So, I’ve taken a little break from working on the sequel to The Sity. I’ve actually been working on another project (novel), which is loosely based upon my own life. This new story has been both cathartic and challenging for me as it delves into some personal subject matter. Below is the prologue if you want to check it out to the book that is tentatively going to be titled: The Stars in My Mom’s Sky.
I always loved the stars as a kid.
There was always something magical in that endless expanse. I could let my mind wander. I could see all my dreams just spread out there – sparkling in dots of beauty.
And also, the stars made me feel closer to both my parents; even, yes, even with my dad.
There was that one day when I was jolted out of bed. It wasn’t even Four AM yet and my back was still cramping from having slept on the floor.
*Ok, time for a little detour. My parents believed that sleeping on the floor without a pillow was good for the back. I think my mom had read it somewhere in some Japanese book that that’s how you should sleep. My mom isn’t even Japanese. She’s Chinese, so actually she should be doing the opposite of the Japanese way. Ok, another detour. You can’t see my memories, duh. See my grandmother use to tell hate Japanese people. My grandmother also was scared of black people. It used to bug me a lot, her racism. I’m actually the product of a mixed marriage. Or a mutt as my grandmother would have put it if she couldn’t really say what she was thinking. My mom is Chinese. She was born in Taiwan actually, but she’s not Taiwanese. Straight Mandarin, she has always insisted. And my dad, to the chagrin of my grandmother, is black. So that made me a special little kid that my grandmother had to accept against all of her fears.
Wow, that was quite the detour. Ok, back to the story about the stars.
So I woke up that morning to the rough but tender touch of my dad’s hands on my shoulder. My dad hated all physical contact. So it must have been pretty damn important for him to even tap my shoulder. He had switched on my little transformers nightlight, so I could actually see the excitement in his eyes. “You’re going to miss it. Come on lazy-head.”
Lazy-head. That was more like my dad. I liked to sleep to 8am on the weekends. I was only 11 for crying out loud. That made me lazy. Ugh. Ok, stop with the detours. The readers are going to get frustrated. So anyway, I made myself roll off my sheets (which were laid out on the ground) and I got dressed quickly. It was so early in the morning that my eyes still burned from being so tired. I didn’t bother brushing my teeth, which I didn’t tell my parents, and I headed downstairs.
I could see that my mom had already been up for awhile. This hadn’t just been my crazy dad with some practical joke. My dad loved to play pranks on people. But I will tell you more about that later. It’s actually quite endearing. So my mom is just sitting there on our couch and eating some whole grain cereal called Kashi. She is just as excited as my dad. She runs up to me and hugs me in her warm, loving way. See she is the opposite of my dad. My mom loves to show her affection. It’s not surprising, I mean isn’t that one of the big differences between moms and dads – men and women? So she holds me tight, me the ultimate mommy’s boy – sensitive and into poetry and not sports. She says, “We have something to show you.”
What can she be showing me at fucking 4am in the morning? Sorry for inserting the fucking. That’s not what I was thinking. I didn’t even learn that word until college. Seriously. I didn’t say my first curse word until my twenties. I was quite the sheltered goody two-shoes. So anyway, I was eleven and tired and my parents didn’t believe in giving gifts, not even on birthdays. My dad use to tell me, “Son, birthdays are just one day closer to death. All those other families giving gifts and celebrating, they are just happy their kids are going to die.” So, as an eleven year-old, I knew that I was not getting a gift. So what the fuck, pardon my French again, was I getting?
My mom took my hand and followed my dad, who was already outside. She pointed up to the sky to the darkened expanse. It was blacker than I ever thought black could be. Then I saw it. The first flash of sparkling white came totally unexpectedly. I think I even jumped a little. I saw a giggle on my mom’s face and even I think on my dad’s. I will never know for sure, but I think he actually smiled at me that day. I looked up again and there was another. A dashing streak of the most beautiful flickering light. Then there were more and more of these. The whole black sky was now illuminated by these darts of glowing light.
“Those are shooting stars, honey,” my mom told me very softly, as if her words might disturb the serenity of beauty before us. Oh, that was a great morning. And I was no longer tired. And this was the best gift anyone could have ever given me. It made me so happy to be alive just to see the splendor cast across that once bleak horizon above our house. And I thought about what my dad said. I didn’t need to celebrate birthdays, because I didn’t want any days to pass. I wanted to just be there in the here and now. This made life worth living for.
“There are spirits in each of those stars, son,” my mom told me quietly. “If people are good, they are able to go into the stars — to twinkle brightly forever.” She looked at me intensely. “You will never be in one of those stars.”
Her words had hit me like the worse possible gut punch. I sat across from her in the mental hospital. I held my mom’s hand as tightly as I could. I could hear the woman laughing behind us as we sat in the visitor’s room. I reached down and grabbed the trey from the floor, for I didn’t want any of the workers to notice the mess that my dear mom had caused.
In my nervousness, I dropped the plastic knife against the soiled carpet.
“How could you?” my mom continued as her voice cracked. “I told you I needed pork buns, and hot and sour soup, and I don’t like chicken. You, you, never loved me. I have never felt loved by you. You will never be a star in the sky. Never, you hear me.” I picked up the knife. Those words again – those words were like a stab straight to my heart. “All I wanted was for my son to care for me.”
“I’m here now mom, ain’t I?” I screamed at my mom from across the table. “I left work early. I skipped my own dinner to get this crap for you. I could be home watching TV and instead I’m here. I’m sick of your crazy talk. I want my mom back!” I couldn’t believe those words spilled from my mouth. I shouldn’t have said it. My mom was crying again uncontrollably. And she was angry. She grabbed my arm and twisted.
“You get me out of here. I am not like these people. You need to help me,” her eyes were so desperate as she looked straight into my own. She looked around suspiciously, making sure that no one else could here. “You promised you’d help me kill myself. You promised me. If you want to be a star in the sky, you will get me the rope. Ok, just a ten-foot rope. I will pay for it. I gave that change yesterday. You can have my car, when I die. I told you I’d give it to you didn’t I. Son, if you want to be a star in the sky, you don’t break your promises.”
“I can’t do that, mom,” I replied as calmly as I could. The blood had stopped circulating in my wrists. But, I couldn’t break her touch. My mom, even now, was always so determined. “I’m sorry I lied.”
“Sorry!” my mom yelled. “Sorry, I don’t care if you are sorry. This can’t be happening. You lied to me. He told me you’d betray me.” She had turned now to the other woman. “But I told him I could trust you. You of all my kids would come through for me. Leave me. Leave. I don’t want to see you. I want my Beau.”
“Is everything ok in here?” the nurse said as she stood never to our table sternly. I had been so taken aback by my mom’s outburst I hadn’t noticed her coming in. Why was I so surprised. This had certainly not been the first time my mom had yelled at me and it wouldn’t be the last. The other woman in the corner was still cackling at us, louder. How could I blame her? It all seemed so ridiculous. How had my life gotten to this low point? My parents getting separated. My mom in love with an ex-convict. My mom who had been the rock of my life now in this place – all because of me.
“Yeah, we are fine,” I replied to the nurse. “I was just leaving.” So I left that evening and I didn’t hug my mom. I didn’t visit again for a good week. I wanted her to eat the mental facility’s crappy food.
I was a bad son anyway, and I’d never be a precious star in the sky.
So, I’m sure you have a lot of questions now. I threw a lot at you I know. Who is this “Beau” fellow? Why is my mom in this facility? How is it my fault? Do I have any siblings? Well, you will find out all in good time. I have a lot of time on my hands now – to think and dream – to stare at the stars. And maybe you think I’m a jerk. I was a jerk that day for not being more understanding of my mom. Well, hopefully by the end of this little tale, you won’t think I’m such a jerk.
Over time, I learned to accept myself and to love my mom for who she was – not who I wanted her to be.
My name is Connor Gether.
And this is the story of how I earned my place as a Star in My Mom’s Sky.