeling well enough to drive myself. I trust that you have everything that you need?"

No. Not even close. "Absolutely." Like clockwork, the necessary lies keep on playing themselves out.

That was the last day I had ever spoken to Roahl. He died seven hours later. Burgundy, his disdainful, crooked nosed sister was the last one to see him alive. I have grieved the loss of Roahl immensely. It was a sense of loss that I had never thought I could feel. My life has rendered me a bit on the self-centered facet of being, and it was through his profound transition that I realized I did not appreciate him enough. 

Memories of the months that have passed are spooling chaotically into my awareness. All the wasted opportunities. The self-inflicted hunger strikes which I blamed on his perceived fails as opposed to my own programming of unworthiness. The wasted food. The small acts of kindness he extended on an almost daily basis. My silent tantrums, followed by gradually decreasing provisions. My complaints, followed by rapidly decreasing provisions. My despair, and the provisions that, along with Roahl's death, have now completely slipped from my grasp.

Burgundy ended up claiming Roahl's physical assets, including the house. When my baby girl, whom I ended up naming Sebastian, was three months old, I was back in the streets, begging for scraps for the both of us. On one specifically cold night, with Sebastian nursing at my breast, wrapped in a worn out blanket that was donated to me, I sought out the figure in white. I was giving us one more night, then I would take both of us out of this misery.

The following day, as though in mighty response to my pleas, a fancy car slows down near me. A window descends and a hand beckons. My feet immediately shuffle towards the summoner, a lawyer who would come to bear the news involving the incident of Roahl's death and Burgundy having ended up being a prime suspect of fraudulent activity and tampering of legal documentation. Sebastian, it turned out, was the sole heir of Roahl's entire estate, the worth of which staggered my entire being upon disclosure.

"I knew there was something shifty about that crooked nosed sister of yours," I talk to the headstone beneath which Uncle Roahl is buried. Eight month old Sebastian is with me, visiting him here with me for the first time.

"I don't know why you did what you did, but damnit Uncle Roahl, thank you so much." The chasm of feelings which underlay those words was of depth and truce. This man, whose name is Sebastian but whom I used to call Uncle Roahl, has taught me what it means to give and to receive. He has taught me that one has to ask for help and to receive it joyfully. He has taught me that ungratefulness never, ever pays off.

Today, I affirm my gratitude every day, because I know that Uncle Roahl, and my white, glowing friend, watch over us now and always.

June 04, 2021 19:15

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.