Looking back, I think I knew she wasn’t going to wake up that night. Maybe I thought she wouldn’t wake up ever.
CHAPTER 1: ENDLESS SLEEP
It seemed to me that the fact that movies and stories make it appear as if sad things can only and will only occur during rain and thunder was just stupid. The weather has no affect on the events, right? But I was wrong. On Tuesday, April 18th, I began to realize this apparently idiotic movie ploy might have an inkling of truth buried in it.
That day, the kids had teased me again, but to be totally honest, I didn’t mind it then and I don’t mind it now. It had begun to rain when I was halfway down 17th street. I had immediately removed my shoes and socks, and stuffed them into my bag, which was already overflowing with scraps of paper and books. Most of the books had been for free time reading, and are currently lying in a heap in my room at Dad's, where they will remain unread until I decide to forget that awful, horrible, tragic day.
I ran all the way to our apartment, but went the long way and danced and twirled as my un-zippered jacked flapped uselessly behind me. My lungs burned white-hot, but my body was freezing, a feeling I still to this day enjoy. By the time I had reached the alleyway behind the crumbling yet comforting building, I was soaked through, and I loved it. I decided to go around back so Martin would have no excuse to yell at me in that foul, ill-tempered way that made the skin underneath his chin jiggle. I had started towards the rusted door when I saw her. Of course, it hadn't been her. She had been inside, where she alway waited for me to get home. But I had felt on that day as protective of her as she always insisted upon being with me.
I grasped the icy handle and slipped inside, the warmth of the building suffocating rather than comforting me. To this day, I prefer being cold, because it clears the mind, and warmth clouds it, like the foul demon that lures you into the endless sleep that tried to take my mother that day. I climbed the steps; the sudden noise of my feet on the stairs was like a rock sliding under the water, breaking the calm.
I remember how the climb up the stairs that day had seemed especially long. But mostly, I remember how the apartment smelled when I finally reached the top and slid the key into the lock, turning it noisily. I remember the smell, and how the instant it hit my nose I knew that I wasn’t to expect the warm, gentle mother I came to expect most days, but that I was going to get the harsh, drunken version, when she had been smoking and on drugs.
Resignedly, I called, “MOM! I'm home from school!” only then I hadn't known that I would never get an answer. I dumped my soaking bag unceremoniously in the hall, and it hit the floor with a wet thump, splattering mud on the tiles. When she didn't respond, I had frowned; a face Andrew tells me makes me look somehow more mysterious.
The trip I had then taken to her room revealed only that she had passed out on the bed, and that she smelt of sadness. But at that time, sadness wasn't uncommon. I don't remember how long I stood there, but I know that when I finally awoke from my thoughts, I showered and got into my softest pajamas. I settled down to do my homework, but I hadn't been trying hard, so when the time had come to make dinner, I had only made the smallest of dents.
Simply because I had been tired and hadn't been up to making anything more complicated, I made tomato soup. Mom always used to make my soup with milk rather than water, so that was how I made it too. I poured the soup into mugs, because we always liked to drink it rather than eat it. I remember sipping from my mug, and I remember how the warmth burned the roof of my mouth. The heat of it brought tears to my eyes, which were every bit as salty as the soup. I walked to her room, and knocked on the door, the sound echoing through the apartment. She hadn’t answered though, so I entered with the intention of waking her up.
“Mom!” I had said. “Wake up, I made dinner!” and I set the mugs down on her bedside table. With my freed hands, I had shaken her shoulder softly. She didn't wake though, which had surprised me, for she always woke instantly as if her dreams were frail and easy to shatter.
“Mom!” I had raised my voice, and I shook her more vigorously. “MOM!” I think it was on the third time that I finally began to realize, but I still shook her.
On the fifth try I had begun to cry, and on the sixth the calm part of me told the hysterical part: *She is fine. She will wake in the morning, I promise. She will wake. That was the first time I ever lied to myself.
I remember pulling the covers on the bed over her, and then gingerly lying down next to her. Mom. I kept thinking to myself, as if my mere thoughts might wake her. But I had known she wasn't gone, for I felt her breath next to me, soft, shallow, and hardly discernible from my own, yet still breathing. I had drunk the rest of my soup, but left hers, telling myself she would drink it when she woke. Now, looking back, I realize how stupid it was of me to have thought that she would wake up.
I don't even remember falling asleep that night, but I must have, for in the morning when I woke I looked quickly over at her, hoping, wishing that she might have risen. I remember shaking her again, pleading, “Mom, it's the morning, and you missed dinner but it's okay, I will make you more if you please wake up, please momma. Please,” But she didn't heed me. I remember sitting in bed with her all morning, watching the clock. I didn't get ready for school. My mom was more important, I told myself. When the clock had ticked from 8:29 to 8:30, I knew the bell had rung, and I was late. I guess to me that had been a signal: The rest of the world has continued without us. I remember standing up and padding to the kitchen, and grabbing the wireless phone. I remember how icy cold it had felt, as opposed to the warmth and comfort of the bed in Mom's room. For once I simply craved the innocent warmth from my mother's inert body. I walked back in and sat on the edge of the bed. I dialed 9-1-1 and hit the 'call' button.
“This is 9-1-1 what is your emergency?” a rough male voice had said.
“I-” I had to clear my throat from lack of use. “My mom was passed out last night when I got home from school. I thought she would wake up, like she always does, but she hasn't. She is still breathing. Please come,” I had said all that with a flat voice, refusing the awful feeling in my throat that warned of tears.
“What is your location?” he asked, his voice softer now.
“913 Alvarado,” I whisper. “Fourth floor, number 413. My name is Sierra Banks.”
“Paramedics are on their way, ok?”
“Ok,” I recall how loud the click was when he hung up, and I felt the cold, empty silence press down and around me until I couldn't stand it anymore. I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, except the police officers who sounded way too casual. My mom's life might be on the line, and all they do is talk in monotone. Like they don’t care about all those lives. I knew then that I was being unfair, and that they were simply used to losing lives, but...
I looked up at the soup mugs on the table and next to them...her cell. The last person she talked to. I scooped it up, went to last calls, and hit redial.
Ring...Ring...Ring... “Hello, Clemens residence.”
“Dad.” The pain of hearing his voice then was the same as when I hear it every day now. Regret had instatly clouded my heart with the cold wall I built four years ago. Tears began to pour down my cheeks, but I can't recall now if they were hot and scalding, or cold.
“Sierra?” his voice too had become thick, and I hated him for crying. He left us.
“Yes,” I had been unable to force any other meaningless words at him. I hadn't seen him in four years, when we visited him, his beautiful new wife, and worst of all, his new baby girl. He replaced me! My throat burns to think of it. I hadn't thought of Lila, my step sister, and my replacement since she was born. Fury built up inside me. Why did mom call them last? Why does she still hold his number in her phone even after he left? And most importantly, what did they talk about? I still haven't forgotten these questions, but I most certainly haven't got any answers.
“Dad, mom is in trouble. She hasn't woken up since yesterday. I thought she would wake up but she hasn't. The ambulance is on its way,” Instantaneously, I hated myself for telling him, pouring out how scared I was. He didn't deserve to know, to pretend to feel sorry.
“Oh Sierra. Oh my beautiful daug-” he began, but I had already ended the call. How dare he call me beautiful? He hadn't seen me in so many years. He didn't deserve to pretend he care. Maybe I loved him once, but not anymore. I didn’t, and still don’t, want his sympathy, his false words, dripping in I-told-you-so. But most importantly, I didn’t want him to hear me cry.
Now I find myself having to live with him, and have to be constantly aware of him walking in on me. Like the other day when he walked into my room to see how I was doing with homework and found me rocking and bawling on the bed. Gasps had escaped from me in rapid succession; my sobs had shaken the bed so that it creaked softly. My lips curled apart from my teeth as I convulsed. I sniffed loudly and, gradually, my sobs had died down. Eventually too, my ears had regained their sense, and their voices had drifted to me from outside my bubble of silence.
Most days I had control enough to save my tears for the night or not cry at all. A week ago my English teacher had made us write letters to our parents. I had asked if I could write mine to someone else, because I was still furious at my dad, and mom left me. I know that she was in a coma, and she can't help it now, but I remember all the times that I was strong through her rampages. It didn't matter anyways, because Mr. Steiner blatantly refused. I decided to write it to mom, since I refused those days to even to acknowledge that I had a father.
And to this day I remember every word, for I read that letter a hundred times that day, until I had it committed to memory, so that I could have it with me, where ever I might be.
The ambulance arrived about five minutes after I hung up on Richard. The memory of crying, and rocking endlessly in pitch blackness made me refuse even to call him my father. What I kind of father, I asked myself, leaves his daughter crying, without comforting her, when the only person who ever loved her, is a million miles away? 'Mine,' I had answered myself, bitterly.