Things in my life were coming to a boil. I had a dead end job with no clear direction in sight. I was drinking a lot to numb the harsh reality that I was finally at a loss and I was chest deep in depression. I knew I was at a turning point in my life but didn’t know which way to go. I could stay on a self destructive path or beat the odds and become something. I just didn’t know how to do it.
With every step, I watched my breath as it exhaled from chapped lips while I made my way up the half snow covered concrete stairs and to the weathered screen door that lead in to her apartment building. At the top of the porch, I looked over my shoulder for the third time just to make sure her beat up blue car was still parked on the street, as if somehow she could slip out and away without my noticing and be gone again.
I pulled the screen door open and turned the knob on the freshly painted wooden interior door. The hallway was dimly lit and musty, reminding me immediately of our basement on Normandy Road where I grew up. The old woman that lived on the first floor opened her door to see what the noise was and shut it again quickly, sheltering herself from the interruption in her day. I made my way up the creaky wooden stairs and stood in front of her apartment, watching for a moment the playful shadows from under the door that were cast by the lamps inside.
I took another breath and knocked quickly on the center of the door with my knuckles, which immediately started to sting from the cold.
I watched as the shadows from under the door stop moving.
My heart began to sink a little at the thought of missing her again and then out of nowhere, the door swung open.
She immediately smiled a big smile which comforted me and all was suddenly okay.
“Hi Davey!”, my mother said, letting the door to finish swinging open on its own as she walked straight back down the dark hallway in front of me and past three rooms to the bathroom where the light was coming from.
I had never seen her look more beautiful. The soft glow of the lighting behind her made her look soft and young. Her eyes bright, full of life and reminiscent of someone in their mid-twenties. Her hair was full with bouncy locks styled like those in old yearbook pictures of people you see in the boxes your parents keep in the attic. When she smiled, I felt warm and calm. Safe.
The left side of the hall inside her apartment was long with wood paneling that held odd picture frames at no consistent height. I couldn’t get a glimpse of what was in the frames from where I was standing but my mind placed images of my grandmother and grandfather sitting on a swing in one, my aunt Edna at some holiday pulling a dish out of the oven in another and one of us kids toward the end of the wall. The other frames my mind let be empty, perhaps to be filled at another time and on another day.
I remained in the doorway, not wanting to make one more step as if that would disturb the perfect universal alignment that put had us in the same place up to this point.
She stood in front of a mirror at the bathroom sink and continued to put on her make up as she called back to me, “How have you been?”.
“Good.”, I called back. A general answer that lacked substance.
“Thats good.”, she shot back in a caring tone as she unwound a tube of bright red lipstick.
I had been waiting for this opportunity for such a long time and now it felt like I had nothing to say. I sheepishly looked at the floor as I grasped for what to offer her next.
Suddenly she was in front of me again with her smile, “I’ve really missed you, sweetie.”
“I’ve missed you too!”, I said as she floated back down the hallway and continued applying her lipstick in the bathroom mirror.
In the background my ears picked up a record player, perhaps from the parlor, that was crackling out a tune from the 50’s.
“I’ve been having a tough time lately.”, I said now trying to talk over the new music, “Things are just really confusing.”
“I’m listening.”, she said in a way that someone does when they are one quarter listening and three quarters focused on something else.
“I just don’t know what I’m doing or if I’m headed in the right direction.”
“Uh huuuuh”, she hummed back. Her intonation encouraged more information.
I grasped again, “I mean, what am I doing? Where am I going? Everything is moving so fast and Im scared.”
“What do you think you should be doing?”
What was this? I didn’t come here for mind games or self-analyzation. I wanted some encouragement, some guidance and an answer. I was getting frustrated.
I stared at the floor.
“I just know that you’ll know. I’m sad and nothings working. I’m not supposed to be in this place, I am supposed to be something more and I can’t get there. I just want you to help me. What do I do?”. I blurted it all out as if the sentences were one word.
I sighed, letting out the last of my hope in a cool breath and began to feel my throat closing up a bit as I half-way fought back some tears that I didn’t want to come.
I felt her presence in front of me again and I looked up to see a radiant twenty something, with a glow somehow coming from nowhere. The words flowed easily out of her mouth, over her lips and past her red lipstick, entangling seamlessly with her signature perfume which engulfed me in an embrace of serenity.
“You, are doing everything right. You, are exactly where you need to be and you are perfect just the way you are. Keep doing what your doing and you are going to be just fine.”
I couldn’t stop staring at her as the tears eventually started to flow down my still cold cheeks.
“And I love you,” she said, “but I have to get going.”.
Her eyes never left mine and her angelic smile never faded as she gently closed the door, becoming one again with the faint music and dancing shadows on the floor.
Feeling warm and loved and full of purpose, I turned to start down the stairs as everything in my peripheral view started going black. The only light I could see was coming from the door I came in at the foot of the stairs. As the darkness surrounded me, the light from the window in the door got brighter and brighter.
As I lay in my bed and squint away from the daylight that is rapidly filling my room, I try and survey where I am. As I become fully awake, I recount the events of the dream I had just had. My dead mother in an environment that I have never seen before. So vivid that I can still to this day smell her perfume and hear that crackling record player.
I feel at peace. I feel alive and I feel I have purpose. My surroundings seem to have an enhanced dimension to them and I suddenly am energetic. I get up from bed and head to the kitchen to grab some coffee. I toss a spoon in the sink which clanks loudly as I make my way to the couch.
I fall in to the sofa and look toward the window in the sun room to gauge what time it is from any activity going on outside and my attention is immediately drawn to the bookcase against the wall that holds my nicknacks and photos. On the bottom shelf, the sun illuminates my mothers graduation photo. Her hair is full and styled to the latest trend. Her eyes are bright and full of life. She is smiling through bright red lipstick.
That smile that says “I just pulled one over on you.”