The Lost

I.
My mother died in the early mornings of my twenty-seventh birthday.
My dad called me, early in the day, as I was barely awake and my eyes still squinting with the desires to fall back under the spells of the sand man once again.
I had been awake till nearly an hour before the call with my friends and my girlfriend, celebrating in bars nearby as we hopped from one to the next, celebrating my existence and the hours in which I arrived to this world in the first place.
And in those hours, I never thought about celebrating the one who brought me out here in the first place.
“Your mom is dead.” Was the simple greeting he gave me when I first answered the phone, mumbling and grumpy at having been awoken so close after passing out with sleep.
I wasn’t surprised when he said that, but just sort of stood by in silence, awaiting his following words.
Mom had always been kind of crazy, chemical imbalance driving her to feel crazy weird things.
“They found her this morning in a hotel room. She had shot herself.” Dad said, his voice sort of wavering as he tried to squeeze his voice through.
I was still quiet, awaiting the following words.
But they never came.
When people hear about their mothers dying, they usually respond by either being depressingly sad, or being angrily in rage. I did neither. I just sort of waited as if I was awaiting an order at a restaurant, sort of anxious but not really in a hurry, detached to the moment after a few minutes or so.
The funeral would be held next Sunday, and I would still feel the same.
That little ball of sadness held somewhere waiting to explode.
My earliest memories of my mother was that of her writing in her little black notebook, writing down her little sorrows and pains in little sentences and phrases that she called poems.
They were the lyrics to her early demise.
My dad would keep ignoring her signs of depression, as if by doing so it would go away. He would go to work and come back and pretend that everything was alright.
She would keep her little notebook at the night stand next to their bed, on dad’s side, out in plain sight. I don’t know if dad ever read any of her poems or talked to her about it, but the notebook always remained in the same spot whenever I saw it, awaiting for attention, awaiting for a response.
Everything was normal till one morning, when mom finally decided to stick her head inside the oven, with the gas turned on high and unlit.
They say that mental illness was genetic, they say that depression is related to the things you ate.
They say things without ever having to experience them at all.
Everything is just a theory until you felt it happen to yourself, until you were exposed to it first hand.
At the hospital, dad said that he didn’t know, that he didn’t realize what was going on.
And in my heart, I believe that he still felt like that to this day.
At the hospital, me and mom did little paintings with crayons together.
Yellow suns mixed with blue skies and neon green grass.
The smiles that weren’t there in real life.
* * * * *
I drove back the same morning my dad called me about her death, and rode a bit with the windows down, despite the winter cold rushing and lowering the temperature inside the car.
Even with my breath now visible from the cold, I could not feel it. Everything felt a bit numb and unfeeling, as if my senses had been lost for a bit.
Dad told me that the funeral was set that weekend, just a few days from today. I told him that I would be back to help him with the preparations and he replied in his same low tone, soft voice. “Thanks, I’d appreciate it.”
Even though I’ve been his son for twenty-seven years now, he still spoke to me as if I was a guest in his hotel, with the same professional courtesy as any stranger he saw on the streets.
I wondered if it was this same courtesy that drove my mom insane.
“Are you okay, dad?” I had asked for some reason, I didn’t remember why.
“Yes, I am, thank you.” He had replied, in his monotonous tone. “But don’t worry about me, how are you feeling?”
I told him that I was fine, even though I was unsure of it myself.
“Good, good, just take care of yourself, alright? And if you need anything at all, just let me know, okay? I’m always here to help you.”
It felt as if he’d memorized the courtesy at his job and transferred it to fill in what he lacked as a feeling human being.
All I could do was let go, there was nothing else I could do, really.
After my mom’s first suicide attempt, the doctor had prescribed doses and doses of white and pink pills to keep her calm, blue and yellow ones to match the feelings of the day, the half-filled pill bottles piling up and up in the restroom cabinet.
It always took me a few minutes to find aspirin through those seas of bottles, searching each one of them for a label that did not contain my mom’s name.
My mom was born in Taiwan, and brought back here to the United States when she married my dad overseas, who was a navy seals at the time stationed in the US base in Japan. She was a betel nut seller at the time, selling cigarettes and betel nuts on the street, encased in her little glass cage for all to see, attracting the loneliness of the others in the hopes to sell them a bit of comfort in the world.
Dad first saw her when he went to Taiwan for a little weekend vacation, since the island was so near the Japanese base he was stationed at.
She must have looked like a pretty caged bird looking for a savior to rescue her out of her encasement.
Dad came back more and more just to talk to her, to be with her, to know her more than what her surface showed.
And through it all, they were married as he was returning to the United States.
And through it all, I was conceived.
I’ve never truly heard anything about their meeting from my mom’s side, whose prose and lyrics showed more of her mind than anything else she ever said.
Her poems were her puzzles to her heart.