I LEFT HER WITH YOUR MOTHER
Before that day, I hadn’t seen my mom but a handful of times in years, and none of those times were on purpose. Most of the time, when I ran into her, she didn’t know who I was. The very last time I’d seen her, she called me Travis and asked me how Bermuda was.
As soon as Tricia told her where the baby was, I hung up and called my mom, but the phone line was dead, and I didn’t know if she had a cell.
I took a cab to Mom’s and called Preppy to meet me there.
I got there before he did.
I knew walking up to the door that something was wrong. I could feel it in my gut.
I banged on the door of her apartment until my knuckles bled, but there wasn’t any answer. I could hear the static from a TV inside. I screamed out for my mom, but there was no response. I was about to turn around and walk away, check with some of the neighbors to see if she even still lived there, but then I heard it.
I heard her.
My baby was crying.
Not just a little cry or a cranky cry, but a strangled cry straight from the gut, the kind that says that shit ain’t right.
It’s like she knew I was there, and she was calling out to me.
I kicked in the front door. The living room was dark except for the TV. When I took a step, trash got stuck on my shoes, fast food wrappers, cigarette butts. The counter was littered with garbage. The trash can was overflowing. Flies circled the kitchen sink which was piled high with dirty dishes.
I heard her cry again. It was coming from the back of the apartment.
I ran into one of the spare rooms and turned on the switch, but nothing came on. It took a second for my eyes to adjust to the dark, but when they did, I saw this little baby, this beautiful, scared, skinny, little baby, no bigger than half my forearm, covered in shit from head to fucking toe. Her eyes were red and crusted over from crying. She wasn’t in a crib. She was lying on a dirty sheet on the floor. No bottle. No blanket. No lights. No nothing.
I gently scooped her up in my arms, and she weighed practically nothing. Even though she was visibly hurting and I was hurting for her, I remember that first feeling of holding her. Before she was even born, she became the most important thing in the world to me, but holding her sealed the deal. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Nothing.
I would hurt anyone and everyone who ever made my baby cry like that again. I would burn down cities for her.
I fell to the ground with my back against the wall and rocked her until she calmed. I told her about all the things I was going to buy for her. I told her that daddy was here, that she was safe. I got up and found the cleanest towel I could and wrapped her up in it. She settled against my chest and fell asleep.
I was fighting mad. Deeply disturbed. And completely in love. All at the same time.
I was leaving with Max in my arms when the light from the TV flashed, and I saw a shadow in the Lazyboy. Sure enough, it was my Mom. Next to her was an empty bottle of some cheap fucking whiskey and an ashtray full of little bags of leftover crystal.
She didn’t take care of my newborn baby because she was too fucking busy getting drunk and high.
Max would’ve died if I hadn’t gotten to her in time.
It was that thought that set me off. It still pisses me off to this day, and it makes remembering what happened next a whole lot easier to digest when I recall the memory.
Rage consumed me. The kind that makes you want to rip out someone’s throat with your bare fucking hands.
A lit cigarette hung from her bottom lip, an open newspaper on her lap. Her face was covered in pock marks and her skin was draping off of it like it was melting. As much as I wanted to hurt her, it was like the fucking karma cosmos or whatever aligned, because the lit cigarette fell from her mouth, and the newspaper ignited.
I stood there and watched it happen.
I was happy. It couldn’t have gone better if I lit the fire myself. It was a horrible way to die, but knowing what could have happened to Max, I really didn’t give a shit if it was the most horrible death imaginable. To me, in that moment, she deserved it.
I still feel that way.
Mom’s chest rose and fell, so I knew she was alive, but she was so far gone into whatever high she’d been chasing that not even a fire on her lap disturbed her.
When the paper fell to the ground, the carpet caught fire. The light from the flames allowed me to get a good look at the place. There wasn’t a section of the floor that wasn’t covered in filth and rusty syringes poked out of the couch like it was a pin-cushion.
When the flames got higher, I made the decision.
I turned around and left.