The Art of Taking (Off)
My mom once believed that if she could teach me to fly, I would soon sprout wings. She said, “Just leave the nest, and you will see.” Something about the way she uttered those words made me want to trust her and show her my strength. Had I known that my time with her was limited then maybe I could’ve mustered up the courage to find it, but soon she was gone and anything close to strength was like my mom, buried beneath the cold dirt.
She would be disheartened to know that her patient and loving Quinny never did sprout wings but in turn became hostile and nervous Quinn. The Quinn that doesn’t know how to connect with anyone but herself and picks at her already chipped black nail polish and finds solace in the beds of strangers. I hate this Quinn. And though my mom always said she could never hate me, I think she does too.
As I snap back to my foggy reality, I feel cold tile against my pale skin. I’m Indian style, shoulders propped up on the toilet seat, vomiting all the guilt that made its way through my body last night. There’s a sharpie-smudged phone number written on my forearm and an empty fifth of Smirnoff beside me. The smell of stale alcohol radiates throughout the room but I’m too hung-over (or maybe drunk) to care. There’s a voice:
“Still going at it?”
A nameless someone is standing in the doorway. I can hear him yawn while he waits for my answer but I ignore his stupid question and keep my eyes glued to the inside of the toilet.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Walking back to my dorm, I’m feeling shameful but I can’t help but harbor a hint of pride as well. Nameless was in my history class and he was on my roster. The roster that consisted of ten guys I would hook up with in a heartbeat; though most of them were unrealistic. I guess that make’s nine now. I can hear my mom’s disappointment from here, but does it matter? I must pack my things, untangle my hair, and rid this hangover before seeing father.
Though I attend a local college, I haven’t seen father since I left months ago. He’s distant and he’s been rather cruel ever since I can remember. When my mom died, we moved into a tiny shack-like complex knowing that it was only going to be the two of us and that the decision for me to live on campus was a sure one. It got messy after the funeral. Pans were always left on the stove and newspapers on the floor. We had lessened our furniture to only a couch and a coffee table but still we always had to watch our step. Neither of us ever had the strength to clean. It would only get messy again anyway.
I pull into the driveway and I can smell the cat piss from here. Father never hesitates to leave a bowl of cat food out on the porch for all the local strays to enjoy. A quality like that is what my mom would say “won her heart” but I can’t look past the smell. It’s like rotten potatoes mixed with skunk vomit and it reminds me that she is breathless.
It’s the weekend, which means that he should be here but the only car in the rocky driveway is mine. Stepping onto the porch, I notice that the bowl of cat food is completely empty and the lawn looks like it hasn’t been mowed since I left. Maybe I should’ve told him I was coming, but my family was never the kind to plan things. Surprises were more our forte. Almost everything that has ever plagued has us been a surprise. Good or bad, though most commonly bad. For example, after practically ripping the door off the hinges in order to get inside, I am very surprised to see that everything has vanished; the couch, the coffee table, the sole lampstand. The only thing that remains is the litter that covers our gray carpet. I quietly shut the door behind me and slowly walk through the house, peeking my head around every corner. The urge to shout something like, “hello?” or “father?” pulses through me but I resist. I know nobody is going to answer because on the kitchen counter, written on a dirty piece of mail that has never been opened, read the words I’ve left, Quentin. I’m sorry.
I try to find some kind of disappointment in my bones. Even after calling father only to find out his phone has been disconnected left me feeling nothing but the urge to be gone like everything else. My mom told me to leave the nest and instead my father listened. Fastening my seat belt, the thought of the closest thing I now have to a home makes my stomach hurt: a suffocating dorm room with a leaky ceiling, my suitcases that are still hardly unpacked, and a sucky roommate whose favorite topic of conversation is when she’ll get to see her boyfriend again. If I said I only attend school to become an educated young woman I would be lying. I came to get away, thought I never did get that far.
I’m stopped at a red light with the feeling of abandonment trying to swallow me whole. This is the part where my mom would comb my hair and tell me to be strong but all I can feel is a tangled mess of knots despite the numbness. I almost taste the vomit from earlier this morning making its way back up. Honk honk. There’s an angry car behind me. Had the light turned green? I didn’t notice. I just keep sitting and the man makes his way around my car, followed by many others and several middle fingers.
There’s music coming from the form room down the hall when I enter. This was a normal occurrence, especially on a Saturday. But on this particular and somewhat draining Saturday a boy invites me to join the fun. When I walk through the door I’m greeted with faded “wassups?” and spot a plethora of pills and other substances I’ve never seen before all laid sporadically on the desk that’s identical to mine. Among the drugs were empty pill bottles, rolled up dollar bills, and a sweet tarts candy wrapper. I sit down, filling in the only available spot on the bed and watch as the boy approaches me.
“Try this,” he says, as he opens up his hand to reveal a single white pill. “It makes you feel like you’re flying far away. Trust me.” I can feel my eyes start to widen and my smile start to surface beneath the nerves pulsating through my skin. “You’ll be so gone.” And I reach out my hand. I believe him.