“Of course I knew, Logan. If there’s one thing Kellan is, it’s a bad liar. I don’t care that he’s giving you the money, but,” she sighed, and her eyes softened as she turned my way. For the first time since I returned, she looked defeated. “Don’t let him down, Logan. He’s tired. He won’t act like he is, but he is. He’s exhausted. You being back here makes him happy. You’re good for him right now. Just stay good, okay? Please don’t let him down.”
“I swear I’m not using, Erika. That’s not just some bullshit that I’ve been saying. I really am clean.” We each grabbed a box and walked to her car, putting them in the trunk before we hopped into the car and she started driving to Ma’s apartment.
She nodded. “I believe you. But, we are about to go see your mom, and I know how much a trigger she was for you.”
“I’m not the same kid I was.”
“Yeah. I hear you. But trust me. Your mom is the same person she was back then. Sometimes I think people don’t really change.”
“They do,” I said. “If they’re given a chance, people can change.”
She swallowed hard. “I hope you’re right.”
The moment we made it to Ma’s, I asked Erika if she was coming up, and she declined, looking around. “I’ll stay here.”
“It’s safer inside.”
“No. It’s fine. I don’t do too good seeing…that kind of lifestyle.”
I didn’t blame her. “I’ll be down in a few.” My eyes darted around the darkened streets, and I saw a few people hanging out on the street corners, just like when I was a kid. Maybe Erika was somewhat right. Maybe some people, things, and places never changed.
But I had to hope that some did.
Otherwise, what exactly was I doing with myself?
“Just don’t take forever, okay? Kellan’s show is starting in forty-five minutes.” Erika said.
“I guess we shouldn’t have spent like two hours standing in front of plates, huh?”
She flipped me off. A term of endearment, I bet. “I’ll be out fast. Are you okay out here?”
“I’m fine. Just hurry.”
“Hey, Erika?” I said, climbing out of the car.
“Yeah?” My eyes once again glanced to the people on the corners, looking our way.
“Lock your doors.”
I didn’t know what I was walking into. I knew it would be bad, but I guess I didn’t know how bad off Ma was. Kellan always kept those conversations short, telling me that I had to worry about making myself better instead of me worrying about making sure Ma was good.
Now it was his turn to take his own advice.
But that meant that someone had to step up and check in on her, and it had to be me. And I couldn’t let Kellan down when he needed me the most.
The front door was unlocked, which worried me enough to make my gut tighten. The apartment was completely trashed with beer cans, vodka bottles, empty pill bottles, and dirty clothes all over the place.
“Jesus, Ma…” I murmured to myself, somewhat shocked.
The same broken-down couch set in front of the same disgusting coffee table. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spot the baggie of coke on the table.
I snapped my bracelet.
“Get off!” I heard screamed from the kitchen, Ma’s voice loud and fearful. My heart dropped to my stomach and I was back in hell. I hurried into the room, ready to tear my father away from her, knowing that whenever she screamed, his fists were finding their way to her soul.
But when I stepped into the room, she was alone, having a panic attack. She aggressively scratched at her skin causing it to turn red. “Get off of me! Get off of me!” She hollered louder and louder.
I held my hands up and walked in her direction. “Ma. What are you doing?”
“They’re all over me!” she screamed.
“What’s all over you?”
“The roaches! They are everywhere! The roaches are all over me. Help me Kellan! Get this shit off of me!”
“It’s me, Ma. Logan.”
Her dull eyes looked up in my direction and for a split second, she reminded me of Sober Ma.
Then she began to scratch again.
“All right, all right. Come on. Let’s get you a shower. Okay?”
After a little work, I got her to sit inside of the bathtub as the shower rained over her. She kept scrubbing her skin as I sat on top of the closed toilet lid.
“Kellan told me you were going to cut back on using, Ma.”
“Yeah.” She nodded rapidly. “Definitely. Definitely. Kellan offered to send me off to rehab, but I don’t know. I can do it on my own. Plus, that stuff costs a lot of money.” She locked eyes with me and smiled, holding her hands out to me. “You came home. I knew you’d come home. Your father said you wouldn’t, but I knew.”
“He still sells to me sometimes.” She looked down and started washing her feet. The bruises on her back and legs almost made me gag. I knew they were from my deadbeat father. And the fact that I wasn’t there to step in between the two of them made me feel as if I were just as bad a person as he was.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” she whispered. Tears were running down her cheeks, but I didn’t even think she knew she was crying.
“You’re beautiful, Ma.”
“Your father called me an ugly bitch.”
My hands formed fists, and I took a few deep breaths. “Screw him. You’re better off without him.”
“Yeah. Definitely. Definitely.” She nodded rapidly again. “I just wished he loved me, is all.”
Why did we as humans always want love from the people who were incapable of such a feeling?
“Can you shampoo my hair?” She asked.
I agreed. I lightly touched the bruises against her skin, and she didn’t seem to react at all. For a while we sat and listened to the sound of the water. I wasn’t sure how to communicate with her. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to, but the silence was too much to bare after some time. “I was going to run to the grocery store for you tomorrow, Ma. You want to get me your food card?”
She closed her eyes and clapped her hands together. “Shoot! Oh shit. I must’ve left it at my friend’s apartment the other night. She lives right down the street from me. I can go get it,” she said, trying to stand up, but I stopped her.