Merry Christmas, Madison
Trigger warning: death, alcohol use, and self-harm depicted in this fictional work
“This is it!” I said out loud, the ugly pink wallpaper was my only audience. “Tonight is the night that I’m writing something great!” Even my internal monologue sounded as if I was questioning myself. The knot formed in my stomach as my eyes drifted to the pile of balled up papers by the wastebasket.
Growing up, I wanted to be the next big name in literature. I wanted to see the world and have exciting adventures that I would remember for years to come. So what if I’m in the minds of every tremendous writer and every great world traveler for generations to come? I read the works of James Joyce and Hemingway, and I was envious of those men. At the moment, all I had in common with Hemingway, was a severe drinking problem. I got kicked out of Alcoholics Anonymous a few months ago. Did you know you can get out of AA? I didn’t. I wasn’t showing up to the program. They didn’t think I wanted to be in recovery badly enough. I wasn’t about to tell them what I really felt. But, then again, I seldom share my thoughts with anyone of my own free will.
I hated having to live in this crappy apartment, but, after all, it was the place for me. When I first moved in three years ago, this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement.
I remember sitting in one of those folding chairs, telling everyone about that day. We were all sitting in a circle in that poorly-lit church basement. The cute blond next to me reached over and grabbed my hand. I told them about getting the phone call that would haunt me forever.
“Bridget,” my mom said. “Are you sitting down?”
And, of course, I wasn’t. I chuckled and told her no, that I was bringing boxes in. I was going to have to go to Goodwill and buy a chair. I told her it was on my to-do list.
“Bridget, I’m serious!” my mother said. Her usual chipper disposition could not be found. I propped my body against the wall and slowly slid down, until my ass hit the floor.
“Mom, I’m sitting. What’s up?”
“Your sister.” My mom could hardly breathe. Her voice at first seemed slightly unnerved, but now it sounded as if she been punched in the stomach and all of the air had escaped her body. “She’s gone, Bridget! She was driving that old pickup home from school. We told her not to come. We told her they were calling for ice on the radio.” My mother was now wailing in a way. Her pained cries sounded more animal than human. “She was insistent she was going to come home. You know how much she loved Christmas.”
That’s when it hit me. My mother used the past tense of the word “loved” not “loves.” She was gone. That’s when I broke down in tears, squeezing my hand with a pretty blonde stranger.
I snapped back to reality. The apartment was dark. I had a crumpled up piece of notebook paper in one hand and a bottle of warm winter ale in the other. I took my phone off the kitchen counter and, like many nights before, I find myself scrolling through. My mom’s picture hadn’t changed. It was a picture of my sister, my mom, and I, all in brightly-colored string bikinis. We bought new bathing suits just for a trip to the beach. We took that trip the summer before she died.
I could feel a warm, salty tear trickle down my cheek as I looked at Madison’s beautiful eyes. My sister’s eyes were enormous, but not at all in a way that was cartoon-y. Her eyes reminded me of the ocean. My mother always said it seemed like God knew that the ocean would be Madison’s favorite place. She was born with sea green eyes and she taught herself to swim when even I, her older sister, was still using an inner tube to activate my sea legs.
As I sat there on the dirty, green tile floor, I thought about those beautiful, sea green eye in another way. Madison, in her later year,s had grown into a very giving person. She wanted to go into the medical field so she could help others. Her desire to help others made my mother decide to donate my sister’s organs.
It wasn’t until her funeral that I found out the full extent of the grizzly reality of being an organ donor. When I walked up to the casket, my first thought was that my mother and father did a great job picking a coffin that was ostentatious enough for my little sister. My sister was always one of those girls who really liked jewelry and fancy purses, and she insisted on drinking wine imported from some tiny village in France.
The coffin was gold-plated and had green and red jewels on the handles. I made my way up to the casket, where that beautiful girl lay cold and lifeless. I was trying to think of what I should say. I loved my baby sister, sure, but I kind of resented her. My parents acted as if it was my duty to take care of her, even wanting me to give up my time studying in order to watch over her when she went to parties. I once told them the negative pregnancy test in the garbage can was mine. That was another lie designed by an emotionally fragile teenager, who did not have the capability to understand the ramifications of her own actions. And as I looked at that delicate and yet beautiful girl, all I could think was should I want to see those beautiful blue-green eyes.
I looked down at her. She was so vibrant and beautiful. Her athletic build now seemed weak and frail. Her skin was pale and crumpled in places like tissue paper. I wanted so desperately to look into those beautiful eyes that were big and blue like the ocean. To my horror, looking down at her eyes, I saw mounds of plastic. My sister’s beautiful eyes were now in a cooler, making their way to some needy little girl in Omaha.
I broke down. I lost my footing by the casket and I sobbed uncontrollably into the wood, which now held the body of someone I would always loved dearly. At that moment, I wanted to be the one who died. I felt such guilt on the way to the funeral. I was trying to figure out how my father and other members of my family were going to find a way to blame me for the fact that my sister was going to be worm food in just a few short hours.
When I woke up, my head was pounding. I tried to get my bearings and slid into a puddle of vomit on the dirty floor. I kicked a few beer bottles as I managed to get a grip on the sticky countertop. I pulled my hand away and dusted the crumbs off of my pajama bottoms, trying not to cringe. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even made a proper meal in my kitchen. I wrinkle my nose at the thought of mysterious sticky foodstuffs all over my hands.
I picked up my phone again, somehow I managed to get it on the charger the night before. I scrolled through it, needing to hear the voice of another human being.
“Mom, it’s Bridget,” I said, trying not to sound as drunk as I felt.
“Hello?” my mom said with a touch of confusion in her voice.
“What are you doing right now?” I asked, still silently hoping my voice wouldn’t betray me.
“Bridget, it’s Friday morning. I’m having coffee with Oliver like every Friday morning. Do you need something?”
“I just needed someone to talk to. I had a bad night.”
“How much did you have to drink last night, Bridget?” my mother asked. Her voice was matter of fact, I guess she was finally tired of being angry.
At that moment I thought of calling my dad, but I quickly remembered that was out. In a way, I think he blames my depression for the divorce. My mother’s subsequent relationship was with a man who graduated high school just a couple of years before me. I knew we’d never say anything, but my dad was now living in Washington. working part-time at some marijuana dispensary. He hadn’t bothered to call me in almost 2 years. The one time we did call he just wanted to know if I knew where my sister’s freshman yearbook was.
Later that night, I threw on my favorite pair of jeans and a wrinkled pink and gray flannel, then made my way to the park. I gazed at a beautiful tree, with the multi-colored lights, twinkling in patterns, that I couldn’t quite identify, and I watched squirrels climb hilariously onto the oversized, festively-wrapped presents. I pulled some tinfoil and a Zippo from my pocket, and I began to roll myself a joint.
A pit bull puppy, who was playfully barking and howling, caught my attention. Two little children were chasing the puppy. The three of them seemed to be having a wonderful time enjoying the crisp winter air. This made me miss Madison even more.
I walked uptown. My stomach was growling, so I grabbed a slice of pizza, some Pepsi, and travel-size bottle of rum.
I struggled to get up the pathetic excuse for stairs that led to the fifth-floor walk-up. As I tripped and fell, dangling about three floors up, I realized something: if wanted to, I could let go of everything. It could be the end of all of this. Tomorrow, some unfortunate passersby would find my lifeless corpse in the snow. I thought about those little kids from the park. What if they stumbled across my body. I couldn’t let this happen.
I went upstairs. I wrote “Merry Christmas, Madison” on a sheet of paper and placed it on the counter. After folding $800 in the article, I went to the kitchen and grabbed the carving knife. I carved the letter M, an A, a D, and an I into my disgusting kitchen countertop. I always knew I could write the best thing to ever be written.
The landlord would find my body when he came by to collect rent.