Mom quickly set down the craft scissors and placed both hands on her petite waist, “You look incredible. You really do. Gosh, I love it.” She held my shoulders tight and leaned closer to the mosaic-bordered mirror, “Oh, my! We’re like, wait. What do you youth call it? Never mind, I remember. Twinsies!” She let out a snort and picked up the broom. Not even our new homemade hairstyle stopped her from starting another rushed task.
“Ugh,” I groaned, peering upwards to the clumps of hair now touching my eyebrows instead of falling down to my shoulders. It was official as the notes on mom’s calendar: April 5th (or National Bangs Day, according to some hardly known website) was the worst one so far. Even out of all of the random and wacky “holidays” Mom had decided to play along with. Even March 20th, the horrific Snowman Burning day, when we traveled to Canada, was not as bad as this. My classmates would have never known I traumatized four Canadian kids with a cackling mother and a melting image of their childhood. This hairdo was just a bull’s eye for teasing.
I let her clean up about half of our freshly mown hair from the bathroom floor into a lime green dustpan. She then strode off to the kitchen. I slowly walked up to the mirror for a closer look. It was clear these bangs were cut by my mom. Of course, as clear as this dirt-filled mirror would allow things to be. The ends of dirty blonde were so crooked it might have been done to look like a hairstyle from a high-end fashion magazine I see upperclassmen in my Algebra class read; the tips only grazed one frame of my glasses. I would have fixed the mess, but my hands would just add more harm.
After I let out a ragged sigh, Mom called out to me, “Sweetie, I’m off to the store! Safety Pin Awareness Day in few days. Ya’ never know when you need ‘em! Call me if you need me. Love you!” I heard a sharp slam of the door. My eyes went back to the mirror and the new reflection that I hadn’t yet gotten used to. I heard the car spastically churn, and then speed off.
My eyes stared blankly for few moments, trailing around my thin, chapped lips, slim nose, freckled cheeks, and new, messy bangs. I shouldn’t have let Mom just do that to my hair. But it made her happy, so no complaining would ever come out of me. I was pretty sure no other classmate would do what I did. Snapping back into reality, I shuffled out of the room, closing the hand-painted door behind me. Across the small hallway was mom’s room.
I decided to walk inside. The walls were painted lilac in rapid strokes spread in an array of directions. Vintage posters, drawings and themed calendars were scattered around me. Unlike my room, furniture was in absolute abundance, all paired together in a rainbow of wooden craftsmanship. This was all because of the four Garage Sale and three Thrift Shop Appreciation Days since Mom started her holiday obsession. This year there was bound to be an additional spice-rack jewelry display or nightstand. How she would fit more furniture into the tiny space was a mystery, but there was no doubt she would.
A forest green stand, placed between her hat rack and dresser, caught my eye as I looked from her three-foot tall bed. Right above it was the largest calendar in the room, a whopping two-by-two foot poster filled with notes on which holidays she found interesting enough to celebrate. A bittersweet cloud enveloped the wooden table, which reached up to my waist.
The stand was more of a shrine, really. If Mom wasn’t her crazy-happy self, she would just sit on the floor, staring at the table. Candles glowed softly next to the ancient figurines of Jesus and Virgin Mary, both quietly watching over a family that barely believed in any religion at all. The more heart-felt things were around the center.
First, a picture of my father. The photograph shows only his face. The concentrating eyes looked beyond the camera lens. That’s all I have really wanted to see of him. He left our family when I was one, and according to what mom’s journals said, I was glad he hadn’t stayed for longer. Mom had gradually learned that he earned no place in this house, but his picture still stands.
Next to him is a photo of mom’s ex-boyfriend, Anthony with his half-shaven beard and old gray hoodie. He stayed with us for three years, and seemed like a decent person. He never hit any of us, pitched in with the rent, and gave me presents on my birthday and Christmas. But I guess we didn’t know him that well. He left Mom four days before the police caught him. While I know Mom doesn’t really miss my father, I think she still misses Anthony. Even after the whole six years they’ve been apart.
There was about a millions of other Anthony’s and Father’s: Tomás, Drake, Harris, Mark. The list never ends. Some were sweet and kind until the costume slowly slipped away. A couple sneaked into mom’s heart with hidden beatings that I could never stop with my small fists and soft voice that no grown man would listen to. A few stayed kind the whole way through, but mom’s Borderline Disorder kept them at a distance.
Finally, my brother Rayden was one of those on the memorial. He was the only person put there I could really say I’ve missed. Four years ago he died from liver failure at sixteen. I was nine, just starting fourth grade. In his place was a picture of him smiling (God did he smile), a bunch of fabric roses he bought Mom for Valentine’s Day when we were little, and a drawing of an airplane done in pencil. All of them were undeniably beautiful.
Everyone would say I was too cold, that I never cracked the slightest of grins, but Rayden was perfect. He let me sit with his friends at the park. He watched R-rated movies with me. He’d talk to me about his love life. And he died. I know I should have gone instead of him. He would give Mom her meds and not go along with her obsession. If that were the reality, someone would be there to comfort her the right way.
I guess that’s why she played this whole game with those fake holidays. Instead of taking real medicine for her mental instability, which she heard were completely evil on Antidepressant Death Awareness Month, she had her own system which kept her from her tipping point. She’s lost everything but a tiny house, barely-over-the-minimum-wage job, and myself. Trust me, when she lost Rayden, she exploded. She just bursted into a scary firework display of disaster, and she could not go back. Mom knew this. She just needed something to keep her thinking every day was worth living. What the days were about didn’t matter. As long as she kept distracted, she would celebrate them.
As for me, I just kept remembering that if I die, Mom would most likely do something awful, too. I had to continue going, even if it’s with a deranged mother and a dead brother. I wouldn’t have minded if things could’ve become a little bit more normal. But things kept on slipping away. Snip, your father was an abusive asshole who left your mom with two kids, one being a baby. Snip, your mom’s boyfriends kept running away after your family just started to heal. Snip, your brother got fatally ill and now it’s just you and your mom. I hoped with all my heart that nothing else would be cut away from me completely. If there’s anything I could be grateful about my haircut, it’s that while my bangs will eventually grow out, Rayden would be gone forever.