“Tina, please I am not trying to piss you off” Andrew said while holding my hand. I stay silent. We were about to have dinner, Andrew was making pasta and marinara sauce, his usual dish. It was about a week since I had my asthma attack in the basement of the Clinton Institute. Thing were quiet for the most part. Joseph recently reminded me about a couple of people going out for drinks after work today. I was telling Andrew about it when he decided to bring up a part of my past I normally do not like to discuss.
Andrew went to check on the sauce for the pasta. My fingers tapped compulsively against the table.
“I just thought it would be nice to go out with some of my coworkers” I said. Andrew had his back toward me, but I knew he heard me.
“I know but you’ve been having bad experiences at your job. Since the day you interviewed there. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to hang around any of these people. There has to be something there triggering you into having these hallucinations”
“I am not having hallucinations” I shouted. Andrew covered the sauce pot and walked over to me. He sat down in the chair next to me and gave me that same look of pity he gave me when we first met. Which is why I cannot blame him for being concerned. We did not have an ideal romantic start. Andrew truly met me when I was at my worst and because of that I know he will always worry. It’s a painful memory to relive, but it was our reality.
When you turn eighteen, you get a new sense of freedom and possibilities. You began to think about your college, your career, and the direction your life was headed. It was both exciting and bittersweet. Most of my friends chose out of state colleges as did my boyfriend at the time. This contributed to our breakup, but I handled it well. He had promised to keep in touch as did my other friends. I held on to that promise and looked forward to going to a new school with new people and new experiences. It was going to be a new beginning for me.
Then, it just turned into the lowest part of my life within a matter of minutes. My mother just passed away around, and my grandparents were now heavily grieving the loss of their child. Part of their grief was due to guilt that they couldn’t be there for their child and protect her from my father. I, on the other hand did not immediately break down in a river of tears when my mother died.
There were no feelings of anguish, no reminiscing of our past moments together. A large void of emotion was present in my soul. Sympathy was maybe the only thing I felt toward my mother. Sympathy for the fact that she had to kill herself to get away from my father, while I had a way to escape his brutal control.
But, for some reason or another, on the night before my mother’s funeral I would experience a staggering dose of reality.
My mother was dead. There was no coming back from that. My grandparents were awakened my intense sobbing. The dread I felt from the last letter she sent me was overwhelming. All I kept thinking over and over again is how could I tell her now that I truly did forgive her. That I wish I was strong enough to have stayed and protected her against my father’s blows. Maybe after enough time passed she would have thought about me and made the decision to escape to her parents before I did. We could have fixed it… I could have fixed it. What was I supposed to do now?
It was these thoughts that led to me running out of my grandparent’s house in the middle of the cold night and into the busy intersection nearby.
I remember crying hysterically in my bed. I didn’t notice my grandmother running into my room, trying to calm me down. She cradled me in her arms, whispering in Spanish that it was going to be okay, but I did not want to hear that.
Then, I heard a voice say my name. It was my mother’s.
Like I said, most of the memories were foggy but I remember turning my head to the direction of my mother’s voice. On the other side of my bedroom window, I saw her. My mother looked just as I remembered her. She has beautiful curls that seemed to brighten in the moonlight. She was wearing a long flowing flower print dress. It was her favorite summer dress. My grandmother did not notice her own daughter outside the house. That didn’t matter to me, I saw her, and I knew she was there.
“Mom” I whispered. My mother’s dark eyes gleamed at me, her smile widened. I knew she was looking for me, looking for forgiveness.
“Mija, what are you staring at?” my grandmother asked, staring at my bedroom window. She let go of me and walk over to the bedroom window. My mother’s eyes did not change focus even with my grandmother leaning into the window.
“Tina do you see something” My grandmother fingers pressed against the glass as she leaned into the window closer. The sound of my grandfather yelling, and the slam of the front door probably took her attention away from the window.
“Tina stop” I heard my grandfather running after me, but he was too slow. My mother needed me and I ran out the house as fast as I could and toward her image which seemed to float further and further back.
“Mommy wait please let me talk to you”
“I always loved you” My mother reached out her hands to me. I kept running, not realizing where I was going. The traffic lights, the sounds of cars passing by, the horns blowing as I ran right into the street, I did not notice any of it…
The sounds of tires screeching and then a loud boom broke me from my mother’s views.
I turn around and I see a red jeep crashed into a hydrant. Stunned I just freeze in the middle of the street, soaked from the rain. The police came soon after.
It was taken as a suicide attempt and I was admitted to the nearby hospital. My grandparents were a mess. The day before they had to bury their estranged daughter, their granddaughter gets taken in to a psych ward.
Anyways, Andrew was a security guard at the hospital. He was the first friendly face I saw when they took me into the psych ward. He overheard me talking to myself.
“Are you okay, Ma’am” The first thing Andrew said to me. He probably guessed that I just needed a friend.
“My name’s Tina and I’m not an old lady so don’t call me Ma’am” I snapped back.
Andrew did not get annoyed with me, instead he continued to strike a conversation. I remember reading a book that one of the nurses gave me. It was an old Steven King novel, Firestarter.
“That’s a classic, have you seen the movie” He asked.
“No” I said, very dryly. I knew he was being nice, but I didn’t care. I was going to be released from this place anyways and I thought I would never see him again.
“Well you should, it’s pretty good” He said. I stood quiet. Andrew had walked away for a moment. While I continued to read the book, I saw a shadow loom over me. When I looked up Andrew handed me another book by Steven King.
“This one is cooler, it’s about a girl who goes ham on everyone who’s wronged her. You might like it” His smile was warm, and it almost made me smile back if I wasn’t so focused on giving him an attitude.
“Why are you talking to me, isn’t this violating some sort of rule”
“I didn’t know recommending a book to you is violating the rules” He smirked.
“Why don’t you recommend this book to girl hiding in the corner. I pointed to an older woman that was sitting in a corner and burying her face into the wall.
“Something tells me she’s not very talkative” Andrew looks at his watch and nods.
“My shift is going to end soon anyways, I won’t be bothering you until tomorrow” He continued to smile at me, but I deflected it.
“I won’t be here tomorrow. My grandparents are picking me up today.”
“Oh okay well, best of luck to you, and you can keep that book it’s my personal book it doesn’t belong to the hospital” He waved goodbye and walked out.
I did not reply. It was strange to me that he would be so friendly. Security guards should not be able to fraternize with the patients, but Andrew felt comfortable enough to talk to me. When I was in my room getting ready to leave I noticed something in the book that he gave me. It was a note folded in between the pages.
I don’t know if you remembered me but you came to this hospital a month ago. I think your grandma was sick in this hospital and you were visiting her. I was in the front entrance and I saw you coming in upset because you couldn’t visit her in her room. I was the security guard that snuck you in there. We spoke a couple of times after that whenever you used to visit but our conversations were brief. I don’t know why you’re in this place, but you seemed like a nice girl and I hope you get better. I don’t know if I gave you my number before but its 555-727-8297. I know you are leaving today so if you just feel like talking don’t hesitate to hit me up.
I was shocked. Not that I encountered him before, because to be honest, I did remember him. My grandmother had a bad case of bronchitis that turned into the doctors wanting to test her for lung cancer. When I came to visit her the security guards at the front told me that I was not able to because it was past visiting hours. It was only five minutes past. Andrew saw how mad I was and came up to me with the same smile he approached me with in the psychiatric ward and he snuck me in. This turned into us speaking every time I visited my grandmother. We’d talk about college a lot since I was due to start and he was already a sophomore just doing the security guard job on the side.
The day my grandparents were set to pick me up I saw him again. I felt embarrassed and just tried to avoid him. Obviously, that didn’t last. As soon as I got home I did text Andrew. We spoke almost every day. I told him exactly what happened the night I was admitted to the hospital. Of course, he didn’t believe me, when you tell someone that you almost died following your mother’s ghost that reaction is to be expected.
Fast forward to our current argument.
After Andrew served dinner there was an awkward silence. I ate without saying anything to him. He sat across the table and played loudly with his pasta, tapping his fork several times into the plate. It was an obvious ploy to get my attention.
“Look I can’t stop you from going out with your coworkers, I just happen to work Friday night and I can’t go. I’m worried about you enough, I don’t want you to go out and drink with these people then talk about seeing ghosts and stuff at your job”
“Why then people would think that I’m crazy right, we can’t have that happening” I said sarcastically.
The thing that was so frustrating about our conversation was not that Andrew can sometimes come off more like a father then a boyfriend. He would say patronizing things like, don’t stay out late or don’t drink too much you may accidently say that you fucking see dead people. It was like he was ashamed of me and what I went through.
Regardless of Andrews overwhelming concern I was going to go out this Friday with Joseph, Evelyn and a couple of other coworkers at the local bar. My goal was to release the tension that’s been building up since working at the Clinton Institute and just let loose. Despite what Andrew thinks I have every intention of being careful and not letting memories of my past slip due to my drunken state. Hopefully.