I’m not sure how I did it, but I managed to hail a cab and make it home. Falling back into old habits, I sunk down into that old, familiar place of numbness and indifference that borders on a coma. Okay, so that’s how I did it. The ride passed fairly quickly, and before I knew it, I was at my house, walking up the steps to my door, keys already poised to turn the deadbolt.
I went straight to the laundry room. By the smell of the bag, I had only vomited. That was bad enough, but this was a small measure of relief. I don’t think I could handle knowing that I had completely lost all inhibitions and had some other sort of accident in front of Tina. My next stop was the trash. My Jimmy Choos were beyond repair. Walking back to the living room, I couldn’t do anything but stand in the middle of the room and stare at my surroundings. The ability to lose it had left but the weight of the need for release was still with me. I stood there for minutes or maybe an eternity, before my surroundings started to register.
My living room; stark white walls with everything in its place, only impeccable art, and the best furnishings money can buy to help it feel lived in. It’s so sterile. It feels like a museum, or maybe more poignantly, an art gallery. Fuck. Is everything in my life centered on my job, a job that doesn’t even hold passion anymore? I’m surrounded by beauty but it’s all just dreary bullshit. I have all my important material possessions, all the things I work so hard to obtain, but not one thing in the room makes me feel anything substantial or soul rending. Even the art has lost its luster.
I feel the anger of my thoughts trying to surface but push it down. ”NO,” I scream as loud as possible, the strength of it so intense that it bounces off the walls, echoing through the stifling silence and shattering it throughout the house. ”I won’t let you do this anymore!” It’s insane, but it works. That part of me that is trying to suppress everything I feel stops. The anger intensifies but that natural instinct to withhold quickly steps up to stop it again.
”No, damnit!” The war raging inside me is so fierce that tears start welling up in my eyes. My real self is trying to surface but I’ve trained myself to swallow all emotion, and now I’m choking on it. My heart is beating in my chest, and I can feel the pressure of my blood flush my skin pink. Given my dark complexion, that truly means something. I start sucking in shallow breaths until my head spins, and focus on the part of me that’s screaming to be let out. The tears still just sit there on the precipice of my lashes but they shake and quiver with the intensity of what I am demanding of myself. My hands join the fight and start to tremble. Again, the part of me that I’ve relied on to control my emotions tries to stop what I am willing to start. ”I said no, damnit!” This cry is far louder and more guttural than the previous, and with it, I snap.
Turning to the first thing in site, an original Laurel Holloman showcased proudly above the mantle. With a cry, I jar it roughly from the wall and slam it down onto a Jodi Lerner sculpture flanking the threshold. It tears through the dark varnished canvas like it’s made of tissue. This just isn’t enough though. I pull it up as hard as I can, to dislodge it from the industrial metal edges of the heavy sculpture, but it doesn’t budge. Letting out a primal scream of frustration, I heave them both into the glass desk on the other side of the room, shredding into the papers and items littering the desk and shattering it into a cascade of brilliant shards and prisms across the hardwood floor.
Stomping through the glass, I grab one of the larger pieces and turn, contemplating the large jagged shard as it tears into the fleshy palm of my hand, blood beading around the edges and seeping between my tight whitening knuckles.
The bright, cheerfully melancholy colors of my favorite Lisa Yuskavage catch my eye, and without another thought, I ram the makeshift dagger into the heart of the woman in the painting, pushing clean through the plaster beneath to gouge a terrific gaping hole in her breast. Leaning into the painting, I release my hold on the glass as anxious tears begin to finally fall, wetting the paint and mingling with it as they streak down the frame.
I cling to the canvas and weep, deep and heaving gasps of pain finally release, the sheer magnitude of it crushing me with wave after wave of limitless grief, memory, and bewildering sadness. Pushing my palms hard against the surface, I slide down to the floor in a boneless heap and let the melancholy take me so violently that I wretch and cough with the force of it before I black out.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Fuck, what…is…that? BANG, BANG, BANG! ”Bette?” Shit…just stop…please… ”Bette? Shit…BETTE?! Are you home?!” Fuck me, just stop yelling. The sound of boots thudding softly on hardwood starts to grow louder as the person approaches slowly and cautiously. There’s the muffled sound of talking. ”Yes, I’d like to report a robbery…or problem…I’m not sure. My friend’s home has been trashed and I can’t find her.” Pause. ”No, I haven’t seen her in a while.” Pause. The footsteps get a little closer and a crunching sound can be heard. Fuck…please just go away…
”BETTE! SHIT! I found her. Bette…Bette…are you ok? Bette…?”
A cool hand touches my cheek and I try to blink my eyes open. ”Yeah, I found her. She’s here. She’s okay, but…”
”Yeah Bette, it’s me, just me. Are you alright? You’re bleeding…” My eyes flutter open and I try to sit up, only managing to get my shoulders off the floor. Those same cool hands lightly grip my arms and gently help me into a slightly sitting position against the wall. I lay my head back and try to focus.
”I don’t know.” Pause. ”Yeah, I guess. Okay, we’re at…”
My head snaps forward and I grab Shane’s forearm. ”No, no, I’m okay. I don’t need anyone to come. Just tell them I’m okay.” I look pleadingly into her blue eyes and instantly recognize the familiar compassion that’s always lingered there.
Meeting my gaze with gentle concern, she purses her lips and nods her head once as she speaks into the cell on her shoulder, ”Actually, she’s okay. It looks like it was just an accident. We don’t need an ambulance. It was all just a misunderstanding.” Pause. ”Okay, yeah, I’m sorry.” Pause. ”Yeah, sure, thanks.”
Shane takes the phone from her shoulder and ends the call, setting it down next to me and putting a hand on my shoulder. I look at her hand and follow it to her face. A worried half grin contorts her lips and she says, ”Hey…” in that comfortingly familiar deep voice.
Offering the best smile I can manage, I can’t help it when the tears form in my eyes, only this time, they don’t hesitate to fall. ”Hey…” It’s garbled but sincere. Once you open the dam, there’s no stopping the flood. I don’t try to stop it, or even hide it. I give into it and cry piteously.
I can tell Shane is a bit shocked and worried by my uncharacteristic outburst but she recovers quickly saying, ”Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, shhh…it’s okay Bette. Whatever it is, it’s okay…” She pulls me to her, tucking her hand around my back and stroking it tenderly. ”Shhh…” I wedge my face into the white cotton collar at the crook of her neck and greedily absorb the comfort. After a while the tears stop, but I just continue to rest in her arms. Eventually, I pull back and catch her eyes again. Smiling a little more genuinely, I notice that I’ve soaked her shirt.
”I’ve ruined your shirt.”
We both laugh a little at this. She looks down at her tear stained shoulder and laughs again. Shaking her head, she looks up at me and says, ”Yeah, well, I’ve had worse random fluids on my clothes before, so…”
We both laugh a little more hysterically at this than is necessary, but it’s helping to relieve the tension, so we both just go with it. Finally she nods her head at my hands and says, ”Come on. Let’s get that looked at.” Standing up, she offers me her hands and I start to pull myself up. It isn’t an easy task.
”Fuck! My feet…” We both look down to see my feet bloodied, even a few bits of glass still embedded. Shane looks at me and the worry in her eyes is almost palpable. Wrapping a hand around my waist and settling my arm around her shoulders, she helps me hobble the few feet out of the glass and to one of the high back upholstered chairs in the living room. I plop down unceremoniously and let out a relieved groan.
She walks away for a moment but is back quickly with the first aid kit from under the kitchen sink and her cell phone. ”Bette, we need to either call an ambulance or take you to the hospital. I think you need stitches.”
”I don’t want to go to a hospital Shane. Look, just help me get the glass out and we’ll see if I really need to go. It’s the glass stuck in there that’s killing me.”
Resigned, she nods her head and kneels down in front of me. Looking at me with sad eyes, she opens the first aid kit. ”Bette, what happened? I heard screaming and shouting. When I came in, you were passed out cold and bleeding. And, as you can see, your home is trashed.”
Taking in and letting out a deep breath, I realize that I have no idea how to answer that question. It just had to happen, it needed to happen. How can I possibly explain this to her without her, or anyone else for that matter, believing I need to be institutionalized? My internal monologue goes on so long that Shane finally asks, ”Does this have anything to do with seeing Tina last night?”
I’m stunned, and quite sure it shows on my face, because she quickly looks down and picks up my foot. ”I’m sorry, that’s really none of my business. I’ve just never seen you like this. You did all this…” She waves her hand towards the magnificent mess. ”Right?”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. ”Yes, you heard me shouting and I destroyed the house. It’s…hard to explain Shane.” At this she gives me her full attention, urging me to continue with her eyes.
Letting out another breath, it comes out jumbled, but not entirely unintelligible. ”I just needed…to let go…lose control, let it all out. In all the time you’ve known me Shane, how often have I let my emotions get the best of me…or even play a greater role in my life…my goals?” After a slight pause and wince at her probing a particularly painful area, I continue through gritted teeth. ”I just never let any of it out.” Inhaling sharply, I hear a mumbled ’sorry’ before again pressing forward. ”I saw Tina” She looks up at me with this and I can see the question in her eyes. ”We had words…she’s…she’s so…different Shane…”
Shane blows out a breath and says, ”I know…” in a defeated tone of voice.
”When I saw her like that…it just made everything too real…too much. It took everything I had not to completely lose it right there on the spot, so I decided that enough was enough. I needed to grieve the loss of my son, the guilt of what I’ve done and who I’ve become, the loss of Tina, and the guilt of what she has now become…”
I close my eyes and feel the prickling of new tears start to gather. Nope, I won’t fight them. Somehow, the weakness of letting them fall, especially in front of Shane, makes me feel stronger. Shaking my head and looking back down at her, I simply say, ”You know?”
Her smile is relieved and unfailingly compassionate. ”Yeah, I know.”
Looking down at my foot again, she admits defeat. Patting me on the knee, she says, ”Bette, I’m a hairdresser. If you want to walk again, I suggest we get you to the ER. I’ll take you and stay with you. I’ll even come back and help you clean up. Come on. You’re not alone.”
She has no idea just how much I needed to hear that. She picks up her phone and stands, tucking it into her pocket. Smiling wearily and gratefully, I put up my arm and grab on to her shoulder. She helps me out the door and down the steps. ”Wait here. I’ll go get the jeep and come back for you.”
Making sure I’m relatively steady, she takes off at a jog and disappears around the shrubs by the driveway. As terrible, and tired, and raw as I feel, for the first time in a long time, I feel alive, truly alive, and satisfyingly empty. I had lived the last year like Atlas, with the weight of the world on my shoulders. But somehow, now I’m light. It’s not perfect, far from it, but it’s a start. I’m not alone and I’m going to resurrect the real me out of this mockery of my former self I have become. For the first time in a long while, I have hope.