They say love is the most powerful motivator.
They are wrong.
“I’m never trusting you again.”
I was almost nine and my mother had just begun to lose her mind. She would go on to be forcibly committed 6 more times, but this was the beginning of her first full mental collapse. Looking back, I wasn’t nearly as afraid as I should have been. I do that a lot. Instead, sensing something was horribly wrong with her already marginal decision making process, I chose to take advantage of the situation. I wanted to swim. She had promised to take me and her newfound belief that her address book was possessed by demons was irrelevant.
“I’m never trusting you again.”
I knew that would get to her. To her, there was no sin greater than the lie. Her level of commitment to both the truth and her word were unparalleled; even the smallest of mistruths resulted in the belt. Other, lesser sins could be remedied with the spoon or virtually any other hard, handheld item, but the lie was special. Seven swats, double-jeopardy. Pants down. Over the edge of the bed. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
Two years earlier, we were traveling from Alaska to Washington State via the freshly thawed Alaska Canada Highway. April was horrendous for potholes which explained the bumper stickers being peddled in every gas station and truck stop diner, ‘I survived the ALCAN’. It’s funny, the things that stick with you.
She was already furious with me for ruining the love of her life by forcing her to save me from him and move back home to Washington. Don’t worry, they got back together. I knew I was on pretty thin ice and was trying to find some common ground as I settled in for the 5 day drive. When she cursed at a fellow driver, I saw an opportunity and decided to echo her sentiments under my breath. I figured if we were both mad at someone else, she would forget how much she hated me.
I was wrong. Immediately, I knew. She had a look. A kind of side eye roll; subtle, but dripping with contempt. At first, I told her she misheard me. Terrible move when dealing with a schizophrenic in crisis; especially when they actually heard what they thought they heard. I argued for a moment and then quietly accepted my fate. I tried to convince myself it was worth it. I mean, I had gotten to say “ass” out loud, but I knew once we got to the motel, the only ass that mattered would be mine. She was actually quite pleasant the rest of the day; likely because she knew she had seven shots at redemption coming to her.
I had fallen asleep in the car and woke to her panicked screams as she pounded on the rain soaked window and kicked the shit out of the Pinto.
“Unlock the door!”
“Open the door!”
Groggy and confused, I fumbled with the lock and eventually released the drivers side door handle. She had closed and locked the door with her left thumb still inside the vehicle. There wasn’t much blood, but her hand was crushed.
As I carried what I could into the dingy motel room, I wondered if maybe I had dodged a bullet. Maybe she would spare me just this once on account of her injury. After another 30 minutes or so, I could tell she was waiting to see what I was going to do. I could’ve pretended to forget. If I waited for her to bring it up, it would’ve been considered a lie of omission. Then I’d also have to lie about forgetting which would’ve been seven more. I decided to do the right thing and remind her.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
With a broken fucking hand.
Two years later, at a shitty motel in the middle of Oregon, she took me swimming, demons and all.
It’s fine. Aside from my penchant for emotionally unavailable men and my love for all things vodka, I turned out fine.