By Chef Dispirited Artist
1999 to 2005:
At first, I saw her at random.
I had an instant fixation.
Her eyes were two different colors: blue and hazel.
She wore bright red lipstick, and she had short hair with bangs. She dyed regularly.
The first time I saw her, I was in the train. She was on the platform.
We locked eyes through the train window.
She was going north I was heading south. My train went off, she waved goodbye.
Second time I saw her I was walking out of a pizza place. We locked eyes again as she slipped into a cab.
The third time I spotted her at my friend Jay’s party.
She was nose deep in a book, sitting by herself. She had changed her hair from red to pink.
I kept glancing at her for hours that night. After five beers I gathered enough courage to talk to her.
She kept reading.
“Your hair is different.”
She looked up from her book. She gave me a blank stare.
“Do you remember me?” I asked.
“Vaguely.” she said.
“I remember your eyes.”
She smirked, “Well aren’t you special?”
“No I didn’t mean it like that…not the novelty your eyes, rather a feeling I got.”
“I suppose I sensed melancholy? Am I wrong?”
She put her book down, “Where have you seen me?”
“Here and there, around the city.”
We were dating shortly after that.
She moved in. We bought a bed.
Then we got married.
She changed her style: youthful and alternative to mature and elegant.
I changed my major: bored English major to content Architectural major.
I became an architect and she became a marketer. We swapped the studio apartment for the suburban bungalow. We moved from The Village to Long Island.
We got pregnant, twice.
We had one boy and one girl, Carla age 7, Bryan age 9.
September 16th, 2012:
We were driving back from the hospital where Carla received a blood transfusion.
Carla was born with a rare liver disease. Because of Carla’s illness she needs a blood transfusion every 120 days.
My wife donated the blood; my blood type didn’t match Carla’s.
It was just after five when I made a left turn into our street.
Bryan should’ve been home from school for a while. I asked Veronica to pick him up and make him a snack.
I pulled in. The door flew open. Veronica was in tatters. Her hair was a mess. She has gunk all over her shirt. She screamed.
“I’VE HAD IT!”
She came marching towards the car.
She slowed down when she saw Carla. She twisted her face and softened her voice: fake pleasantries and baby talk.
She bent down to Carla’s height, “Hey baby girl. How was the hospital?”
“I got McDonalds!” Carla walked past her; my wife led our daughter inside.
Veronica got up, “That’s great sweetheart!”
Veronica flashed me a look. We watched Linda and Carla shut the front door.
Veronica softened her face, “I can’t do this Mr. Powers. I just can’t.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Well, it’s Bryan. I brought him from school and the whole drive back he was calling me a…”
“It’s not only that! He kept throwing things at me. So I let him watch TV, but he kept finding more things to throw.”
Veronica looked away, she held back a sob.
She was choked up, “Whenever I tried to grab him so I could talk to him he kept pinching me, biting, twisting my nipples, and screaming at me.”
I gave her 40 bucks and apologized.
I knocked Bryan’s room twice and entered.
He was sitting cross-legged facing the corner of the room. He had something in his hands but I couldn’t make it out.
“Hey bud, mind if I come in?”
He didn’t say anything. He didn’t budge.
I walked in and sat on the corner of his bed that was closest to him. He had a tiny lamp on making the red carpet look orange under its glow.
“I heard you had some problems with the babysitter today huh?”
I got up. I pulled on his shoulder so I could make him face me. He struggled.
I was red hot.
I lost it, “BRYAN!”
He slowly turned his face to me. He lifted a hamster over his head, his body still facing the corner.
“Where did you get that Bryan?”
He finally spoke, “It’s the class hamster, today’s my turn to take care of it.”
“Oh, you got some food? A cage?”
He nodded. His attention went back to petting the hamster.
“Alright, good luck kiddo.”
I strolled out.
I left in a hurry. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere; I just needed to clear my head. I got in my car and went for a drive.
For the past two years Bryan has gotten progressively worse.
When he was seven, I got us into a car accident.
I got out of it with a broken leg and a few scratches. He spent three weeks in a coma.
Around the same time Carla was hospitalized. So even though I broke my leg in the crash, it was the least of my worries. I spent most of my time limping back and forth between hospital wings to check on my kids. After that one month of hell, Bryan woke up, Carla got better, and I removed my cast.
Life moved on.
Bryan’s grades boosted, but his behavior went south. Teachers would tell us how well he was doing academically but how horrible his behavior was. Bryan started reading advanced medical textbooks. He was memorizing anatomy. But he became more aloof, he distanced himself from his former friends, he lost interest in his favorite toys.
Bryan became a completely different person after the accident, as horrible as it sounds I felt like I killed my son.
September 23rd, 2012
I returned home late from a meeting. When I entered our room Linda was crying in the dark, tucked under the sheets of our bed.
She sat up.
“Where were you?” She snapped.
“The meeting went on a little longer than expected.”
She threw a pillow at me.
“You know how hard it was for me tonight? You have no idea!”
She mimicked me, “What happened?”
She went hysterical, “BRYAN HAPPENED!”
I sat on the bed. She took a deep breath.
“The school called…” She was choked up.
She cleared her throat, “…They say that they found the class hamster dissected in a shoe box that was hidden in Bryan’s locker.”
My stomach dropped. My mind spun.
“They want to see us first thing tomorrow morning.”
September 24th, 2012
We met with the principal, a guidance counselor, Bryan’s teacher, and a cop.
We were sat at the opposite side of a large table, inside what must have been the teacher’s meeting room. The principal and the guidance counselor were sitting, but the others stood, hovering over us.
It felt like they were looking down on my family.
I felt small, like a kid in trouble, like I got in a schoolyard tussle and the adults called Bryan and I in order to reprimand us.
The whole meeting was a blur. They masked their disgust and fear of my son with a condescending tone of pity.
The principal chimed in first.
“Bryan is a star student, but his behavior makes us worry about the safety of the other children.”
Bryan’s teacher said, “He is really a bright kid but he just needs more attention than most other children.”
The guidance counselor said, “There are many schools in the city that offer alternative education. They pride themselves on their ability to deal with even the most extreme cases.”
The cop said, “You know, Mr. Powers, some of these schools are a real knock out, I tell you. I seen some delinquents go to them and like…” the cop snapped his fingers, “…they change. Just like that, in a snap.”
Bryan just sat there without batting an eye. He just seemed bored by the whole thing. I couldn’t blame him.
October, 25th to December 10th, 2012
We took Bryan to see a shrink immediately after the hamster incident. It was about time.
We were apprehensive before because we thought therapy was too big a step for a nine year old…well mostly Linda thought that way.
Linda had an inherent distrust of outsiders.
For example, she decided to be the sole donor of blood for Carla, even though studies have shown the hospital blood is safer. So when I brought up Bryan seeing a shrink before she didn’t want to hear any of it.
The shrink told us that we shouldn’t rush to medication. He wanted time to properly evaluate Bryan.
Under his advice, we chose a school called ‘Brighter Future’.
The school told us that they specialized in cases like Bryan’s. They offered smaller classes and more supervision.
Bryan made a friend there. A kid named Lucas started coming to our house almost every day.
He was a meek kid, really pale, had a lot of freckles, and wore thick glasses. Bryan seemed to be doing well.
Our attention was primarily on Carla.
She was becoming weaker.
The doctors were worried. After a dozen scans, MRI’s, probing, and testing, they told us that her liver was failing. They put her on the transplant registry.
She needed a new liver.
We took her out of school and were visiting the children’s hospital every day.
Bryan had weekly visits with his therapist and Carla had regular dialysis sessions and check-ups.
Linda started taking anti-depressants.
I started drinking nightly.
January 11th, 2012
Bryan invited his friend Lucas over for dinner.
“So they are going to put a new liver in you?” Lucas asked Carla.
“Mmhmm.” She nodded.
“So how’s the school Bryan?” I asked.
“…the teachers are so dumb.”
“Why is that Bryan?”
“They don’t even understand basic biology.”
Bryan got up and took his plate to the sink.
“Hey buddy! We are all sitting here eating, where’s your manners?”
Bryan signaled for Lucas to follow him.
“Go ahead Lucas.” I said.
I cleared up the table and washed the dishes. I pulled a bottle of wine out from under the sink. I’ve been hiding my bottles there for a little while by then, buried under some old rags and towels.
I went upstairs to my office to work on a property sketch. I couldn’t find my long ruler. Then I remembered using it in the basement to hang a framed picture.
I opened the basement door.
I switched on the lights and I heard shuffling and whispers.
I went down the stairs and looked around the corner.
Bryan and Lucas were wearing garbage bags. Their arms poked out of holes in the plastic. They had latex gloves on and medical masks.
Our dog Chip was face down on the work bench.
Bryan was holding a knife.
Blood was everywhere.
Chip was cut open.
I looked at Lucas and I screamed, “GO!”
He bolted up the stairs.
I walked to Bryan.
I was fuming, “What are you doing?”
He was calm, “Studying.”
I felt my heart break.
I went down to my knees and held my face.
I let out a wild scream of animalistic devastation.
I heard someone running down the stairs.
I heard Linda scream.
I heard Carla from the top of the stairs.
She was peeking in, “What’s happening mommy?”
“STAY UPSTAIRS HONEY.” Linda was yelling back at her.
I bought my dog Chip when I started dating Linda. I loved that dog.
It was 5 P.M. when I caught the boys dissecting Chip. It was 9 P.M. when I sorted things out.
I left Lucas’s parents agreeing that the boys shouldn’t spend time together and that we didn’t need to inform the school.
I was mentally exhausted. I decided to hit the bars.
I had six shots and a few beers.
I kept telling myself that I didn’t hate my son. I kept telling myself that there was a way Bryan could get better.
I wasn’t 100% convinced.
I got wasted. I struggled to drive. Somehow I managed to make it home.
I got in bed. Linda was snoring. I stripped. I put on pajamas. I passed out.
I woke up.
The bed was jerking.
I rubbed my eyes.
My hand was sticky and wet.
The sheets were red.
I saw something on top of Linda. I sat up.
A bloody face. Tiny arms in the air.
He was holding a knife.
I watched, shell-shocked.
With all of the force his little body could muster Bryan stabbed Linda.
I threw him off. He fell. He hit the wall. He was on the floor.
The knife was in her body.
I shook her.
She was almost ripped to shreds.
I couldn’t breathe.
I looked at Bryan.
Perfectly calm, “I tried to give Carla a new liver, Chip’s liver. She lost a lot of blood. Now she needs Mommy’s blood for a blood transfusion to make her better.”
I ignited in a red hot flame of hate and fury.
I launched at Bryan. I punched him, again, and again, and again.
I strangled him.
I looked into his eyes.
He was going red.
He was mouthing something.
I let go.
I stumbled towards Carla’s room.
“CARLA! CARLA! BABY?”
I looked inside.
He was institutionalized.
Last I heard, he gnawed a nurse’s ear off. I stopped seeing him a long time ago.
I went underground and I move around a lot.
My only plan is to drink.
I live off savings. I might as well be dead.