I need to hold back the urge to die, to beat back the urge to just let go once and for all of the ones I love. Of everything and everyone. Of light, sound, taste, breath, of life itself! I need to beat back the wild urge because I need them just as much as they need me. In fact, I might need them more than I even realize right now. It is so hard, so very hard right now, to see anything past the black, murky rabbit hole of my dark, disturbed thoughts.
"But it's easy," the bunny tortures me with her words.
"It's so easy to let go. All you have to do is DO it!"
But I know it won't be easy at all. The bunny is lying. It won't be easy on Amira, my friends, and certainly not on Chris.
"Who cares about them?" the bunny asks, gentle, fake sincerity oozing from her round little mouth.
"What about you? Who cares about you? Nobody does. That's why you need to let go. You are living for them but it's not what you want at all Ashlee! Stop living a lie and just let goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! You won't have to be sick anymore!"
"Mommy, what would become of us?" Chrissie's words ring out, sudden and frantic, almost pleading. I jump and turn unfocused eyes on her. Her body is stiff and tight like cardboard.
"If you die, so do all of us."
"But it won't be your problem anymore," retorts the bunny, its tail twitching wickedly back and forth as it basks in the humid, hot, torturous afternoon blaring sun, cackling gleefully as its words sink into my mind, tempting me to say goodbye and fade into the darkness once and for all, no looking back.
"Once you let go, you will feel nothing anymore. You will be free at last! Isn't that what you've been wanting all this time? To be free at last?"
It is what I want. It has been what I wanted for so long. But I just don't know how to get it.
"You get it by letting go," Minnie May, the bunny says.
"Don't be afraid! Come with me! Don't fear the reaper. Don't you want to see your dad again? You don't want to be sick anymore, do you? If you let go, you won't be. You'll be set free forever."
"By letting go," chirps the bunny again, its tail twitching faster as excitement swells ugly and monstrous in its evil heart.
Sometimes, the urge is just a faint tickle in my mind, like a tickle in someone's nose when they feel like they might sneeze but that it might just also pass on and the person might not sneeze after all. Other times, it comes at me like a monsoon, eager to drag me underneath, down, down, down, to its black, murky ground where letting go is possible but returning to the ones you love is not, to breaking through to the surface is just an illusion rather than actual reality
"Amira needs her mom!" Chrissie shouts at me, trying desperately to drown out the ever present voice of the bunny, the demon who tortures me nonstop when I am feeling the most fragile and vulnerable. Like my imaginary friends, the bunny is also a demon. The only difference is that the bunny is out to hurt me. The bunny is out to destroy me, and it won't stop until the deed has been done and my imaginary friends and I are nothing but a memory in this ever changing world. Just a memory in Chris's head, hardly a blur of a memory in Amira's head, a memory that will get smaller and smaller until it shrinks altogether and then what? Nothing! Nothing but victory for the bunny.
My imaginary friends, who are also demons that possess my soul, are good demons. They are here to help. They want to survive, to thrive, and, most of all, they want to cause trouble and mayhem wherever they can and whenever they can. As long as all of us, including me, are happy. That is what they live for. To make sure I can cause enough trouble that I want and that I have enough excitement in my life to keep it worth living.
"Have you ever really thought of what you want for Amira?" Chris asks gently as we lay together in my bed.
"No, not really," I finally admit after a couple minutes of silence have passed. It's not really an easy thing to admit but it's true. I haven't really given it much, if any, thought at all.
"Not to be mean or anything," I start to say, my voice low and unsure about whether I should really keep talking.
"It's just that I don't really think of Amira as a person yet. I mean, all she does is cry, scream, screech, and do everything that you DON'T want her to do or get into. To be honest, I think of her more like an unruly puppy that needs constant care and attention. I try to think of her as a person but it's just too hard. I haven't been able to get myself to think of Amira thirteen years from now, eighteen years from now and in college, or even thirty years from now. I just take one day at a time and hope I can manage to hide my sheer frustration with her so that she won't think I dislike her like I thought My mom did when I was a child."
"Well, maybe we should talk about it," Chris encourages as he wraps his arms around me.
"Okay," I say my ear close to his nose so that I can hear it whistle every time he inhales. It's one of my favorite sounds in the whole, entire world, hearing that long, wide, pointy, strong nose whistle its high-pitched tone, announcing the arrival of yet another breath. Letting me know that Chris, the one I love the most in the whole wide world, is still alive and with me.
"I want Amira to grow up feeling appreciated and loved," Chris told me.
"I want her to know that she can count on both of us when she needs us or wants to be supported or to talk."
"Me, too," I say, wishing that I could contribute more to the conversation but feeling oddly disconnected with his words. I can hear them and my mind is processing what he is saying, but there is no feeling associated with his words. Not yet anyway. I do continue to find comfort in the whistling of his nose, though, and find myself wishing that my nose would make the same sound.
CONCENTRATE!!!!! I yell at myself silently.
I'm supposed to be the kind, caring, loving, involved parent here! How can Amira feel that she can count on me if I can't even focus on a conversation about what I want for her when she's just a year old? Can she feel how disconnected I feel from the world right now? Oh, Satan help us all, I sure hope she can't feel that. I don't want her to know what that's like! Hell, does she think she can count on me now? Does she think I love her? Those questions scare me and the urge comes back, punching me in the gut, knocking the breath out of me, almost making me surrender to its invitation.
But then I am jerked into the present again by Chris's words. His words always bring me back. They remind me that I can't go, I can't leave them. I love them too much. I can't leave.
"I want Amira to be surrounded by creative, intelligent people," Chris continues talking.
"And, most of all, I want Amira to be encouraged to be creative, not discouraged from it like I was. I want Amira to see exciting, new places where creative things are going on all around. I want her to have excitement in her life and I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants so long as she makes connections with other people and doesn't close doors that could lead to something big because she doesn't have any support from family. That's what happened to me. I think that if I had more support and encouragement from my family I would have gotten somewhere with my art. People would have seen it. Who knows, maybe I would even be famous for some of my works of art."
"I really want that for her, too," I say and, for the first time all during this conversation, I really start to feel sincere about it.
"I was discouraged a lot for being creative, too, and it was very frustrating."
Chris then went on to tell me about an aunt that he had who encouraged him to be creative and took him to exciting places whenever he spent the night with her.
"She was poor just like we are but I had a great time whenever I was over there," Chris tells me.
"I had a better time hanging out with a poor person than I did hanging out with my middle class parents. I always looked forward to going to my aunt's house but I never, EVER looked forward to going back to our big, boring house when the visit was over."
"It would be nice for Amira to have creativity around her all the time," I say.
"Not just sometimes, which it sounds like happened with you and your aunt. She was in and out of your life and it wasn't a consistent, positive thing that you could look forward to all the time."
"Yeah," Chris tells me.
"Seeing her was a luxury. It was a treat. But I want Amira to be around it all the time. She'll have a better start in life and a better life than we had."
"My dad was pretty creative," I tell Chris.
"He played the guitar very well. He was a true musical artist. I didn't get to see him all the time, either, and it made me sad. I'd like Amira to have consistency in her family. I want us all to live together so she feels like her family unit is strong, and unbreakable."
"It's too much work to have that happen! What you want is impossible!"
The bunny continues to hiss evil into my ear.
"MMMMMM-MMMMMMMMM," Chrissie yells at it. It is her way of telling the bunny to shut up without actually saying shut up. None of us want Amira to learn bad words for as long as we can help it. Blissful silence surrounds me as the bunny backs off, sad and defeated and super furious about the conversation that Chris and I are having. Chrissie always knows how to get the bad voices to shut up. All of them do. And, when they have trouble, there's always the mallet.
"I want Amira's nose to always feel loved," Mary Meyers breaks the silence suddenly.
"I always want to make sure that it is happy. When Amira gets a cold, or even the beginnings of one, I am going to cheer Nevaeh on as she goes inside of her nose to get all the gunk out before it turns into a major cold that lasts for a week or longer."
"I want Amira to feel like she has patient parents she can come to," I say.
"I don't really know if she can count on me for that, though. I have no patience at all! The more I am around Amira the more I realize just how much like my mother I truly am and that TERRIFIES me! That's why I spend so much time away from her. I can't stand it when she shows me just how much like my mom I am. I don't want to be cruel to her like my mom was to me. I don't want to ruin her life, to screw her up and break her until she has fallen, broken and bleeding, onto the cold, hard, relentless, merciless concrete. That's what happened to me. You have healed me a lot, Chris, and so have all of you guys", I point to my imaginary friends. "But I am still broken. I haven't been able to find all the lost pieces of my broken heart and put them where they belong in the puzzle. I don't know if I am good for Amira to be around. I don't want to fuck her up. I don't want to be like Jennifer."
"You don't have to," Chris told me.
"Your friends will help you learn how to cope when you are frustrated with her. Who's going to help you when you are frustrated with the baby?"
"All of us!" Chrissie shouted.
"See, they want to help you!" Chris says as he sits up.
"You don't have to be like your mom. And you don't have to stay away from the baby to not be like her. That will just make things worse. Do you think that's what your mom did? Stayed away from you and went on the fishing boats for months at a time because she realized how unsuitable she was to be a mother? Why she spent so many days a week on the road at her new job as a flight attendant when fishing got to be too much for her to handle?"
"Maybe it is," I say.
"I don't know. All I know is that I always threw a big party inside my head when she went away and even while I watched her pack all her stuff into her suitcase. The best memories I have during my childhood are when she's not present."
"Yes, I know," Chris says, flopping back down beside me.
"But she might have been a better mother if she had stayed and learned how to cope with being frustrated. You might have had a better experience with her, a positive experience, growing up with her if she had stayed."
"Maybe," I say.
"It's too late to know."
"It's too late for your mom," Chris tells me, resting his hand on my tummy.
"But it's not too late for you."
"Yeah Mommy!" Chrissie shouts, jumping all around the bed on her trampoline that moves around the room whenever you jump on it.
"You're going to be a much better mother than your mother was. She didn't have imaginary friends to consult when times got rough. But you do, Mommy! You've got us! And we'll never let you down, okay?"
"Okay," I say, suddenly feeling a little more optimistic.
"I'm going to spend more time thinking about what I want for Amira now. I really should do that."
So, over the last few days, here is what my demons and I have come up with.
Chrissie: I want her to be happy!
Mary Meyers: I want her to know that she is loved.
Nevaeh: I want her to know that she can count on us to cheer her on when she accomplishes something big or small. If she's proud of it, so are we.
Me: I want Amira to feel that she can talk to me about anything. I might not be happy with some of the things she tells me but I want her to feel like I am a safe person to spill the beans to.
Me: I want her to know that I will never hurt her physically or emotionally like my mother did to me. Sure, we all say hurtful things to one another so yes, I probably will hurt her feelings just like she'll most likely hurt mine, but I will never do anything intentionally to abuse her. I don't think everything my mother did to me was intentional in the ways that she hurt me but I do believe that a lot of it was. And, if it wasn't intentional and she knew she had hurt me, which I know she knew she did, she should have let me stay with more positive people in my life, like my grandpa or my dad when he could care for me, until she felt she could talk maturely to me and not use violence to get her way and make me afraid of her in the so many ways that she did.
Nevaeh: I want Amira to know that I will always go inside of her nose if she gets clogged up down there.
Chrissie: No, it's UP the nose, not DOWN the nose! That's why I say Smm Smm Face Up the Nose, not Smm Smm Face Down the Nose! IT'S UP THE NOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Smm Smm: I want her to have an imagination and to never let anybody try to stamp it out of her the way your family did Mom.
Me: I want her to know that I will never make her do something against her will that she feels strongly about not doing. For example, once when I was eight or nine, Mom, Tim, and I went to Hawaii for a vacation. We were on a beach and Mom wanted me to wade in the water with her. I had learned after spending a couple of days there that some of the waves that roll in can be dangerous and very powerful so, after a certain point of wading, like when I was up to my knees or so, I halted and told Mom I didn't want to go in any further.
"Oh, don't be such a big baby," she taunted me, and yanked my right arm, forcing me to move further into the ocean.
"Stop, STOP!" I cried but she was merciless, taking no heed of my obvious and very valid fear.
I slowed down and tried to stop but she pulled harder on my arm until it hurt.
"Don't be a chicken," she said and made "Bock Bock" chicken sounds at me.
All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a huge, thunderous wave came speeding towards us, fully intending to grab us in its salty, wet ridges and bring us down and out into the deep ocean where rescue was impossible and death was immenent.
I screamed shrilly and a huge burst of saltwater invaded my wide open mouth. In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth closed and held my breath in case we were going to go underwater, but I was too scared and young to think rationally then.
Mom managed to grab me and hold me tight to her but we both did sink as the wave came up over our heads and it took me several minutes to be able to breathe normally, as my mouth and nose had both been taken over by the wild, tropical waters of Hawaii.
I don't remember if my mother ever apologized to me for leading me straight into danger or what happened next. All I know is that, after that incident, I trusted her less and would continue to trust her less as the years went on.
Mary Meyers: I want Amira to have a good education so that she has many options of creative ways to express herself when she grows up.
Chrissie: I want Amira to know that she is free to have feelings, like you were forbidden to do Mommy, and that she is free to express them in constructive, creative outlets to help her deal with them.
Me: I want her to grow up in a calm, peaceful environment where there is no screaming at each other and fighting. I want her to learn that, when people run into disagreements that we sit down or take a walk and talk about them, not yell, scream, use violence, get weapons involved, and have the cops called almost every time one little disagreement happens like it did in my home.
Bryan: I want her to know that it is okay to be lazy when the time calls for it. I don't want her to feel ashamed of being lazy like you were Mommy, nor do I want her to struggle on a project or with certain people when it is apparent that it isn't working and the only thing to do is be lazy and wait until something does work.
Me: I want her to feel like she can totally be herself. I want her to be proud of her decisions and I want her to feel like she has a say in what goes on in her life. Just because it didn't happen in my childhood doesn't mean it can't happen for Amira. And, after all, it is her life we're talking about here. It would be crazy NOT to let her be able to make her own decisions and feel like she can care for herself and think for herself. It will build her self esteem and will hopefully give her a good, strong self image that she is proud of.
Smm Smm: I want her to know that we all love her.
Me: Me, too. Sometimes I find there is no love in my heart for her when I am super frustrated and that scares me. I wonder if she can pick up on that and if it scares her. I wonder if she wonders whether I love her as much as her father does.
Smm Smm: Do you?
Me: I'd like to say that I do but… sometimes, I just don't know. She is a very needy, demanding child. All children her age are like this. It's normal but it's very difficult to love a screaming, screeching, biting monster who pushes your face away when you try to hug her or sticks her fingers up your nose and gouges the inside of your nose or who pokes your eyes and then laughs about it when you say "OW!".
Nevaeh: I think you're afraid to love her Mommy. You are afraid to love her because loving her means that you need to work hard on not becoming like your mother. And, you are also afraid of losing her just as you are afraid of losing Chris because you lost your father when you were so young and at such a vulnerable, fragile age. Sixteen is a very difficult year for any kid who's got a good life and both sets of parents looking out for the kid. But, when a kid's got a ranting, abusive whore for a mother and a father who died from drug and alcohol use and because he was a diabetic, it just makes it all the more difficult to live with. When you needed your father the most, he was savagely taken away from you and that's why you are afraid to love your baby. You are afraid to love anyone. You are even afraid to love yourself.
Me: I guess its true. I don't really know what to do about it. I don't know what to do about a lot of things.
Minnie may: You see, it's IMPOSSIBLE! It's not worth it! They're not worth it! Just LET GO!
As I write this story, I know that there is way more that I want for Amira than what you can see in here now. This story might have more parts to it later. I know I should think about Amira more often, but, when I do, it scares me. She scares me! And, the horrible part is, I don't really even know why.
Love, in general, is scary. It can be right in front of your face, bright and lively and warm and fuzzy, making you feel so happy you could die. Then, just as quickly as it came, it can up and leave you with nothing but tall, thorny weeds and a sense of loss, emptiness, and longing. Longing for what you once had, for what you lost, not by any fault of your own, but because the treasure, your beloved treasure, was taken from you to a place where it cannot be retrieved or seen ever again. The world can be a very cruel place sometimes, and sometimes I am scared to death to find out what other nasty surprises it has in store for me, ready to show me its neatly wrapped disguised package that looks interesting and fun, but, when you get a closer look and see the thing for what it really is, its too late, and before you know it, your life can take a turn for the worst.
HAIL SMM SMM!!!!