Leukemia. Have you heard of it? A shit ton of times, sir. Books, movies, you name it. I just never thought I would see the word next to my name. Leukemia. It’s a heartbreaking word to have to start today’s entry with, but I know I don’t have anything else to write about. Dear Diary, I spent the entire day today listening to an individual with a white coat and fat paycheck. Leukemia. It’s the disease that finally yanked my mother out of this world and now welcomes me back into her arms.
My mother. She was a force to be reckoned with, and I mean that literally. There was something dark inside her, one that I’ve never bothered to figure out when she was alive but might as well now. That something would escape once in a while to terrorize me. It would smile on the outside, but hold a knife behind its back. It took me a while to realize that. My mother’s methods, which she called efforts, worked for twenty years until I quit law school and started working in retail. Now I go to therapy every week in an effort to treat my depression. Thanks a lot, Mom.
I finally reach the elevator. It does say elevator on a metal plate on the top, but today it reads leukemia. I’ve said the word so many times that it doesn’t feel like one anymore. I push the button once. It is so old that the white outline has long faded by now. It doesn’t respond, and I’m not surprised. I push it again, harder this time. It lights up in a typically discomforting shade of orange. Ding! I step inside. By the time I’ve recited the doctor’s dramatic announcement thrice, the door shudders, and opens with great effort. I respect that. I walk down the hallway, my footsteps quick and loud against wood. I particularly like the sound of my heels, which just screams impatience.
I reach for my pocket and pull out my keys. As usual, I struggle with fitting the right key into the right hole. The moment I get inside my small apartment that smells of unwashed clothes, I add to that by throwing my coat onto the floor. I repeat my daily ritual: I head straight over to the desk where my journal lies. I pull my chair back, sit down, turn to a fresh page, and start to write:
Can I not come up with something else? I scratch it out and start again.
Today I was diagnosed with leukemia. The same one that my mother was, more than twenty years ago. It’s funny how the devil works. Then again, it’s actually not. I’d rather be diagnosed with something else. Anything else. How long will it take until I’m bald and coughing in a hospital? I was happy not to visit my mother then. I’m happy not to have her visit me now.
Snap. The lights turn off. Another power outage? I’m shocked. This apartment was probably built when Victoria was Queen of England. I look up at the clock. 6:30 am. An hour before it gets completely dark. Not that the ones in charge would fix them today or even bother tomorrow, but it’s worth hoping for.
I turn back, ready to throw myself onto the bed. Instead, I find an occupant.
”Mom?” I scream, because that’s who it is, a bit greyscale but her all right. A drip attached to her wrist is not what catches my attention. She has my journal in her hands. Her fifty-year-old hands that had nothing to do with me until now. I look back at the desk to make sure. No journal there. She opens her mouth, but I have no time for her lecture. I run to the switch, faster than I ever have in my life, and turn it on.
The lights turn on. My mother disappears altogether. So it wasn’t a blackout, after all. That’s what I would’ve preferred. Logic. My mom sitting on my bed twenty years after her death is not logic. But she’s here, so that means either I listen to what she has to say, or her ghost haunts me for longer. So I reach back towards the switch. I hesitate for a while, but my hands do touch it at some point, and I find myself turning the lights back off, voluntarily because I am out of options and in need of reasons.
“There. I would expect my daughter to have more sense,” my mother says.
She chuckles. I resist the urge to cover my ears.
“Cut the shit. What do you want?”
“I’m just glad to see you again.” She attempts a wistful smile. Oh, no, you don’t.
“I’m not,” I declare. “Get the hell out of here.”
I’m getting flashbacks, and I don’t need them right now. Not outside of therapy. Me pathetically screaming again and again, my mother looming over me, just because it hurts too much, it hurts so much—
She flips through my journal as casually as one would through a Stephen King novel. Her expression quickly changes to that of exaggerated disappointment.
“What now, Jackie? Abuse? I thought you would’ve realized it by now, that it was all for your good. You’re old enough to know that.”
“My good? Me having to afford therapy while renting this shitty apartment is good?” I can feel my face heating up. But I don’t stop. “Me getting flashbacks of you beating me up like an animal is good?”
She flinches, but quickly regains her posture. “I’m not responsible for what you chose to do after I got you accepted to law school, honey.”
I cannot believe it. I absolutely cannot believe it. Tears form in my eyes, because I am that weak, because she made me that weak. “You got me accepted to law school? You think I sat back and ate popcorn? It’s been twenty years, Mom. Time to realize what kind of a parent you really were.”
Her voice cracks, weakens even further, and I know it’s soon her time to go. “I was lonely, Jackie,” she whispers. “All alone. They asked me if I had a family. In the end I had to lie, to tell them no, because I was tired of being asked the same question over and over again.”
“I don’t care,” I whisper back.
She flips through my journal once more like she didn’t hear a thing, and reaches a page where she stops. “Ah…”
I cross my arms and wait. Five minutes. Ten. Before we know it, we’re both crying. Me because I don’t want her here, to take the good out of the equation. Her because she is delusional and wants something from me that she had lost for herself a long, long time ago.
I walk over and yank my journal out of her hands, wiping my tears off with my sleeve. Her faded, wrinkled blue eyes widen as much as they can. I reach for my pen and turn the journal to a new page.
I hesitate. Then I put the pen to paper and start to write. Her monitor acts up, and I know I don’t have much time. I love you, Mom, I scrawl. I shove it in her face, making sure she can see it for the last time. She does. Tears glistening in her eyes, she nods, like the note just confirmed something for her. Then she closes her eyes. The faintest smile etched upon her face.
I turn the light back on. The bed is empty again, and the journal is back on the desk. I grab it and rip the last page off the journal with as much force as I can manage. The letters i and l remain, but I don’t really care. I crumple what’s left in my hand and throw it into the bin next to my desk.
I stare at the window, my pen still in my hand. The sun has just started to settle, orange and pink and purple spread across the entire skyline. I just wish today could have been just as flawless.