It was 1995 and I was in my mother's bedroom. The windows were open and the TV was on. I was at the foot of the bed, painting her toenails. I stopped to look at her. She seemed to want to say something.
"Nini," she said, "I just can't seem to get it back."
"Get what back, Mom?" I asked.
"I can't explain it," she said. She levered her thumb over her morphine drip and pressed.
"What can't you get back, Mom?"
"It," she said.
I put the cap back on the polish and turned my attention to the television. She was watching home shopping network and she was, near as I could tell, moments away from ordering a door stopper made out of lead crystal.
"What is it, Mom?" I said.
She looked at me again and I could see that her pupils were dilated and that it had taken all she had to say that one thing to me. She was already on to the next thing: buying a charm bracelet off the other home shopping channel, the one she flipped over to so that the subject would be effectively changed. A month later, she died. My dad still has that charm bracelet.
For years I wondered what the It was, but now I think I know. The It she was trying to get back was hope, belief, even the weakest grasp on the idea that It might be okay somehow, that It might all work out. That It was all part of a plan.
My crime this week and every week is my belief that that there is no "It," that my life so broken that there is no "It" to fix or any "It" to work out okay or any "It" to hope for. Every time someone says "it" is going to be okay, I think "you say that because you think there is still an 'It' that can be saved. Every 'it' in all areas of my life has already done its turning out and "it" turned out the opposite of okay. But thanks for trying."
I know. I got a serious break. One thing did turn out ok. My dad is alive and well and that was a huge friggin' "it" to have break my way.
The odd thing is that I can't seem to get "it" together in the other sectors of my life. I can't quite transition into behaving as if "it" is going to be ok because there was a whole lot going perfectly wrong in my life before my dad ever got cancer, and even now that he is ok, all that "it" is still right there waiting for me, and "it" is all just as bad as before - only I am two years older and a lot less resilient, emotionally speaking. You would think that I would extrapolate the miracle down the line and have hope that I might someday get my career together, that I might stop behaving like a droid and start dating again, that I might stop mainlining cupcakes and staying up all night clutching my skull, sobbing, and saying "no no no no no no no" as many times as I can say it without needing another thimble of vodka/cupcake/white xanax or, as is lately my custom, Cheeto.* Um, no.
Like my mother, I can't seem to get it back.
The living as if I were going to die** next week, as if there is no future but waiting to die, is I think what they call the opposite of having hope, which is to say "despair," which if you know the rules I operate under is the queen-mother of all sins. It's worse than being a thief, a hooker, or a megalomaniacal serial murderer who rapes children and tortures animals. But that's me, really going for it, as usual.
This concludes Dark and Stormy Week, 2008. I hope you didn't dislike it as much as I did.
* Yeah, I ate about ten Cheetos at three in the morning. I couldn't very well dip into the vodka. I was fresh out.
** Stop calling your local intervention hotline. The list is (mostly) a metaphor