ROOM OF EMPTY BOTTLES…
BY GLORIA FAYE BROWN BATES
I was limping, I stopped, pulled my loafer off to look at the heel of my foot. It was bleeding and had little holes in my heel. Those nails were cutting into my heels, it hurt so bad. The inside of both of my shoes were bloody.
For so long… I had to wear these shoes… at one time they were pretty, and didn’t bite into my feet to make them bleed each day. No one ever knew… I was too ashamed… too proud to let anyone know how I suffered. I would try to wipe the blood out of them each evening… I hated the smell of blood. That’s what the inside of my shoes smelled like… blood.
I wished for a new pair of shoes, but, I thought no farther than that. The pain was too great. I just wanted to get home, I was tired from being in school all day… I had fought my daily ‘battles’ there, as I did each day. Not physically, but.. mentally.
My classmates, other kids made my life harder, never knowing how they contributed to my pain… pain I hid from them. No one knew how I suffered both…. mentally, physically. I was someone they could pick on and take attention off their ‘imperfections’. Yes, I made it easy for them to ‘point with their finger to direct attention away from themselves’. I had to walk 2 blocks to get home… I wanted to take those shoes off my feet.
I worried at how I’d find my beautiful mother. Would she be herself today, or would she be a ‘monster’ today. Everyday I always had to wonder what I would find when I got to the house my mom had gotten for her and I … this was now… home.
I had my own bedroom and sometimes at nights I would wake from nightmares. One of the nightmares would be of my mama being under my bed having convulsions. I couldn’t bear for anything to be wrong with my mama. To think about how much I loved her… brought tears to my eyes.
It was an awful nightmare that haunted me for years…. in my dream I would hear something under my bed, I would slip out of bed and look underneath… my mom would be lying on her back having a convulsion.
I would be sick at heart and scared when I woke up. I worried so much about my mom. Men tried to take advantage of her when she ‘wasn’t herself’. They would come here to this new ‘home’. I hated them.
I loved it when my mama was ‘my mama’… I loved my mama. She would smile, her eyes would sparkle with mischieviousness, and happiness, she would talk and laugh with me. She was so fun, and so beautiful! I was proud of my mama when she was like this. I wasn’t proud when she was like…..
I came inside the house, I was looking around sensing like I did every day to know if ‘mama was my mama’…or… if today she would be the ‘monster’.
I heard her in the kitchen, I followed the sound. She had her back to me and I couldn’t tell just yet. “Hello mama”, I said. She turned around and smiled at me. I took a deep breath and thought inside ‘thank-God’… that’s my mama! I knew we’d have a good evening talking and laughing.
I walked by the little room we called a pantry. There was nothing in there, excepting…. even today I see this little room as I stand in the doorway…. bare wooden floor, sunshine coming in from the one window in there… over in the far corner a stack of clear medicine bottles piled up high in the corner…. sloping down toward me on the floor… dusty floor.
The sun was shining on the bottles, in each bottle I could see a little liquid… it was very pretty in the sunlight. It was green liquid. This room of empty bottles always made me sick to my heart. These bottles with the green liquid turned my mama into the monster she became for about three days at a time. She made my life pure hell and I was frightened of her.
The pile of empty bottles kept growing … as it grew, I knew firsthand ‘why’. My mother drank it… it changed her from beautiful to a monster. In my mind, at the age of thirteen, the only name I could think of to describe my mama when she changed …was ‘monster’. She was mean and very cruel to me. When she was my mama… she would never be mean to me.
My heels hurt so bad. I had to wear hand-me-down shoes, the nails in the heels were coming through… my feet bled and hurt. I never thought past that… I thought probably that was the way life was supposed to be. I never complained. I went into my bedroom to take my shoes off.. I just wanted to feel the cool hardwood floors on the bottom of my feet.
I ran into the kitchen to talk to my mama. Edna, my only friend, had come to see us. She lived next door to us. She was always so nice, and I thought alot of her. My mother liked her, too.
We all three were standing around the dining table, we were drinking glasses of chocolate milk. I still see the image in my mind, how funny and happy that time was. Someone said something so funny, that unexpectedly I became so tickled that I began laughing, chocolate milk spraying from my mouth.
I remember looking at my mother’s eyes to see if she got mad. Her eyes were so full of surprise, and she began laughing harder. That was one of the happiest moments in my life with my mama. She never got mad at me for the chocolate milk… we all cleaned it up.
Several days went by, all went well. I was growing more tense by the day… ‘it was time’. It was time, my mama was going to be a monster soon. It never failed. I wished so much my mama would stay the same way. I never told anyone at school what I lived with at home. Even as a child I was very private about ‘what really went on in my life’. I protected everyone by not saying anything… it also, kept attention off me.
I was moved from here to there, made fun of depending on ‘who’ I lived with… I dressed good here, dressed bad there. I don’t think anyone ever asked me why I’d come to school for a while, be gone for months or maybe a year or so, come back. It was a pattern.
The teachers even began to make comments saying that my mama ‘not only looked just like Elizabeth Taylor, she got married as many times as Elizabeth Taylor’, and moved as many times. They never realized ‘it was only me’ that was moved many times… they wouldn’t have cared anyway.. they all had good lives and couldn’t ‘see’ past that.
I would feel embarassed, but, I accepted that as part of my life. I didn’t complain, I cried only when my feelings were hurt or I was physically hurt. I don’t remember crying over something I couldn’t have… somehow, I knew I wasn’t good enough to have things. To have things one had to be like the girls who gave me that present with deodorant, soap and lotion. They lived in cosy, nice homes with real parents, cars, and they got to be in the Brownies, and in different things at school. At that time, I knew I wasn’t ‘good enough’, also… there wasn’t money for anything I needed. I never asked, I didn’t think to.
Oh no! I heard something falling to the floor in the kitchen when I came in the front door. I felt that familiar dread, sick feeling in my stomach, my hands began trembling. I walked slowly to put my things in the bedroom. I knew I had to see my mama sooner or later. I hoped she wouldn’t scream at me. I took my hated shoes off my feet.
I tiptoed quietly to see where my mom was, I heard her. She was in the kitchen. She’d made a mess on the table. The ‘monster’ was here now. I was afraid. I was sick to my soul, life was going to be hell for several days.
My mama began screaming at me to do this, to do that. I couldn’t bear hearing her voice full of anger at me. What did I do? The whole evening went like that… she was cussing, ranting and raving at me. I asked her once could I go outside and play in the street with the kids. “Hell no!” she screamed at me. “You have too many things to do in here!”
I gradually sneaked off to my bedroom to get away from her. I couldn’t feel good being in there with her, nor here in the privacy of my bedroom. She could come in here at any minute to scream at me. My mama did just that! Her face would be contorted into a face that I didn’t know, a horrible monster face with demon eyes looking out at me. It seemed she took pleasure in making me cry, hurting me so, that I would. She hated me when she was a monster. ‘Why’… I didn’t know.
Life was hell, and it grew to the point that I couldn’t take anymore of it…. I didn’t have anywhere to feel safe at, I was hated at home, at school… no one would look at me, if they did they ‘looked down’ at me. I’m sure they thought I was white trash. A girl had already called me a whore… I didn’t know what that meant. I was labeled with names I hadn’t deserved ..or earned as a child, much less knew the meanings of.
My mama whom I loved with my very heart… could become a monster just at anytime. I didn’t know exactly ‘why’ she’d become a monster but, I did know it had something to do with all those clear bottles in the pantry…. in that big pile that sloped down… in the sunlight those bottles were pretty… each held a small amount of green liquid in them… the ‘whole’ picture of those bottles was … pretty. Colors attracted my attention… the pretty green always drew my eyes toward it.
Somehow, I ‘knew’ that green liquid in those bottles contributed to the hell I lived in for that period of time. Yes, each and every one of those empty bottles affected my young life in some way… many ways. Not only that… my beautiful mother’s life. We were both victims.
That room of empty bottles… with the little splash of green color in each one. Empty bottles, green liquid… all sloping from high up in the corner into a pile downward toward the door… toward me, when I stood there. I never thought to taste it… to see if I’d like it. I knew that I liked that pretty color… green. I liked how the clear glass bottles sparkled in the sunshine… diamonds and emeralds… that’s what they made me think of, in that room of empty bottles.
Those bottles, that beautiful liquid of emerald green had… strange powers. Those crystal clear glass bottles… with a splash of emerald green mixed with the golden light of the sunshine piled high in that corner… only a dusty floor beneath them, and bare walls around them, one window letting the sun shine through to highlight… those empty bottles, empty excepting for the little splash of emerald green in each bottle. I remember those bottles so well.
Those bottles made such an impression on me the day I walked into the door of that room… I don’t remember seeing that ‘pile’ grow… I just remember the pile that was so high. That pile of bottles … if one had taken a photo of it, it would have made a pretty piece of art… colors of crystal clear, golden light, emerald-green liquid in a stark, empty room…with a dusty floor.
Know that this author loved her mother with her very heart, know that she would be rich just counting the tears she cried just for her mama in her whole life. Just think how rich I would be if I counted the tears for ‘all’ the ones I’ve lost in my world…
I miss my mama with my heart. She was a very good-hearted person… she really would give you the last thing she had if she knew you needed it. She was beautiful, no matter the life she had… addictions are powerful. We all have had one or the other in our lives… habits are hard to change. They become ‘one with us’ until we no longer recognize ourselves or… others recognize us…… without them. We can’t live without them. I always ‘saw my mama’, I always recognized my mother.
In my life my ‘addictions’ have been smoking as a young woman, it took almost dying and forgetting there was such a thing as a cigarette… to break my addiction. I never remembered smoking after I entered the world between ‘life and death’. I know firsthand how powerful that addiction is. My next addiction was/is ….. eating good foods. Just these words in this paragraph… think about them………….. if you smoke ..you are knowing exactly what I mean.
If you don’t… ‘feel’ the power of those words and ‘know’…… that once people are addicted, it’s not easy to ‘let go’…. of anything. I have compassion, empathy for people who fight addiction, because in ‘my own way’…. I know and have this to compare with.
I can look around me, watch tv… I know that I’m not alone in this ‘addiction/habit’ of … eating. We eat for comfort, pleasure in tastes and textures of different foods as well as for satisfying our hunger.
I constantly ‘fight the battle of obesity’… I’m fighting it now, and actually doing very good in my struggle. As a young woman… to stay ‘beautiful, perfect’… I could only eat a couple of spoons of food, or eat several very tiny bites of food, only drink mostly liquids, dance and walk, run… to stay small enough to wear sizes 8-9. Oh… I would look at my beautiful designer clothes and know if I wanted to wear them… I would continue to starve myself. I know what it’s like to be ‘on both sides’.
I would like to add…. ‘everyone loved me, Gloria’… when I starved myself… and stayed so tiny. I was popular, what I thought …mattered, when I spoke…everyone heard me no matter how softly I spoke. I was ‘perfect’ as long as I ‘had that addiction to starvation’. I had to suffer for years to be so popular, so ‘loved’, so ‘perfect’………… I was the most imperfect being in this whole world. Strange ‘how we humans’ …….. ‘see and think’. Don’t you agree?
I suffered to be loved and thought of as ‘somebody’. For a number of years now… I am only myself, I don’t starve for anyone’s attention or their love… I like myself.
I wonder if my mom’s addiction began at some point to make her more acceptable in other people’s eyes, more beautiful, more ‘perfect’? Something made her have a ‘starting point’…. all addictions …do. She was ‘perfect’ in her beauty, her personality… just being herself. Of course, like people who have entered ‘that world’………. it becomes ‘more than that’… they begin to not be able to live without what they ‘need’. It’s almost ‘too late’ for them.
My heart breaks for people who go through their ‘own hells’ while living here on earth…. my feeling is that when you live in ‘hell’ while here…. you go to heaven when you die. You’ve earned it by the time you die. My opinion only… I know you have yours…. I respect it, as I know you will mine.
I am sitting here… I see that ‘room of empty bottles piled high in that corner’…….. with a little splash of emerald green in each….. beautiful, golden sunshine making all ‘sparkle’….. magic. My favorite jewelry is gold and diamonds, emeralds… I wear only gold and diamonds… maybe one day a emerald. I would think of those bottles, and their power.
I’m glad I never thought once of…… tasting that beauty… it never lured me excepting to see ‘the art, the colors, the way those bottles sloped down to the dusty floor, sunshine making the bottles, liquid… sparkle’. Such beauty in that ..somehow. Strange, isn’t it… strange how I think that… looking back.