A Thursday Evening
A Story About a Mother,
a Son, and a Monkey
6, 20 ... The circle goes round and round ...
He is 6, hunched in a thin coat, walking into the December wind with his head hung and his hands in his pockets, his mittens lost.
He is 20, hunched in a thin coat. He is taking small steps to stay steady on the December ice. I am trying to offer him help, but he runs across the street to avoid me. Then he walks. He looks back and sees I am still there so he runs again. Walks. Runs. He has his hands in his pockets because he lost his gloves.
The 6-year-old is lost, trying to find home. The 20-year-old is lost, running away from it.
I, the mom, am outside and terrified. Where will he sleep tonight? Where is he now?
My 6-year-old is outside and needs me -- how can I help him find me? My 20-year-old is outside and needs me -- how can I help hin find me when I am the one he thinks he needs to run away from? I can help the 6-year-old. I cannot help the 20-year-old. How the hell can that be true?
The young man over there on the west side of the street, the one hunched against the December wind, is both. 6 and 20. 20 and 6. The thoughts of both of him circle in his mind. "Give me a bowl of cereal. " "Give me a hit." "I am sick and need a doctor. It's a horrible flu and Mom please help me feel better." "It's withdrawal and Mom please help me feel better." "No, Mom -- get the fuck away."
20-year-old son, you are killing yourself. You might not want to live, but your 6-year-old self does. Help him find me. Help him make it home. I will wrap both of you in my arms and I will whisper a truth and a lie. "I love you. You are safe now."
I'm willing to trade something for your safety. See my arm? The one I am using to write this down? I will cut it off and give it to you. Yes -- right her, right now. There is a good sharp knife in the kitchen. Don't get up; I will get it.
If I could ... if only cutting it off and showing you the blood would prove to you how sorry I am for what I must have done or left undone. If only the gods would accept a trade -- my arm for you. But my arm is probably too small a sacrifice...
What if I give them my life? I will, you know. I will go out right now in the dark cold, and I will scream to them to take me, not you. Take the evil monkey off your back and put it on mine. I will carry it for you. I will not try to fight it. I will let it win so that its death-hunger is sated.
Jump, monkey. Jump from him to me. I will play your game.
Just let him go. Please.
7/18/1992 - 2/2/2021