Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Couch

I've had fun with fiction lately, so here's one more....


“Are you satisfied, now?” she screamed at me before the cops took her away, her hands cuffed behind her back as they forced her head down to get her into the backseat of their sleek black car, grimaces on their faces and a haunted expression in their eyes.

No, I thought. No, I’m not and this is not what I really wanted. But, what choice did I have?

Angela is my mom. Angela, the woman who had just been arrested and taken to wherever they were taking her… Yep, that’s her. My mother. The person who brought me in to this world and who is constantly threatening to take me out of it. Jokingly threatening. I think.

Angela hasn’t ever really had her act together. I mean, does anybody every really have it together? We all thought Martha Stewart was the model of female perfection or some shit and even she went to prison, so I try to reserve judgment… But, let’s just say that Angela has seen her fair share of trouble at least in my lifetime. Check fraud. Identity theft. Shoplifting. Possession of methamphetamines. Solicitation in some of her worst times. Assault. Battery. Car theft. Larceny. It’s a long list.

Most of the time when I was younger, I was in and out of foster homes while she was in prison or rehab or wherever she ended up to try to “fix” whatever it was that is broken with her, that made her do these things and choose that lifestyle over being a mom. I used to resent her for it--for showing up at my school randomly with her stringy bleach blond hair wearing tube tops and reeking like an ashtray that hadn’t been dumped or cleaned in a year, for never being there for me when I was sick with the flu, for always being focused on the next scheme instead of trying to get a real job and take care of me the way mothers are supposed to. There were some nights when I absolutely hated her especially those nights when I would cry and beg one of my longest foster fathers, Jim, not to hit me anymore and still go to bed hurting so bad I couldn’t even stand the covers touching me. There were other nights that she was the only person in the world that I wanted and the less she was there for me, the more empty I felt and the more I despised her…

The older I got the more I understood that there were times she really tried to do her best, but she was fucked up from the start. She wasn’t hardwired for a normal life and the drugs just made that worse. I don’t know if she really could have stayed inside her own head for too long without killing herself anyway. From the bits and pieces I’ve been able to put together over the years, her life makes my own look like a fairytale sitcom full of punny jokes and rainbows and silliness and ponies.

You know how they say that if we all put our problems into a big pile we’d gladly take back our own after seeing everyone else’s? That’s exactly how I feel about Angela. After understanding more about what she went through as a kid, I could see why she couldn’t be there for me. Knowing that the only reason she got pregnant with me at all was because she was raped by one of her junkie friends made me understand even more why she never really felt that motherly instinct towards me. How could she? I don’t even know that I could have done the same thing in her shoes….having the baby, staying clean for the pregnancy, making that effort…so somewhere down in that tangled mess that was her soul, she wanted me and she fought like hell to bring me into this world, as she would say. She had to’ve. There’s no other explanation for my existence. There’s no reason why she wouldn’t have pulled one of her quick schemes to at least get enough cash to have an abortion. That would have been the easiest solution, right? So on some level, she and I were bonded from the beginning…I just couldn’t see it back then.

I didn’t really come to that realization until the last couple of years. I’m 24 now, so I spent a lot of time, too many years, angry about it all. Confused, hurt, pissed, full of hate, depressed, unable to cope, barely functioning. And, I knew that if I ever wanted to get past it all, I needed to figure some things out or I was going to be just like her. That’s when I started asking around about her, talking to my grandma (who wasn’t really much of a mom herself) and then to the social worker Angela had as a kid when she was in and out of foster homes herself. I finally understood. After all that time, I finally got it. I got why she was so fucked up, and it made me sad for her. For the first time in my life, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and felt it for her instead.

So, I reached out. In a moment of pure emotional vulnerability, I reached out. Like a fucking idiot. And she took advantage.

At first when I found her again after not talking to her for a couple of years, we’d do lunch every now and then. She didn’t seem high. She’d be clean and dressed at least semi-decently. She would definitely still qualify for People of Walmart, but it wasn’t as bad as when I was a kid, so I overlooked it. I didn’t want to talk much about the past, but she did….she would always ask me if I remembered times with her like the day we went to the park in a thunderstorm and all the rain washed out the cheap dye she had in her hair until it pretty much covered her face. I wouldn’t come to her for hours and ran screaming from her until another woman at the park called the cops thinking my mom was trying to kidnap me. I guess she was trying to point out that they weren’t always bad memories, but even the good ones were pretty fucking horrifying. I did remember that day. Well. I really thought a giant monster was after me and had already eaten her face…but all she could do was laugh. And even all these years later she was still pretty clueless about what qualified as a good memory. Sure, she was still laughing about it now, but even the thought of it still made me squirm in my seat and made her laugh even harder.

Still, I felt like I was getting to know her for the first time, and I felt bad for her, but at the same time, I thought I saw a glimpse of who she could be, and I wanted to help her. So, the lunches became more frequent, then it was dinner, then I was taking her grocery shopping, then she was coming to my apartment and sleeping on the couch here and there and then a few times a week then more often than not. She was a walking fucking disaster, but she was still my mom, and I felt like if someone finally just accepted her for who she was and showed her unconditional love, it would fix her. It would finally just fix her. What I didn’t realize is that Angela couldn’t be fixed. Angela wasn’t really broken…she was no longer human, not in the sense that I am or that the lady in the downstairs corner apartment that volunteers at the homeless shelter is… There was no humanity left which meant there was nothing left in Angela to repair.

I started noticing some strange things around the house especially when I’d try to clean up Angela’s clutter. Digging through the couch cushions was a nightmare. Seriously. Food scraps, unidentifiable wads of gooey fuzzballs, her bras—still sweaty sometimes, dirt, cigarette butts even though she didn’t smoke in my apartment…all manner of grossness. But, then I’d find someone else’s driver’s license. Mens’ licenses. Pocket watches. There would be a random shirt that I knew wouldn’t fit her thrown in the mix. But, she hadn’t had any men at my place. I never allowed her there when I wasn’t to the point that I got up early before work just to drop her off wherever she needed to be. I mean, she was still Angela, right?

I asked her about it. Of course, I did. And she said she didn’t know what I was talking about. She denied ever having seen them. Of course, she did. So I dropped it. I think, at the time, part of me didn’t want to know what it was about because I wanted to believe that I was having a positive effect on her, and I didn’t want to see that she was back to the same routines. So, instead of facing it and really questioning her about it, I just let it go and pushed it to the back of my brain.

And now I have to wonder if I could have stopped it sooner if I’d pressed her harder…I have to wonder if I could have saved lives. If I could have prevented a child from losing his father, a wife from losing her husband…

Right about that time, there were several stories on the news about missing men in the area. A preacher, a salesman, a truck driver… More would go missing before it was all over. Bodies turned up at rest stops and along the Interstate. I didn’t put two and two together at the time. I should have, but I ignored it all to be honest. Angela was bringing me gifts every now and then and she just seemed happier. Better. Almost like a real mom. She even took ME out to dinner once or twice over the next few weeks.

And then today I found a driver’s license for a name I recognized. Henry Dern. The news had done a quick mention of him being missing just this morning. It’s Saturday. I’m off and thought I’d catch up on my cleaning. I watched the news this morning while I had my coffee then put on a record, The Kills actually…ironically, and went to work. The couch reeked like her. I had pretty much resigned myself to getting a new one eventually when she got to a point where she didn’t need a place to stay anymore. IF she ever got to that point. I cleaned out the cushions while she was in the shower, and there it was. The man whose face I had just seen on the news. Middle aged. Gray hair at the temples but otherwise ruddy brown hair. Pock-marked skin but clean shaven. Brown eyes with deep crow’s feet at the corners. It was him. Henry Dern. And my mother had his driver’s license.

When she came out, towel wrapped in her hair, I jammed the license in my back pocket and put the couch back together. I was done cleaning for the day.

Why did my mother have a missing man’s driver’s license? What about the other licenses and the stuff and the money? It didn’t take long to put the pieces together. I had saved all those licenses, all the stuff. I don’t know why I did, but I guess something told me I should, so I went to the bathroom closet and pulled the Ziploc bag full of these things from behind the Tylenol and Benadryl and started looking up the names on Google. Every single one of them had been reported missing. Some of the bodies that had been found had been identified as these men. There were at least 7 licenses here counting Henry. 7 men.

I called the police still sitting on my bed staring at the laptop screen. I told them everything I knew, the names of the men on the licenses, where I’d found them, who my mother was, what I had, where we were. They transferred me to the detective working the case, and I had to repeat it all over again. And then again before he finally said he was on the way. When I hung up the phone, I immediately ran to the bathroom and threw up.

My mouth still tastes like bitter bile.

Angela came to check on me, and I said I was fine, but I’m not fine. I ran out of the bathroom holding the license that had still been in my back pocket, tears in my eyes, and I screamed at her, “what the fuck did you do, Angela?! What the fuck did you do?”

She took off then, and I chased her, but neither of us got far before running into the detectives working the case.

I’m sitting on the sidewalk outside after watching them take my mother away waiting on the crime scene people to “process” my apartment. My space. Because I was letting a serial killer sleep on my couch apparently.

Am I satisfied? I bark out a laugh thinking about what she asked as they took her way. Satisfied? HA. My mom was just arrested for very likely killing at least 7 men. I called the police on my own mother and not for the first time. I watched her being arrested. Again. The only satisfaction I am ever going to get out of this is being able to burn that fucking couch.

Thanks once again for reading my Sunday Confessions contribution. Head over to More Than Cheese and Beer to read the rest of the submissions and check out the Facebook page for anonymous confessions as well. 


  1. Did not see that coming! Made me feel a little creeped out and kept me intrigued all the way to the end!

    Please keep up the fiction Jenniy!

  2. Wow!!! What a gripping story, I was hanging on the edge of my seat and thinking to myself I hope she burns the couch. Great fictional story.

  3. Whoa dude. That was incredible. Omg. Did not see that one coming.