It keeps getting closer. It’s 5:23 a.m., and on a normal day the sun would begin to peek through. The clouds would feel the breach of sunlight, piercing the sky with shimmers of bold, golden orange. An everlasting sight repeated. But there’s no point reminiscing. There’s no point panicking, either. It’s 5:24 a.m., and the freakish, stone asteroid begins to break the sky.
“Tell me about your mother,” I say.
“Again?” she replies.
We’re sitting on top of a stone peak in the hills of a valley near Malibu. Neither of us slept in the past couple days — it’s been drug binges, sex, and more drugs.
“She was the reason I’m waiting it out till the end, you know? The cesspool of love she had was terrifying. It got much worse after my father left – she started pouring everything onto me. I used to hold that against her. How she could never let me be,” she says.
I’m letting her talk. She’s not looking in my direction. Instead, her eyes miserably gaze at the sky.
“After he left, my mom started to drink and I stopped coming home. But she always called and I always ignored. So, she got depressed, and I mean, look how I turned out. But, I remember when I came home for the first thanksgiving without my dad and it was just the two of us. She loved to cook, and I remember hearing her singing in the kitchen while the sweet smell of oven roast roamed around our apartment. It was so beautiful and so sad.”
She’s wincing. I feel the melancholy, too.
“It was like a moment of grace” I insist.
“Exactly. But afterwards it went back to how it was. My mother kept drinking, and I kept abusing,” she scoffs.
“We were both drowning again, but it was times like that where I saw her swim, and I thought I could, too. I wanted her to see me swim and maybe even drift back to shore.”
She pauses for a moment to catch her breath.
“Maybe that would’ve kept her around a bit longer. If I gave something back to her. If she just saw me happy.”
The earth starts trembling below us. I can feel every strand of root, rock, soil, and sand vibrating in fright. The earth knows it won’t win here, there is no fight. Only fear.
A moment passes. “She was a coward,” I say. She turns towards me. Good. I got her attention.
“What she was going through was a tragedy. But to think that your life is only ever yours; that’s unjust. And, suicide is a cop-out. We’re all in this together and I want you to know that she’s buried now, never knowing how much you loved her and how much you needed her to stay”
I don’t really remember my own mother. She left when I was a kid — I was six, maybe seven? And besides the lies my dad told, I never got an explanation. It’s 5:25 a.m., and a swell of anger ravages my heart. I can hear the dead chanting against the beat of my own agony. Each of them in solace with one another while her and I sit alone fighting the feeling that this is really it. We’re about to end. We can see it barrelling towards us at 100 kilometres per second. Neither of us speak. I clench my fists and tighten my jaw, preparing to enact some kind of vengeance I know isn’t within me.
“If she didn’t have the resolve to help herself, then she’s a narcissist. She was drowning and all she wanted was people to see her drown, and that’s more like self-pity. Throw her a lifejacket and she’ll flail instead.”
Did I really just say that? I ask myself.
Her face shows absolute confusion. Perhaps she holds some semblance of truth in my words, or she wants to kill me out of spite. Probably the latter.
After an eternity, she turns away from me. “I have nothing to say to you anymore,” she says. My brain keeps throbbing. Why did her mother let go? And how could anyone find that resolve within themselves?
My heart starts racing. It’s 5:26 a.m., and I can hear the winds starting to thrash and tear apart the trees. Flashfires begin to blaze the valley in an unrelenting carnival of disaster. But the only thing I can feel is the strangling silence lain between us. It’s choking my heart. She’s sitting only a couple feet away from me with her arms hunched over her knees, refusing to acknowledge me. Absolutely motionless. I surrender to my cries and start screaming.
It’s 5:27 a.m. I wonder if my mom’s out there right now. Does she know I’m still alive? She still has six minutes to call. Six minutes to show if she cares.
Please call, I beg.
It’s 5:28 a.m., and I think I just saw a birch stump soar through the air before crashing into the side of a mountain. What a graceful moment for that tree. I can’t tell if I’m laughing or crying again. My sanity’s starting to slip. The valley is so violent now I have to close my eyes. There’s too much going on. I’m shuddering. Or is that the ground? The smoke is too harsh to breathe. BANG! Each one louder than the last. Winds frantically blowing and fire ruthlessly scorching, deafening my ears.
“It’s OK,” I repeat to myself. There’s only four minutes left. My head hangs freely draped over my lap in a state of dread. I’m broken. There’s no difference anymore between the world and my mind. Everything’s on fire.
It’s 5:31 a.m. and grab the girl’s shoulder to turn her around.
“Thank you for being here, with me. I’m sorry.”
Her hazel-brown eyes are mesmerizing, as if they had a will of their own. Consoling my most vulnerable state. Witnessing me in all my hopelessness as our last moment crumbles away.
“It’s OK,” she says.
I’m glad she’s with me until the end.
It’s 5:32 a.m., and I don’t know why people decide to leave. But I love the fact that some people decide to stay. Sweet, sweet melancholy.