I opened the door of my apartment to an all too familiar sight, the same sight I saw every day after coming home from school for as long as I could remember. On the loveseat, my mom was passed out, either high as a kite on whatever she was able to get a hold of or completely wasted on the most rotgut alcohol she could buy with what little money we had, all while a blanket threatened to fall off of her naked body. A deep breath and a lone stride forward put me inside my house, where I was immediately hit with the smell of stale smoke and beer, a scent that the new stain on the middle of the already filthy carpet explained.
Softly planting my backpack down on the ground, I made my way into the living room to clean up her beer cans and empty the ashtray, but just as I leaned over to pick up one of the cans, the blanket she'd been using to cover herself finally met its maker as it fell just to the right of my foot. Exposed to me in the most literal sense, my mom remained unconscious as not only her breasts, but splayed legs lied right in front of me. I set the beer can down once again and reached for her blanket before putting it back over her.
This wasn't anything new to me. Hell, this and lying to people with a straight face were the only things I'd ever known. My life was a torrential downpour of junkies, alcoholics, and gambling debt. The lying? That skill came elegantly packaged with the stories I would whip up on the fly about my ratty clothes and bruises on my arms. Any money that came into this home was flushed away with drugs and alcohol, whatever little money remained was spent on food for themselves or fed to a machine with nothing to show for it. Those countless nights I'd shared with the pain of an empty stomach were far more familiar to me than my own parents ever were.
". . .Fuck you." I muttered. But even then, what I was cursing towards? My mom or nothing at all? A human or a shell?
Leaning over the table to start cleaning up like I intended to do before her blanket fell, I picked up as many of the emptied cans as I could and carried them to into the closet-sized kitchen of our apartment only to find that it looked like a category five hit that, too. One by one, I placed each can into a garbage bag that was fringing on full and traveled back into the living room to repeat the process all over again. Pick up the garbage she was wasted on, throw it away, then rinse and repeat all over again. Every. Single. Motherfucking. Day.
I wasn't ever a priority to either of them, just another paycheck so they could get fucked up and escape it all. Anything I needed to have was better spent on heroin or another beer. All they ever seemed to do was feed their vices without even so much as ever pointing a blink my way while I continued to feed myself off of my own body fat and let my clothes continue to literally tear at the seams. I wasn't anything but a dollar sign to them, and the minute my body decided to give out would be the day that was proven.
If my life was so bad, then why did I refuse to leave or tell someone? I never left because this was everything I'd known, everything I'd grown up feeling and seeing throughout my life. If I took this away from myself, then what did I have? I was left with two things to my name, and both of them came from somebody else, but I loved them like they were built with my own hands. Those two things were an iPod filled with various albums that I'd kept hidden and a skateboard, both of which Matty gave to me out of the blue. That iPod and that skateboard were the only two things I could call my own, two things I would've chosen to drop dead to keep than hand over to someone else. After that, I had nothing and no one. It was just me, myself, and Matty.
The next hour was spent cleaning the dishes with a rag and ice cold water, sweeping away trace amounts of coke, and scrubbing the stains out of the countertops. After tossing the last bit of garbage into the bag, I washed the grime off of my hands and tied the bag up, but that was easy part. The hard part was picking it up and getting it to the door without it ripping open or making a ton of noise. Putting it another way, the only other way this bag got out of the house was at the cost of me ending up with another bruise.
Another few minutes swept by, all consisting of me lifting the heavy bag off the ground and setting it down a foot or so ahead of me. Sure, I could've dragged it and put my hopes into it not ripping, but I wasn't sure what would happen if I woke up my mom and I wasn't about to find out. Finally reaching and opening the door, I repeated what I spent minutes doing before and dropped the bag onto the concrete of the pathway that led to the garbage bins. I shut the door behind me and began down the aisle of pavement that lied right in between the dead, unsaturated yellow grass.
Just as I was approaching the gate, thinking that I was going to get this bag thrown away without any issues, I was hit with exactly that. I halted as stars overtook my vision and a small dizzy spell hit my brain. I figured it was exactly that, that I was just getting lightheaded. That is, until I opened my eyes at eye level with that same dead grass and that heavy trash bag sitting adjacent to my waist. Pushing myself up from the concrete I found myself lying on, I was left to wonder what happened as the slightest remnants of unsteadiness remained in the form shaky arms.
My attention was ripped away from the somewhat violent thudding of my left elbow as the familiar sound of skateboard wheels rolling over asphalt fell onto my ears. The source of that sound was none other than Matty riding towards my "lawn" carrying a sandwich in his right hand. Finally becoming able to sit myself up without having the feeling that I was just going to wobble back over looming over me, Matty ollie'd himself onto the sidewalk, letting his inertia slowly carry him forward until he met the bag.
Without so much as a greeting, Matty only extending his arm. In that extended right arm was none other than his sandwich. "Take it. I'm not really that hungry."
I took the sandwich from Matty with the smallest amount of hesitance in my reach before ripping it back to my mouth and taking a bite out of it, but it was in that bite I gathered what it was that Matty just did. He just gave me what was more than likely going to be my dinner. How did I jump to that conclusion? Well, I had this weird little habit of eating any sandwich with ketchup, and that was usually the only way I would touch anything with bread. My point? Matty hated ketchup with a burning passion, so much that he went out of his way to make sure it wasn't in his sight whenever he ate. In between the two pieces of that flimsy white bread sat mayonnaise, tuna, and his worst enemy, ketchup.
"Fuck you." I could feel the faintest beginnings of a smirk, not because of the sandwich and not because of the meaning behind it. That smirk was simply because he was in front of me.
"Fuck you, too." Matty lifted the bag that I had so much trouble getting out the door and threw it over his shoulder with what looked like zero effort, all while throwing a smiling right back at me.
As the bread met my two front teeth, I watched Matty easily throw the bag over his shoulder and into the Hulk-green dumpster that I'd grown up looking at daily my entire life. If anything, it was kind of amazing how one object summarized my entire life. I lived in and around what seemed like an unceasing flow of garbage, in the form of humans and literal trash. I'd lost count of how many times I watched my mom get beaten to a pulp by some new drug dealer or loan shark, and with me being their daughter, I wasn't left out. I was largely the target of all their threats.
"I'll gut the brat if you don't pay up."
"She should cover what you owe."
"You have a week or the kid is gonna get it first."
I'd grown up with those exact threats, and while they never actually came to fruition, they definitely scared me out of my wits. All of my life, I'd heard the threats pointed at me, but the scariest of those threats never came locked and loaded at my parents. There were several nights I was forced to listen as insinuations of rape and dismemberment were thrown at me while I watched anything marginally valuable get ripped away and taken out of my apartment. All for what? Because my parents couldn't control their addictions. They chose to go broke feeding their demons over making sure a child was fed and had a stable roof over her head.
"You okay? Looked like it hurt." Matty planted himself inches away from my left side.
"I'm fine, just got dizzy." I muttered, gazing at his index finger as it punched itself through the loop of his shoelace.
Through the corners of my eyes, I watched Matty fidget with his shoelaces as a comfortable air began to set in around us. Leaning those few inches to my left, our shoulders softly collided while I let my head fall onto a collarbone bared by the stretched out neck of his t-shirt. In the comfort the air provided between our chaffing skin, an indescribable warmth thundered through me just like it did every other time my skin managed to make contact with his. That warm feeling that coursed through me was like nothing else. Words wouldn't have done it any justice.
The problem was that I wasn't all that sure what I was feeling. When I set my eyes on Matty, something in my head always told me to get as close to him as possible, to close any physical and mental distance between us. I suppose I understood that I was most likely in love, but I didn't know what that feeling actually was or why I was feeling it. What I did know was that I wanted to keep feeling it. I wanted to keep suppressing the yearning to stutter over every word that left my mouth. I wanted to keep feeling the pounding in my chest. I wanted to to keep feeling the warmth he gave me. But what I needed more than anything was having Matty close to me.
"Obviously. Can't say I'm surprised, either. You barely eat." Matty's eyes turned to my stomach. "I'm almost positive that sandwich is the first thing you've had today."
Reminded of the sandwich I still had in my hand, I took another bite, watching as the ketchup attempted to seep out of the newly opened crevice. "It is, but you already knew that. So what's your point?"
"Don't really have one." Matty finally ripped his eyes away. "Just don't pass out in the middle of the street like that."
"Would anyone even care?"
"Dunno about anyone else, but I would."
Still leaning against his shoulder, I looped my left arm through his right and let my hand find his just before lacing them together. My life was filled with darkness, the disgust that the underbelly of humanity carried, but throughout those dark moments there was always a constant flickering light at the end of my tunnel. That luminescence sitting at my finish line was likely Matty, but it was a finish line I hadn't yet reached, and it wasn't a line I was positive I was ever going to reach. He was the lone constant that let me know there was a reason to keep trying and fighting, even if everything I suffered through was all for nothing. But in that constant, I found my answer. Matty's presence in my life made all that suffering worth it. That warmth he shared was what stopped me from giving up.
Matty's grip tightened down on my hand, a tightness that forced me to look him in the eyes.
"Wanna go skate?"ns18.104.22.168da2