by Lee Di Cintio
"I was just looking at a picture; an old picture of you that I found in the closet. Remember this? No, of course not. You were much too young. For me, though, the memory’s still fresh. How about this one? Yeah, the Radio Flyer wagon, out in the backyard. It was your birthday... third or fourth. Fifth? I stand corrected. That was the day you got sand in your eye and had to go to the doctor. Probably something you’d rather forget, huh? No? Hmm, I guess you’re right. Better to see the past as it happened. No rose-colored glasses on your face. Your childhood wasn’t bad, though. I think it was a pretty happy one. At least, it was the best that a couple of silly, well-intentioned parents could provide.
"Strange... somehow, these photos almost seem more real than what’s happening right now.
"Wait, don’t go back to your room yet. I want to talk to you. Sit down. You were out again last night. Mm-hmm, you were. Don’t bother denying it. You slipped out while I was napping. I’m not even going to ask what you did. I can guess. No, I’m not going to lock you away. I’m not a warden, I’m your mother. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good.
"I can’t protect you anymore; not from the world, not from yourself. And I can’t solve your problems, either. God, I wish I could. I’ve been trained... I’ve been trained for decades to take care of you. It’s been my function.
“At first, it was scary. You know, really overwhelming. The moment we took you home from the hospital, suddenly all the books and the counseling meant nothing. It wasn’t theory any more. Imagine: all of a sudden, a little life is depending on you, and you barely know how to take care of it. But... I learned. Little by little, I figured you out.
"Things got easier in the years to come. Easier for me, anyhow. Growing up isn’t a picnic, but at least I’d been there before. Most of your tragedies were repeats for Mom. When you had problems at school, or you broke a toy, or got into a fight with Billy down the street, I could always help. Even when you were sick or hurt, I kept it under control.
“What happened? I feel like a new parent again. Or maybe not even that. I’m powerless. I wish I could give you a kiss and a band-aid and make it all better. But you’re a grown man now, and your problems are... complicated.
"We made a mistake, all of us did; thinking you could live here after the change. This is not a life. You’re wasting away. You sleep most of the day, shuffle out to the fridge, then back to your room. You hardly ever talk to me anymore. Do you even talk to your friends online? Hmm? I’m going to take that as a no.
“And your paintings... it’s been, what, eight months since you touched a canvas? I never nagged, because I know it’s pointless to try and create when you don‘t feel like it. But that was your only outlet. Nothing seems to interest you now... well, except for one thing.
“Tell me, is it your only pleasure? Sorry, you don’t have to answer that. Sometimes I get scared — you almost seem to have lost your soul. But when I realize it’s still there, I only feel worse. Look at me. Oh, your eyes are so sunken.
"I've kept you here too long. Once, I thought I wouldn’t be able to part with you, now I realize the alternative is even less bearable. You’re carrying a burden that no one deserves. Excuse me... oh... damn. Just give me a second. I can’t help it...
"Maybe I can solve one of your problems after all. I think there’s a way... but I need your cooperation. We have to make the decision together. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I think it’s been in the back of our minds since the trouble started. I never wanted to acknowledge the truth. But we can’t hide from it anymore!
"You’re a wonderful person: caring, sensitive, intelligent. You’ve always been responsible... You never wanted to hurt anybody. That’s what makes your condition so much harder. It‘s forcing you to do things you must despise.
"You always wanted to please your father and me. More than that, you wanted to change the world. You had big dreams. I think some of my dreams inadvertently became yours. Maybe it wasn’t fair to pass them along like that. I don’t know if my dreams were realistic. I never had it in mind to mold you into my own image. But I guess, in some ways, that’s unavoidable.
"Kids. They do everything for Mommy and Daddy. I know your first good deeds were just for our approval. Then you saw the world, and saw the problems other people had, and you wanted to fix them. Not because I told you to. Because it’s your nature. You tried your best.
"Sometimes things don't work out they way they should... or the way we'd like them to. But you’re not a failure. Honey, please don’t ever think it. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the things you would have done if you had the power. And now I see you trying so hard to do the impossible. To hang on.
"There’s no cure for this disease. It will only get worse. And you’ll succumb to your urges, over and over, just like last night.
"Yes, I know you're ashamed. I couldn't be angry with you, though. Why should I be? That would be like holding Grandpa responsible for his Alzheimer's. You’ll never need to redeem yourself to me... or to your father... or anyone who thinks you’re a killer, no matter what they say.
"But... there is one thing you have to do. Under the bookshelf, you know the place. Here’s the key I’ve been holding on to. Just... just pull out the chest. Turn it slowly, don’t want the lock to jam. Okay. Tonight, we take responsibility.
"Give me the stake. That's right.
"It sounds horrible, but I think this is the greatest service we can do for the world. Yes, we’re going to save lives.
"Don’t mind my tears. I’m very proud of you. Your father would be, too. You’ll always be my son... my perfect, only son. I love you."
Copyright © 2011 by Lee Di Cintio