I once saw a video on YouTube, that had to do with the weekly writing challenge I am about to tackle. For those curious, I will add the link to the bottom of the page. The premise of the video tells us to take care of our parents, because some day they will need us as much as we need them. The story I am about to share with you is part fiction, part non, I will leave it up to you to decide which is which, because isn’t that one of the best parts of a story? Keep you guessing? I have always thought so.
The life of a 20 something can be many things. For Roman Garner, it was a time to be reborn. He had married young, and divorced not much older. In that time he had two kids whom he loved very much. I know that there are stories out there about the dead beat Dads of the world, and I can assure you this man was not one of them. He was involved in his children’s schooling, and in their daily lives as much as he could. He had lunch with his children at school several times a week. In short, he was and is a great Dad.
Jessie Garner was his mother. She has always been a difficult woman to describe. To be honest from Roman’s perspective though, for 10 years now he only remembered one thing that almost always weighed on his heart. During the time of his divorce Roman had to stay with his parents. You know how parents can be, it didn’t matter that Roman was in his 20’s his mother felt he had to listen to what she said, and do it no matter what.
One night after Roman was out all night his mother and he had a discussion about how late he was staying out. Jessie always had a hint of bipolar in her, among other things. Even before her accident, she had trouble remembering things. That was the problem though, what she said at the end of this conversation was something Roman would never forget.
“Mom, I’m almost 30,”he said, “I am going to be back out on my own as soon as I can, we don’t need to be fighting all the damn time.”
“Roman,” she yelled back, “You are in my house, and until you pay us back and get the hell out of here you do what I say, and I don’t think you should be out all night.”
Roman walked from where he was standing by the walkway to the kitchen and sat on the couch opposite her.
“I am not going out when my kids are here,” he explained, “I go out during the week to have fun, and meet people, I am doing nothing wrong.”
“Yeah, you know what you little shit,” she yelled back again, “Keep it up and I will get my own lawyer and take away your rights as a father and those kids.”
Roman said nothing else in return, he simply stood up and went to his room. He went to bed that night, and his mother and he never spoke of what happened again. Why? Because 2 weeks later when he told her why he was hurt, she claimed to not remember any of it. Two weeks after that something happened that changed both of their lives entirely.
Jessie was at work, and suffered a brain aneurism. Through the grace of God and any other thing you can possibly think she survived, but she had lots of damage. She was never able to work, or drive, and she needed someone there to take care of her. She couldn’t remember things, and she had a habit of hurting herself. Nothing as terrible as you are probably thinking, she had a tendency to pick at her scabs, and pick, and pick and pick.
Six months or so after she was released from the hospital Roman was spending the day with her. He arrived at his parents house around 4 am so his Dad could work. After arriving, he made a bed for himself on the couch and set his alarm so he would awake around the same time his Mother did.
Two hours later he was woken up by his mother as she was running naked looking out the blinds.
“Chris,” she said confusing Roman for being her long gone brother, “have you seen my car? I know it was out here earlier and I have to drive to Hume to get more cigarettes because nothing in town is ever open this late?”
Roman sat up and tried not to look. After all, who wants to see their mother naked.
“Mom,” he said, “I’m not Chris, and you live in Hume.”
“What,” she answered, “No. My car. Where is it? Did that Son of a Bitch takes it or hide the keys from me?”
Clearly frustrated Roman stands up and thinks that yelling at her will help the situation.
“Mom,” he yells as she is looking out the window, “I am not Chris, I am your son Roman, you had an accident a while back and you get confused because of it, how about you just take your morning pills, get some damn clothes on and go back to bed.”
“Ye yeyeyeye Yeah,” she stuttered as she often does when she gets stressed, “I’ll take my pipipipipills.”
Roman walked to the kitchen which was just the room over, and got the pills that were in a Dixie cup for him marked A.M. As he turned round his mother was already in the room with him. Without a word she took the pills and her day old mountain dew on the kitchen table and swallowed all of them at once, then walked to her bedroom.
Roman let out a sigh of relief and went back to his bed on the couch to get a few more hours of sleep before she was ready to be up for the day. He remained there asleep until almost 10 am when the front door slammed as Jessie was walking in the front door.
Roman jumped up and ran to the kitchen. She knew she wasn’t supposed to drive, and more importantly, she wasn’t supposed to be alone.
“Mom,” he began noticeably startled, “Where the hell have you been?”
Jessie shut the door, and then took off her OSU jacket without saying a word. She took the cigarette pack out of the pocket freshly bought from the gas station, and answered Roman with just one word.
“This,” she said as she waved it in front of him.
Roman didn’t really say anything else to her about it, because she was convinced she did nothing wrong. Driving to get cigarettes is simply what she has always done.
“Roman,” Jessie yelled at her lazy son, “I have no idea what you are talking about, I just want you to have a little consideration when you are pounding in here at 3am.”
Roman ignored her and walked out of the kitchen and into his room which was right off the kitchen. Jessie lit up another cigarette, thinking not about Roman but the crap she had to deal with at work. Two minutes after Roman walked into his room, he came right back out.
“Mom,” he began with a break in his voice, “Do you really think I can take you seriously, when the last time I talked to you, and it wasn’t even about anything, you just…”
He stammered off outside, got into the used Chevy truck his Dad was letting him borrow, and took off towards his dead end job as a cook at a food chain that soon wouldn’t matter.
Jessie finished her cigarette and checked her phone one last time before she herself headed work. Her head was killing her. No texts. She grabbed her OSU jacket and climbed into her Ford Edge then drove the 5 minutes to work.
“Jesus,” she told her colleague on the production line at the factory, “My head is killing me.”
She put her hands on her head, trying to rub the pain away to no avail. Squinting her eyes to try and get rid of the light and remove the pain.
3 Months later.
Jessie was awake for the first time in 3 months on a Friday. Lying in her hospital bed, she still had a tracheotomy in her throat, and many different wires and tubes connected to help her recover and stay safe after her aneurism at work. The first day she was awake was probably the hardest. Yes it is always hard for family members, and this is no exception, as her husband was by her side almost every day hoping and praying. Through the trach she spoke her first words in months that morning.
“Cole,” she began almost indecipherable, “Did you go to the corner store? I said I needed milk for dinner.”
Tears began streaming down Coles face immediately. Jessie had no way of knowing of course but one of the many things that everyone had feared was the very real possibility of brain damage. They had not lived near the corner store in well over 10 years.
“Jessie,” Cole started to say, “Honey what year do you think it is?”
Roman walked in just as Cole had asked the question. He looked at his mother with the deepest concern on his face.
“1995,” she said very matter of factly.
“Jessie it can’t be 1995,” he answered, “Look, Roman is here how old do you think he is?”
“13,” she said, “I need to take him to the doctor to fix those pimpled.”
Tears filled the small hospital room, while Jessie took no real notice.
It hurt her to talk, so wasn’t able to express her thoughts as easily as she had liked. Why the hell would they be asking me dumb question. She knew what year it was, and she knew they were at their home in Smalls, Ohio. She had no idea while everyone was crying, but before she could give it much more thought she had fallen back to sleep.
The next thing she remembered was waking up in a room that was not hers. She lay in bed for a few minutes taking in her surroundings. It was dark outside, and Cole wasn’t lying next to her, but she didn’t take any alarm at this, she knew he had begun working the night shift, three years ago in 1992. She reached over to her night stand to grab her cigarettes and lit the last one up.
“Mmmm,” she said in almost pure ecstasy. Little to her knowledge this was her first cigarette in almost a year. Before she knew it the smoke had run its course, and she knew the corner store is always open so she hoped out of bed with nothing on, grabbed her keys from the key rack in the kitchen and went outside to find out her car was gone.
“That son of a bitch,” she said in a baritone like voice thinking Cole had taken her car because he was pissed that she had a small crush on a different man. Back inside, she had to find the keys.
As she walked into the house, and into the kitchen as well, she thought she had better sit down and figure this out because she just felt so tired, and knew that she would be better able to find them if she thought about it. By the time she had sat down, she had forgotten that the car wasn’t there, but still felt she needed to find the keys. She had her hands on the top of her head.
“What the hell,” she whispered.
Her hair was still gone from the many different surgeries that were needed to save her life. As a car passed by she got up, and went ran to the living room to peek through the windows to see if Cole had gotten home. Man was she going to let him have it she thought.
The moment she walked into the living room still naked and unaware she stopped. This wasn’t her house. She had never owned a house with a living room this big. Why the heck was her brother sleeping on the floor? She went to the front window to look. Nothing. The side window.Nothing.
She turned and began to poke Chris awake.
“Chris,” she said, “wake up.”
Roman stood up and told her he was not Chris.
Jessie didn’t like the game he was trying to play. She knew she wasn’t stupid, and she sure as hell knew who her brother was. Roman? That name did sound familiar to her. She shook it off and then went back to bed. Not hearing anything else Roman had to say.
As she lay in the darkness and loneliness of her room she tried to start putting things together. While she did she picked at the scabs on her head, and then on the scabs on her face that had appeared because she would not listen, and leave her face alone.
“This doesn’t make sense,” she whispered to herself, “I have no idea where I am, and why Chris is being such a jerk. Cole should be home soon.”
She reached over to grab her empty pack of cigarettes, forgetting they were empty. Upon realizing so, she threw the empty pack in frustration. She continued to lay there running her hands over the rough surface of her bald held.
“Screw it,” she said.”
She needed smokes and would do whatever she needed to do to get them. The only gas station near her home in Hume was 3 miles down the road. Again she walked out there naked except for the OSU red and black jacket and proceeded to walk to the Gas Station. In her mind the corner store was only two minutes down the road, so when it took her over two hours to walk that far, she still thought only minutes had passed.
“Ultra Lights please,” she said to the man at the counter.”
Why the hell is he looking at me funny? She wondered, but not for long, the man handed her the pack and she walked out the door unknowingly stealing the smokes. To help matters, the clerk said nothing to her, only continued to stare at her flabbergasted. The walk back was just as fast for her, and just as uneventful.
As she walked in the door her son attacked her.
“What the hell are you doing Mother,” Roman said to her clearly pissed off.
She said nothing.
“Mom!” he screamed.
Roman smacked her in the face and shoved her against the door before really laying into her.
“Mom,” he began, “What the hell are you doing? Why the hell am I even here? I can’t forgive you for threatening to take my kids. You need to listen! You are almost butt ass naked and you can’t even remember what year it is, you shouldn’t be going out!”
None of that was real of course. Though for Jessie, being yelled at the way she was yelled at by Roman, even if it was for her own good, it hurt like a punch in the face. Jessie knew she was a grown up, or at least she felt like one, but being yelled yet for doing things she didn’t think she did like picking her scabs.
She moved past Roman to lay in the comfort of her bed in her room alone. Before falling asleep she talked to someone she hoped was listening.
“Why,” she asked as tears took over her face, “Why G G G G G G God, what did I ever do? I I I I I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know what is wrong with me. I wawawawawawawant to feel normal again, and all I feel is stupid stupid stupid. My own son and husband me, why y y y y y y would you let this hahahahahahappen?”
The last 5 words Roman was almost not able to hear clearly from outside her door.
“I I I I I I jajajajajust want to die,” she said.