The shrill ringing of the phone had me bolting up in bed. My heart is racing. As I reach to pick it up, I remind myself to breathe. I handle the receiver as if it’s a deadly viper. I loathe it. The phone never brings good news. Only bad news and worse. I hope this isn’t worse. I place the phone to my ear, silently praying. Please God, please. I wait with baited breath. My world has just shrunk to me and the phone.
My throat loosens as a whoosh of air escapes me. He’s alive. Tears blur my vision. I angrily swat them away.
Anger replaces fear, as I glance at the clock. 3 am. My heart sinks at yet another sleep deprived night.
“Mom!” My son yells.
“What!” I yell back.
My husbands stirs and sits up. Rubbing his eyes he moans, “not again!”
I push him back down. I got this. Besides, I don’t want him interfering. I know how to handle our son.
“Mom,” Jack sobs. “You’re never gonna believe what just happened.”
My heart sinks. I pull up the bed covers wondering if I should just hang up. Well, I’m not really wondering, I know I should. Jack’s 3 am tales are never a good thing.
“Mom, are you even listening to me?” Jack has morphed back in time. He is six years old and about to have a temper tantrum.
I scrub my eyes, still wondering what to do. There are no good choices. I am dammed if I do, and sick with worry, if I don’t.
“Jesus Mom!” Jack gears up, his tone shrill. “What kind of mother are you?. They’re gonna kill me, I swear! Don’t you even care?”
Jack wanted to pull me back into the – you don’t care about me game – I wasn’t going to play. Instead I said. “Jack, let’s cut to the chase. What do you want?”
Jack snorted. “Wow, Mom! That’s nice. Do you even care they’re gonna kill me?”
Something cold and hard blossoms in the pit of my chest. It might be despair, or exhaustion, or just plain hopelessness. Jack and I have been down this road a thousand times before.
‘You know that guy that I was helping?” Jack is off. He should be an actor. He is believable. I should know, I’ve fallen for his lines a million times.
“What guy?” I ask playing my part, because I don’t know what else to do.
“Jesus Mom! Haven’t you been listening? The guy that was sleeping on my couch! Well he’s gone and he took all my money, with him!”
I bit my tongue. I had too. There was so much I wanted to say. I knew this imaginary character didn’t take my son’s money. My son spent his money. Most likely on drugs.
“So anyway,” Jack rushed on, “I kinda, well, Mom…” He trailed off, waiting. He wanted me to urge him, to finish his sentence.
I didn’t. I stayed silent.
“Yes,” I whispered.
“It’s pretty bad.” He warned me.
“Jack, it’s late. Can this wait til morning?”
“Mom!” Jack screeched. “I’ll be dead by morning!”
I pulled the phone away from my ear. I held it to my pounding chest. I wanted my son to hear it. The distress I was in was unbelievable. Sometimes I thought my heart would explode. BANG! At least it would be over.
A tear slipped down my cheek. Was this ever going to end? A horrible thought entered my mind. Yes, when you or he is dead. Then it will end.
I wondered if other mothers planned their son’s funerals. I did. I looked at caskets and thought about what I would say. I yearned for peace, and I’d know where to visit him. He wouldn’t be suffering any more, and I could finally grieve the loss of my son.
I shook my head. I hated these thoughts.
“I need a hundred bucks!” Jack yelled, bringing me back.
I sighed. I glance over at my husband. He had fallen back to sleep. Something hot and bitter filled my throat. How could he sleep, for Christ’s sake?
With the phone pressed to my ear, I got of of bed. Might as well. I wouldn’t be going back to sleep again.
“Where are you Jack?”
“I’m outside my apartment. I don’t want to go home til I get the money. They know where I live. I promised I would have it for them tonight and if I don’t – Jack stopped abruptly.
“Sshh, Mom.” He warned. “I think they’re here.
Alarm slammed through me. My logical mind knew they was probably someone Jack had made up. But my emotions over rode logic at the thought of my son being harmed, or worse yet, killed.
Holding tightly to the phone – it had gone from being a deadly viper to a life saving ring – I dressed. Grabbing my purse and keys I headed for the door. “Okay Jack,” I soothed. “I’m on my way. Meet me in front of your place.”
“Thanks Mom. You don’t know what this means.” Jack purred. He was such a charmer when he was getting his way.
I think it was his charm, I was addicted to. My exhaustion was gone. I felt like I could fly. I had hope. I was saving my baby!
“And Mom?” Jack asked in that ‘one more thing’ voice, I hated.
“What honey?” I said rather impatiently.
“Could you bring an extra twenty bucks? I’m kinda hungry.”
As if someone had pricked my balloon, all the feel good air disappeared. I was back at angry. How dare he ask me for another twenty bucks! Jack was selfish. Nothing was ever good enough. He always wanted more, more, more! Couldn’t he see what he was doing to me?
Torn between wanting to help him and hating his disease, I stand in a land where no mother should ever dwell.
Hell isn’t a place I’m going to, if I’m bad.
Hell is …loving an addict.