I was left home alone during the summer of 2014. My mother would only stop by the apartment to sleep and eat in between shifts. Living in the Bronx isn't cheap, so the three jobs she had to work were taking a serious toll on her health. Of course, being the little shit I was then, that never crossed my mind. My dad was my favorite parent, despite being a deadbeat alcoholic who I only saw every other weekend.
One night my mother returned later than usual, sometime around eleven. I was still awake and trying desperately to reach the next checkpoint in Halo 3.
“Russel.” My mother opened the door. “I'm really sorry I got home so late. We got so slammed at the diner that I didn't get the chance to ca--.”
“Shut up.” I cut her off because I was pissed at her for “neglecting” me again. “All you do is work!” I lectured. “Please just STOP giving me bullshit excuses! You're an awful mother, that's all!”
Judging by the heartbroken look she gave me; my words had cut into her like knives. Tears were welling up in her eyes. She quickly ran to her room before I could witness her sobbing. However, I could damn well hear it.
Perhaps I should elaborate more on the situation. My mother had gotten pregnant at 16 by my deadbeat father, who was 22 and still living at home. They had been neighbors. When my mother told him about me, he dumped her and then moved out of his parent's house in a suspiciously short span of time. The only reason I ever saw him at all was that my stepmother forced him to be a part of my life. He was as minimally involved as possible.
I came to regret those words in the years that followed, but back then I was just the thirteen-year-old shithead who couldn’t be bothered.
When I woke up the next morning, I saw that my mother had left a plate of bacon and eggs on my dresser. I scraped them into the kitchen trash and got on the computer. I don't even recall what the name of the MMO I was obsessed with at the time was, but back then it was what I lived for. Sometime around noon, I heard the kitchen phone ringing. I ran over and answered it, even though the contact I.D. had read “unknown number.”
“You are a horrible son,” a robotic sounding voice said before the caller swiftly hung up. I had figured it was some troll crank-calling people with their computer's text-to-speech app. I quickly forgot about it after I went back to my game.
When my mother returned home that night, she looked like she had a rough day. I greeted that with “You burnt the stupid eggs, but I wouldn't eat them even if you didn't.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she smacked my face. The instant she did it, her hazel eyes flashed regret.
“Russel! Ohmigod! I didn't mean to!” That was all she could manage before I flipped her off and slammed the door to my room. We ate dinner that night in near silence. In fact, I think it was only broken when she asked me to pass the ketchup.
When the mail fell through the slot the next day, I saw a letter addressed to me in between the credit card bills. It had no return address. I opened it to find two sentences that were sloppily scrawled on a half-sheet of yellowing notebook paper:
“You really are a little shithead, aren't you? I'm giving you one last chance to be nice to her.” Figuring it was just my neighbor, Jeremy, trying to fuck with me, the note joined the bacon and eggs in the garbage.
A few hours later, my phone buzzed. It was a text from my father, which was the first time ever I can remember that happening. The gist of it was that my dad and stepmom were taking an extended camping trip over the weekend, and he (meaning my step-mom) wanted to bring me. The problem was that it wasn't his weekend for custody, so he asked me to convince my mom to let it slide. I replied enthusiastically with:
“Sure, I’ll convince her! I'm excited to go!”
“K” was his reply. Later that night at the dinner table, I asked my mother.
“Russell,” she said, “Frankly, I don’t see why you should get to go with the attitude you’ve had lately.”
“You just don’t want my dad to see me!” I accused. “You’re just a fucking bitch who hasn’t gotten over him yet!”
My mother looked both pissed and hurt at the same time.
“Oh, please! Frankie doesn’t give a goddamned shit about you! I'm the only person in the world who cares about you!”
“NO, YOU’RE NOT!” I screamed before throwing my plate against the wall. If my mother was pissed before, now she was enraged.
“You know what, Russel? I’m going to call Sandy right now and tell her you can’t go!” And she did just that.
After she ended the call, I told her in no uncertain terms that she was the worst excuse for a mother currently tied to this mortal coil and that I hope she died. Then I stormed off to my room.
That was the last time I saw my mother alive. The next night she didn’t come home from work. I didn’t call the police until the next morning when it was clear she didn’t just have to work extra late. I went to go stay with my dad and step-mom while the police searched for her. It took them three days to find the body. My mother was found in a dumpster behind a subway. Or rather, her torso was. Her arms and legs had been sawed off by what police determined to be a meat cleaver. They never found her missing limbs.
I went to live with my dad and step-mom full-time after that. If you could call it “living,” that is. My dad’s alcoholism gradually got worse and worse. My step-mom finally kicked him out when he began physically abusing me as well as her. She divorced him soon after and managed to get custody of me.
I didn’t fault my step-mother for her imperfections like I did my mother. She is substantially more fucked up than my mom ever was, but I know she’s the only mother I have now. I tried my hardest to be the best son I could.
After my mom died, of course, I blamed myself. The guilt was horrible and I gradually matured into something of a decent person because of it. I resolved to live the life that she wanted me to have so badly. At least that was the case until tonight. Now I want to put a bullet in my head.
I was talking to my step-mom about the circumstances of my mother’s death for what must have been the hundredth time. I should point out that she had drunk almost an entire bottle of whiskey at this point. We talked about how her killer was never caught. I told her that I blamed myself for what happened. At this, I was met with a conspiratorial grin.
“Russel,” she said. “I told you to be nicer to your mother.”