Mom was riding the crisycle* (* crisis cycle) all through the hotel tonight; she woke me up at like 2AM by using my spare key card, busting in the room, and fussing with my hair until I groaned awake.
She was bawling her eyes out. She never, ever cries in front of me. I never even knew that she could cry.
“Mira, can you hear me? Open your eyes and look at me!”
Totally freaking me out, and the TV was on for some reason, showing static. I must have fell asleep onto the remote and hit the input button, or something.
I brushed aside her cold hands and gave her my best grumble half-eyed stare, and she just threw her arms around my neck and squeezed the sleep out of me.
I couldn’t understand what she was mumbling – something about a concert, twins, scaffolding and ashes – but she was even more freaked out than when I almost drowned in the Willamette river when I was 8.
I just let her hug me to death for a few minutes, until she finally stepped back and sat in the chair. It was much plusher than in the last dumpy room – I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the deluxe green planty wallpaper, and the perfectly clean carpets.
She wasn’t having any of it. She kept staring at me, and even in the darkness illuminated by the TV snow, I could almost see her panic-soaked thoughts radiating into space.
“I can’t do this Mira…. I have to get you out of here right now.” As she said this, her fingers were tapping against her left arm, like she was texting spirits.
“Hell fuck no!” That was excuse enough for me to throw the scratchy green blanket to the floor, and roll off the bed to grab at her ankles. “You dragged me half across the country so we could be here! You took my life and put it in the shredder, because every last moment was so damn important, and for what? Do you really want me to always hate you?”
I didn’t know where this was all coming from. Anytime I was around my Mom I could never stay angry – she was like a calm space heater that took away all chill. But tonight, the irritation I had felt for months was flaring up, and it wouldn’t stop until the whole room burned in my fury.
She just took it, huddled up in the chair, staring at her busy fingers. I kept crying into her sweatpants but all she did in return was pat me on the head, like you would after giving some toddler a gumdrop. Then she turned off the TV, and walked past the bathroom and out the door.
It’s so strange. She was perfectly normal at Hester Park by the Mississippi. We shared expensive mini donuts and lemonade on the grass while waiting for the fireworks show at 10. We even made fun of the municipal band that played before the barges in the river started to send up the lights, and then we splurged on a taxi ride back “home”, to our latest hotel.
As usual, everything went perfectly according to schedule – even the yellow cab minivan seemed to be waiting there just for us – and she gave me a cheek kiss goodnight before we went to our separate rooms. At least she could trust me enough to have my own space – I was so very unexcited to be around her sleep noises and wiggles after all of our communing in tents. So I just threw my clothes onto random pieces of furniture, took some long drags on my SuperAmerica lemon lime soda that had been sitting in the mini fridge since that morning, and then brushed away the sugar before Firefoxing myself to extended yawns.
Plush hotel life was all a new kind of normal semi-bliss, a nice punctuation to a extended, forced spring and summer vacation on the road. At least, it was until Mom woke me up all freaking the fuck out; it took me another hour before I could calm down enough before hugging the hay bales.
My dreams last night were par for the course, all weird and fuzzy and confrontational. I guess Mom’s stream of consciousness had gotten to me, since I remember visiting a concert in a warehouse somewhere. Or, it was like concert had already ended, with the floor dirty with stray candy wrappers (the bite sized Halloween kind) and cigarette butts, and no one left but a girl standing on the stage. She kept looking at me, and she had curly hair and a Massive Cloud Burst shirt on. I don’t know why I keep thinking about MCB – perhaps I need an infusion of Die Database torrents today to compensate.
Dreams are usually pretty timeless, with things just falling on top of each other like sugar cereal into a bowl. You can’t figure out what’s happening as it falls, but at the end it’s all pretty much bowl shaped and consumable. This dream wasn’t like that at all. The girl kept staring, and I knew I had to walk over to her. I knew that a clock was running somewhere, a big sweeping hand that’s approaching the 12, just waiting for the chance to chime. So I kicked aside the little Skittles and Milky Way packages, and went up to her.
“Miranda. You made it!” She hopped down off the stage and rushed over, grabbing me by the shoulders. I started to wiggle away, but then I had the urge to welcome her, to hug her right back. We were dreamy best buds, even though I had never seen her before in real life.
It was like I had forgotten how to talk, but as she backed off for a moment it was like I had forgotten what it was like to live. I was as blank as a new email, waiting for input.
“I’m Tokie’s cousin – Ai.” She brushed back her hair and pointed at her shirt, the one with Yuma, Masae and Satomi in cosplay. “The party’s already over, but I’ve arranged a backstage pass for you. Come on.”
With that, it was like she reached inside her shirt, and pulled out glowing pillow stuffing, all white and firm. She was turning herself inside out, bursting with heavy waves all around us, until the floor, walls and ceiling disappeared, and the room was a cloudy glass of rice milk. We were breathing this whiteness, and yet not drowning.
I still don’t understand how I can remember this dream, even a few hours after I woke up. I don’t understand what this dream Ai was trying to tell me, or how all of Aurora’s stories had come together like a movie.
But there she was, standing next to me in the white, and I knew her. I knew her like my own shadow.
“I only passed on a few hours ago, so I’m still a bit disoriented. It’s one thing to guide the spirits, but to be guided…. it will take some getting used to.”
She was holding a metal box now. That same metal box that Aurora tried to give me months ago. It was silver and closed, with a key in the lock.
“I tried to give you advance warning, to let you wake up and fight what’s going to happen next. You weren’t ready then, and I’m not sure if you’re ready now.” She handed over the box to me, and it was ice cold. “This is a box inside of you, a box that we all put there years ago. To protect you, and us. If you don’t open it now, someone will come soon and force you to open it. Force you to become what you are.”
She was babbling like Aurora, but I was just totally into this box. I wanted to open it, but I was rabid dog jumping over the fence afraid. I just couldn’t face what was inside.
“I know. How can you be ready for this?” She took back the box and it melted away. “Don’t blame your mother for what’s going to happen next. Blame me the next time we meet.”
With that, she took my hand, and the white faded back into the warehouse.
“You don’t react well to the direct truth, so let me put things more evocatively.” She smiled, and then collapsed into a grey pile of ashes, like after poking a dead and burned log in the fireplace.
The ashes started to spread over the floor, covering the sweet trash, and the coalesced into a few piles. Those heaps collected together, and rose into the air, sculpted by invisible hands into figures.
The first to be finished was Tokie, wearing a dark hoodie and purple tights, her right hand chromed and sparking. She looked at me with empty eyes, and I wanted to cry out my self-defined sins.
“Meridian scaffolding missing.” She sounded like a touch tone menu. “Quantum interface missing. Retrieval is aborted. Please wait.”
Then the other piles of dust became Aurora, and hundreds of other people I didn’t recognize. They were all staring at me, as Tokie moved closer. The air around her was electric, and sharp like needles.
“Are you prepared to sacrifice your existence?
I shook my head no, no, no, as my eyes burned away, as my skin, muscle and bones collapsed into a stream of grey laundry detergent, falling to floor as I woke up screaming.
I didn’t sleep any more after that, and instead just cuddled with my SuperAmerica cup, savoring the sugar and hoping to death that I wasn’t going crazy.
When did I inherit the life of an insane girl? What did I ever do to deserve this?
The TV is on again, buzzing away with randomness as the last dark slowly slips away.
I’m typing this as fast as I can, before my fingers slip away into powder, before I wake up and realize that I was asleep all along.
Dreaming of a never-ending maze of a road trip, led by my Mom as she falls to pieces.
To go to sleep.
To dream of waking up.