Chapter 12, Sunday July 17
It was Sunday, and Liz and I were standing in the back parking lot near the mental health entrance, waiting for Silas and Josie so we could all go in together. Mellie actually had a doctor's order for all of us to visit at the same time, so Liz wouldn't have to bully the nurses every week. I was beginning to think that maybe Dr. B could be all right – some of the time.
Elizabeth had brought chopped fruit to Melanie this morning, and reported that it was well-received. "Maybe Mellie is better," Liz said. "She smiled. The light came back into her face – just for a second, but it was there."
"She sounded way out of it on the phone," I said. I didn't mean to sound skeptical, but there it was.
"Well, she looks better, Jessamine," Liz insisted. "I swear she does."
I would have to see for myself, but part of me suspected it was the sheer strength of Elizabeth's determination to see this family whole again that made her see Melanie that way. What I said was, "I hope so. Maybe this treatment will work better than others, and maybe for longer. At least it's something she's never tried before."
Even though I said all the right supportive words, I didn't really believe them.
If anyone had asked, I couldn't have explained what my trepidation was based on, but for some reason I had a strong feeling that ECT wasn't going to work. I mean, if Dr. B really thought it would help, why hadn't Melanie tried it already?
This had been a good year for Melanie, one of her better ones, right up until mom died. So good that I think we all started to believe that she was finally 'normal' again.
But now I knew from our mom's journals that Mellie would probably never be normal. Because, despite what Melanie had told me about mom burning some of her journals, there was still a lot in there about Mel. Including stuff I probably would wish I could un-read.
I hate seeing Melanie keep herself so painfully unkempt. Her whole apartment smelled sour and unwashed. She was lying on the couch, with five or six coke cans lined up on the floor, cigarette ash sprinkling the tops. Her hair was greasy and matted against her cheek, and even her skin was breaking out. I asked her when she'd last taken a shower, and she honestly couldn't remember.
The milk had been sitting on the counter for however-many days and was spoiled in its carton. The sink was full of dirty dishes that were at least partly he cause of the apartment's foul odor.
I threatened her with a ride to the hospital via ambulance if she didn't shower, so she sighed and disappeared into the bathroom. She stayed in there for a long time, while I picked up the apartment, gathered dirty laundry into a pile, and took out the garbage. I found clean sheets in the closet and changed her bed.
I went to the bathroom door and called to her, but she didn't answer.
When I opened the door, stream rolled out in a warm, moist cloud.
I called to her again, not wanting to startle her.
I peered around the edge of the shower curtain. She was just standing there, eyes open, her face a blank document and her skin turning rosy from the hot water.
I reached beyond the curtain and washed her hair like when she was seven years old, and still scared to shower by herself.
I had to coax her out, help her get dressed, and brush her hair.
She sat on a kitchen chair watched me wash the dishes. I talked about how I hated to see her hide behind poor hygiene, how I've come to know it's a symptom of worse things to come.
She said, "I'm sorry, mom, I can't get leave the shed right now."
My heart broke.
She'd managed to live on her own for almost a year. But I knew this reprieve was about to end.
A monster ruined my daughter, and she might never fully wake from the nightmare, no matter how many years we put between then and now, no matter how hard we try to pretend that someday she'll be all right.
She was my most beautiful child, with her soft black hair and huge brown eyes, her skin that glowed peaches and cream, pert nose and pink cupid lips. She was the child that captivated complete strangers because she looked like a perfectly painted china doll.
So beautiful that a sick pervert tried to make her his own.
"Don't let him win, sweetheart, please."
I can't even write about what a mother goes through when her child is missing. Or even how a mother feels when that child is found, battered and bruised, hurt in ways that aren't easy to see.
The injury that is invisible is the one that's killing us both.
I didn't even note the date of that particular journal entry. It didn't matter. Sometimes Melanie was healthy for months. Heck, once she was healthy enough to flirt with Craig, get pregnant, and then actually kept her shit together long enough to carry and deliver a healthy son.
But the last few years … well, she'd been doing great for so long.
Long enough that the hospital felt like a foreign place.
Josie and Silas arrived in Silas's jeep. They got out and came toward us, Silas shaking his key fob, making the keys jingle. The elevator would take us up to the mental health unit. It was like an emergency entrance, not connected to the main level of the rest of the hospital. For security, I supposed. Or maybe to maintain the privacy of the people being brought in.
We turned toward the door en masse, and then from the corner of my eye I saw a familiar figure come out the main lobby door, across the parking lot from us.
He was with someone, his face turned toward that person, hands in motion as if he were explaining something intense.
It made me pause, and Josie followed my gaze and said, "Oh!"
Silas also looked. He waved us on and said, "I'll meet you upstairs."
We all stood, as if frozen, and watched Silas stalk across the parking lot.
"It's a boy from the Pride fundraiser," Josie said softly, her lips close to my ear. "He was fun. And very friendly."
That didn't sound good at all. If Jeremy went and did what Silas wanted – found someone his own age to go out with – Si would surely lose his mind.
"What is he doing?" Liz said, as Silas caught up to Jeremy and slung an arm around his neck and shoulder. "Is there going to be some kind of gay drama here? Because I don't need it. I really don't. Come on, let's go see Mel."
Neither Josie nor I moved an inch. I don't know about Jose, but I was transfixed by Silas's body language, his arm pulling Jeremy close, his smile as he offered a hand to the other boy to shake. The way he pulled his sunglasses away from his eyes and settled them on the top of his head. Tilted his head, listening to the stranger say something, then a slow smile, a tug on Jeremy, to pull him in our direction.
Jeremy seemed to melt against Silas, and peered past him to wave at us.
Josie and I waved back. Liz was gone, swallowed by the elevator, preferring to stick to one drama at a time.
Jeremy had his phone out, tapping keys, grinning.
When he allowed Silas to steer him toward us, I could see that Silas was scowling again.
"Jeremy!" Josie exclaimed. "I didn't know you were here."
He flushed a little. "Sorry. Very rude. I came to get a membership to the fitness center, and then stopped to see Melanie for a few minutes, since I was here. I wanted to tell her about my grandma." He shrugged. "I don't know why. I guess just because it helped her. My grandma, I mean."
"Aw, that's sweet," Josie said.
"So now you'll be at my gym, too," Silas said, his voice flat, and let his arm slip from Jeremy's shoulder. "Nice."
"Come on, Si, why do you think I asked where you work out?" Jeremy was laughing. Silas wasn't. "And it was so cool, because like the minute I walked out off the elevator and stepped into the lobby, I ran into Charlie. Josie and I met him at the fundraiser a couple weeks ago. It was so unexpected. I think he said he was a pharmacy tech, but I figured he worked at Walgreens or somewhere like that. But no, he works here. He works the inpatient pharmacy, which is a bummer because he doesn't get to interact with people much, and he's so friendly."
"He really is friendly," Josie added.
I started giggling out of nervousness, because that little spiel was probably going to upset Silas more, not calm him down.
Then again, maybe I was wrong.
Silas put his hand over Jeremy's mouth, effectively shutting him up, and said, "You want to see this Charlie? Then do it."
"I don't want to date him," Jeremy protested. "It's not like that."
Silas just looked at Jeremy, waiting for more.
"I just want to be involved. To know people. To have a community where I belong."
Silas seemed at a loss for words. He ran his hands through his hair, plucking his sunglasses off his head when his fingers ran into them, and setting them back over his eyes, effectively hiding most of his expression. "So do it," he said. "I never said you couldn't."
Jeremy wrapped an arm around Silas's waist and bumped him with a hip. "No, you never said I couldn’t. But I don't want you to be angry every time I go somewhere, or run into someone I've met. If I find community, I don't want you to hate it."
Silas sighed. "With Jessamine and Josie as my witnesses, I do solemnly swear I will try not to be hostile to your pansy community. Okay?"
Jeremy laughed and hip-bumped Silas again. "Even the dancing boys?"
Si finally smiled. "Yes, even them."
Jeremy slid around Silas and gave him a full-frontal hug and a sweet peck on the lips. "Good. I'll see you later."
Silas watched Jeremy go. Watched until Jeremy got into his car.
I was half-surprised Si didn't yell across the parking lot for Jeremy to put on his seat belt.
"Charlie really is very friendly," Josie said, and it startled me.
Silas threw up his hands, lifted his face toward the sky, and laughed for real. "Yeah, Jo-Jo, I kind of heard something about that."
"It's not bad that he wants to be involved in Pride, is it?" Josie asked, with a smile at her lips but her eyes narrowed. Half curious, half challenging.
Silas shook his head. "Nah. He's young."
His eyes now followed Jeremy's car as it went past us and out of the parking lot, staring even after it was out of sight.
"You can't take your eyes off him," I observed, which made him turn his head toward me. His sunglasses still hid his face, but there was a wry smile on his lips.
"I never could. That's the trouble."
Some months ago there was this song playing damn near every time Silas turned on the radio, about you and me and all of the people, and how I can't take my eyes off of you. It made Silas's teeth ache, either because it was so damn sappy, or because it just made him clench his jaw in disgust that obsession could be mistaken for romance.
But he was doomed from the first moment Jeremy came bouncing across the dance floor and into Silas's personal space, skin glistening with sweat, blonde hair darkened from his efforts on the dance floor. Blue eyes shining.
The boy was Josie's age – technically a man, not a boy – but Silas felt like a pervert just looking at him.
He was caught in Jeremy's web of charming boyishness in that one simple moment, and he'd never been able to take his eyes off the boy since.
The next time Silas heard the song, he laughed at himself because he could taste the obsession and because his chest grew tight with a kind of terrified longing.
He felt it, that hard knot of pain, as he watched Jeremy drive away, and wondered about Charlie's number, now stored safely in the boy's phone.
Silas was so aware of Jeremy in the vicinity that his skin tensed with anticipation, awareness, ownership. Every day he fought the primal urge to lock Jeremy in his room and never let him out.
It was utterly ridiculous.
The boy felt like comfort in Silas's arms, and sliding into him – the firm push, the soft gasp – felt like coming home safely. Every time.
Butch and his bullshit fell away, there was nothing shameful about this, nothing hurtful. Jeremy's soft eyes and loose limbs, his moans and cries of "god yes, like that, don't stop" were the opposite of Silas's clenched muscles, clenched jaw, and clenched fists.
Silas could hardly bear the sweetness of Jeremy, and was convinced he would die when the boy finally gave up on him and found someone else. Someone better at being gay.