“The guilt was too much to bear.”
Even Laura’s suicide note was a cliché. Mom found Laura at the bottom of the swimming pool, her body weighted down with rocks in her pockets like she was fucking Virginia Woolf, and not just your average, everyday junkie. What, exactly, did Laura feel guilt about– the drugs,the lying, the stealing, kicking over my sand castles as a child? Years of putting up with Laura’s crap and this was all she could say?
Mom watched the ambulance back out of the driveway and she lost it. Her breath came in ragged gasps, her face flushed, eyes bright, like she’d been running. “She’s gone, Sarah,” she whispered. “What now?”
My mother went to bed and stayed there for a week and a half. Mom never was one to sleep much. There was too much to do. Work. The house. Always taking care of Laura. Now she just slept and slept. The house was deathly quiet. I lay in bed at night, willing Laura to stumble in the door at three in the morning, yelling, punching anything that got too close, a return to the old awful instead of this newer, scarier, one.
I took Mom a bowl of soup I knew she wouldn’t eat, and the phone rang. Surprisingly, she answered it. I listened as she apologized for not calling. How she had been busy taking care of me. That she would be back to work next week. She hung up the phone and fell into the bed again and stared at the ceiling.
I stood at the foot of the bed and waited. “Close those curtains on your way out.”
I went to the window and snapped the shades open. Sunlight flooded the room and mom clutched her pillow over her eyes. “Dammit, Sarah!”
“I’m so tired.”
“Yeah, you’re so tired from taking care of me, right?”
Mom sighed. “You can take care of yourself. You always have.”
“I had to, because of her!” I yelled, too loudly. Mom went still. “It was always Laura. ‘Laura isn’t smart like you.’ ‘Laura has problems.’ ‘Laura needs our help.’ Laura ate it up. Anything to make you ignore me. You let her get away with murder.” Mom took the pillow off her face.
“All those times she beat the crap out of me and you did nothing. Just made excuses for her. I hated her! I still hate her!”
Mom closed her eyes.”Don’t, Sarah. She’s your sister.”
“She’s not anything anymore, mom. She’s dead. And I’m glad! I’m happy she’s dead!” Mom moved fast. I was on the ground, my lip bleeding from the blow. Mom stood over me, finally crying. It was way worse than the silence, but I couldn’t stop. I had to tell her everything.
“That last night, before she drowned,” I whispered, “I told her I wished she was dead. I told her I hated her. That it would be easier for everyone if she just went off and O.Ded in an alley somewhere like the filthy crack whore she was. I told her nobody would care. That we’d all just be relieved to have her out of our lives for good.”
Mom swooped down on me. I braced myself for the violence I knew I deserved. She didn’t hit me again. She pulled me into her arms and buried her face in my hair. “Oh my God, Sarah. I was relieved. I was.” And we sat there in the unbearable brightness of the sun, sobbing and rocking, the guilt almost more than we could bear.