Personal narrative assignment for creative writing class.
The label reads “Percocet.” She didn’t need the narcotics for pain. She depended on them in order to evade the pain of withdrawal.
I think that if I remembered all the things that had happened to me in the past, and even more recently, I might have some serious issues. But I only have a few faded images of the bad things my mind has carefully tucked away. I suppose this is good for me. I’m protected from my own memories by my brain. It isn’t that I can’t recall entire events; the details are just incredibly blurry. Like a photograph taken as the camera is falling through the air. It only captures a whirl of color.
It’s called repression.
Tell me that I am thick-headed. Tell me that I am naïve. Tell me that I don’t care and it doesn’t matter and we should never have become friends in the first place. Go ahead because in a couple weeks, I won’t remember how furious I was with you. I won’t remember how this fight went. I can’t hold grudges. I’m never angry with anyone for more than a couple days.
I’ve always been this way. I’m not forgetful, I’m just… lucky, some would say. But I want to remember what happened. Even if it’s something terrible, I’d rather have a memory than a wall built inside my head. There are too many walls. Do you know what lots of walls make? They make a fortress; a barricade; a maze. Sometimes I feel lost inside that maze of walls, of memories that I can’t access.
But think of the walls as foggy glass. Things are half visible through them, things that cause me to shudder and make goose bumps rise on my arms. In order to break through and discover the horror movie figures in their entirety on the other side, the glass has to be shattered. And that shattered glass; it cracks beautifully when it gives way to a mental kick, but as it sprays inspiration, it embeds itself in the soft tissues of thought. It cuts me open on the inside. It hurts.
If you want me to, I can summon up a mental image of a bathroom cabinet stocked full of orange pill bottles. They were all prescriptions and probably the majority of them obtained through forgery, the stringy haired, dirty-looking man down the hall, or some other illegal means. I remember my mother attempting to make it down the hallway of our small apartment one night and walking straight into the wall instead. She hadn’t stood up or turned around, she was just moving forward. Like she never even knew the wall was there.
The walls were stained yellow from her cigarettes – cigarettes she sometimes woke me in the middle of the night to go buy when a craving grew too strong for her to sleep. In the darkness I was wrapped in a jacket and shuffled sleepily after her down the numerous flights of stairs until we reached the car. In the backseat of the beige 1995 Nissan Maxima I lied down and drifted somewhere between consciousness and dreamland. The 7-11 was always her convenience store of choice. In the afternoons I asked for a Slurpee. At two in the morning I just tried to curl up so that the Maxima’s smooth leather interior might not feel so penetratingly chill against my skin.
I never write about her creatively. This woman whose blood runs in my veins; she lives in a different world. I’ve used her in essays like this,
“My mom is a drug addict. The end.”
But that’s something colder than being roused from sleep in the late hours of the night for a nicotine run. It’s less emotional. It doesn’t hurt me when I carefully print the words onto the page in mechanical five-paragraph format. What hurts is remembering the specifics, sharpening the blurs behind the glass to the keen crystal clarity of memories I love. But I want to remember.
I like to think I have a strong threshold for pain. Physically at least. I think my ability to tolerate emotional pain though, is very weak; which could explain why I shove uncomfortable events in metaphorical boxes and label them, “DO NOT TOUCH.”
Sometimes I wonder if the similarities between my mother and I have never frightened me because I push them away. I would describe her as I might describe myself: someone who bleaches her hair blonde, enjoys nail polish and makeup, is fascinated by any kind of precipitation, sleeps deeply, usually wants to cuddle while watching movies, likes to cook and loves to eat. Even though she only ate one meal a day. This may have had to do with the fact that two possible side effects of painkillers are nausea and vomiting. I can only guess since that’s one thing we will never have in common.
Sitting here trying to call up memories of my mom as I gaze into all this white space is difficult. I’m trying to find a wall I haven’t smashed. But I’m standing amidst dangerous heaps of shiny little shards in here. They reflect pieces of my face, the tears that I won’t allow to spill out of my eyes. I think I’ve destroyed enough of the maze for now.
For now, I’ll go to sleep. And when I wake up, all these things will be far from my mind, the mess swept away, the previous smithereens of the maze reconstructed.
It’s called repression.