When I returned my father was perched in his withered recliner, paralyzed in his shriveling body and sleeping off the intoxication. Three inches of whiskey stood in a murky glass, sweating a ring amongst many rings on the wooden end table. He snored loudly while in the middle of a film, The Last Man On Earth, starring Vincent Price.
My earliest memories of my father include Vincent Price. I could remember being a small boy lying in his arms on the couch when it was in better shape. I remembered the sound of Jiffy Pop popping and the smell of popcorn throughout the house. I would feign sickness and pray for snow days so I could stay home from school, and he would stay with me and we’d hang and watch movies all day long. House on Haunted Hill. The Fall Of The House Of Usher.
I knew a thing or two about fucked up houses.
My mother didn’t care for those films. She didn’t care about Vincent Price. She didn’t like horror films at all. She didn’t dislike that I watched them with my father, not that they were particularly scary or potentially inappropriate or unsuitable, because they weren’t. She didn’t approve of the slashers because of the violence and sexual situations. We still watched those. She didn’t want to have to be stuck in the house, and have to sit and watch them or anything with us. She was always thinking about a better place to be, a more thrilling time to be had, worrying about what she was missing. My mother didn’t give a fuck about some Edgar Allan Poe movie adaptation. No need to witness the dissolution of someone else’s family when it was happening to our own.
My mother, a beautiful youthful woman, and almost always the center of attention. She had pretty brown eyes that men wanted to stare into, eager to be cast under that spell of hers. My mother wasn’t into motherhood, or marriage, she was into other things, things that lived dangerously outside the boundaries of those social constructs. Some people are natural born parents, mine were not. Parenting wasn’t a priority for my mother and my father only seemed like a good parent in comparison to her.
I learned early that people were imperfect, and I’ve tried to make peace with her actions and not pass judgement, even though at times I do, because I couldn’t see the world through her eyes, and I could never know the thoughts she had and how she felt inside her heart when she made her decisions. It’s not for me to know. A non-conformist, and flawed or not, she was my mother and I loved her, and wished her luck wherever it was she made her home.
We are all owners of our issues, we can be proud or ashamed, for myself it’s mostly shame, but regardless we still carry them around in our pockets. No one is completely free from psychosis or depression, we are all vulnerable and suffer from the occasional swath of self doubt, afflicted with those embarrassing little mental glitches. We are all a little ugly, some more than others, and you more than me.
Then one humid summer afternoon she left for good.
The air conditioner hummed as Vincent Price dumped bodies of the creatures he’d slain into a giant pit, where fire would dispose of the carcasses. I watched the movie in my parent’s room that day because they had the best air conditioner in the house. It was the coldest but also the loudest so you had to blast it or read the subtitles. My mother was getting ready to go out, and talking to me but I couldn’t hear her over the combination of the Freidrich and the television. I wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to say. I assumed she was going out to a friend’s house or shopping, somewhere I would disapprove of and I guess it was the latter. She applied makeup to her cheeks, making weird faces in the mirror during the process, while circling the blush brush. She had on a summer dress. I remember she was a blonde at that time. She had a part off to the side and her hair hung to her collarbone. My mother always looked a little more dressed up for the usual daily routine than necessary. She had to have her face on and something nice to wear before she stepped foot outside of the house. My mother had a style that wasn’t present day, while we were in the eighties she was stylistically somewhere in the fifties or sixties, she might as well have been born out of a Hitchcock film, there was something very Tippi Hedren or Grace Kelly about her. Maybe in the course of my life only one decade will speak to me, maybe I wouldn’t be able to leave the nineties.
“Colm, lower the fucking television, “ she said to me, as she stood in front of the vanity mirror. “Are you coming with me or not?” Her tone was assertive, a little defiant, almost peeved.
“Where are you going?”
“What does that mean? I’m leaving. Where to?”
“It means I’m leaving this place. You are welcome to come with me or you can stay here with your father. It’s up to you. But I’m not coming back.”
I thought for a second and responded, “I’ll stay.”
Sometimes you make a decision, or you do what you think is right at the moment but you’ll never have a definitive answer, you’ll never truly know if you did the right thing. I chose to stay because I didn’t want to leave my father and my friends, and I knew that my father needed me more than my mother would, I would be a burden to my mother wherever she would wind up.
“Ok, Colm,” she said with little sadness in her voice, she applied mascara and then proceeded to slam some things around the house before there was one last slam of the front door. The door closed behind my mother as she left for the last time, she was for real this time, it had been prophesied, she had threatened to leave and had done so many times. Only there was something different in the way she carried herself that day. All the other times she left, it was only for a little while and then when she eventually sobered up, she returned home. She was not coming back. This time she meant it. Moms bounced on old mans. She left the house a veritable wasteland. Something T. S. Eliot couldn’t fathom. I sat there on their bed, watching Vincent Price bury a dead dog, I dreaded having to tell my father that she was gone. I did not know what I would want more, to be the last man on earth or to not exist at all, either way I wouldn’t have to deal with the complexity of human relationships.