These are two stories I wrote forever ago. The purpose of both is to introduce several characters I intend to use in various stories. These characters are a family in my head still and I will one day start recounting their lives. I hope you enjoy this, their Genesis.
American Dream [or Yesterday Hurts] (Revised Version)
I still can’t believe I am here. I just can’t stand this. I guess I can’t say I’m lucky, but I can’t say I don’t deserve it either. Rejection that is. It still hurts, and I think the worst part is that I can’t do anything about it. I started with good intentions; I am not a bad woman. I had the chance to have a family like I dreamed of doing, and I loved every moment of it. I married a seemingly wonderful man and had two beautiful boys, Chad and Ivan. I love them so much.
One day though, my husband left me. He ran off with a woman with perfect teeth and big breasts. I hated her then. Maybe I still do. But why shouldn’t I? I was a good wife and was still a damn good mother, but sometimes, you know, that thing inside you, that desperation, just needs something to make life easier, so I drank. I wasn’t a heavy drinker at first, not really. I just had a little in the evening. It made it better, the pain that is. I knew it was getting worse, but I tried not to think about it.
My drinking started getting worse. My children were suffering from my neglect, I realize that now, but I still had to have something. It seemed to be what I needed. I soon turned to abuse. Oh, I would never become physical with them, but sometimes it seems that words hurt worse. They do. I know that now.
Ivan was my baby, and he was only eleven at that time. The divorce and the pain of knowing what his father had done had gotten to him and I guess he was pretty depressed. I didn’t see it then, I do now. I feel so bad for not noticing he was hurting. As his mother I should have been there for him. But I was too busy being comforted by my bottle of whatever it was I was drinking. My other son, Chad was twelve. He ignored the situation. He would go spend time at his friend’s house and wander around the neighborhood.
I didn’t try. I only made things worse. I love Ivan; I really do. But he is different. I knew back when he was five and six that he might be gay. I started calling him “fag” and “fruit” and any other name I could think of. The names made me feel better at first, but would always make me feel worse in the end. He would cry and sit up in his room. I heard him. I didn’t care. I mean, I did care, but I didn’t do anything. I guess I’ve been a lousy mother. I know Ivan didn’t even know why I called him those names, not that there is an excuse. He understands now. He came out to his aunt about a year ago. They have been so supportive of him, and I think he might even have a boyfriend. I guess I am proud. Not that he is gay, but that he is happy. At least he is. He never told me he was gay. Chad told me. I felt terrible when I heard that and wondered if it was my fault. No wonder he hates me.
Anyway, my drinking somehow led to drugs. I didn’t really expect it to, but it did. In the back of my mind I told myself that it couldn’t happen. It seems that Chad knew it would. Ivan didn’t want to be around me enough to figure it out, so I don’t think he knew I went that far. He probably knows, but I hope not. I love those boys and never wanted to hurt them, but I knew when I started that they would be taken away when anyone found out. I regret my drug use now, but it is too late for that, I guess.
I sent my children to stay with their aunt, my ex-husband’s sister. She is a good woman, and treats my kids wonderfully. She is Ivan’s biggest support. I love her so much for treating my baby so well. I think sending them there was the best thing for my kids. A few days later I called to the rehab center. I was so nervous and embarrassed, but I knew I had to do that for my boys. Chad was fifteen then, and Ivan was fourteen. He hadn’t said two words to me in three months. I deserved it, I guess. I was in rehab for six months. I couldn’t believe I had to miss both of my kids’ birthdays. Chad turned sixteen on the first of March. Ivan turned fifteen on St. Patrick’s Day. He has always been proud of his birthday. It makes him feel special to have a holiday birthday.
I had given custody of the kids to their aunt . She would have given them back, but because of my rehab I had to go to court to prove myself. It was ruled that the boys would make the decision to come home with me or not. I think I wouldn’t have gotten them at all if they had been younger. Anyway, Ivan has never been a leader. I really expected him to do whatever Chad did. I knew Chad would come with me. We have always been close. The boys were given another week at their aunts to make a decision. In that time, I rented myself an apartment and applied for some jobs. They were small jobs, but I figured they would have to do.
A week later I showed up to pick up the kids. Chad was ready. His bags were stuffed haphazardly, like he couldn’t have had any less time to pack, though he had a week. No one said a word as Chad gave me a hug and ran out to put his stuff in the car. Eighteen and still a mama’s boy. Ivan was leaning on the wall, like he was hiding. He looked like he was mad, but he was about to cry. He didn’t even look at me. I think he wanted to, but he didn’t. A got one of those lumps in my throat. I wanted to cry. I didn’t though. I just went home with Chad. On our way home, I cried. Chad starting saying that Ivan was a jerk and couldn’t believe he didn’t come. That day Chad called Ivan a “fag” and it killed me. I started crying. Chad said he didn’t mean it, and almost started to cry, I think. Ivan and Chad loved each other. They had to. Without each other they had no one. Well, they had their aunt, but they still needed each other.
Being rejected by one of my children really hurts. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be a good feeling. But Chad was at home, and I still felt as bad as I did before. I guess I was ashamed of myself for everything I had ever done. But I still loved my baby, even if he did hate me.
I started my new job, waiting tables. It wasn’t much, but it helped and the apartment was small enough to make up for the difference. It felt empty without Ivan, Chad told me Ivan had never felt like he belonged in the family. I wish he knew how much I loved him.
About a month passed and I decided to go talk to Ivan. I wanted to let him know how much I loved him. I went to see him at his aunt’s. I called for him and he didn’t come. His cousin told me he had locked himself in the cedar closet. I went to the closet and tried to open it. It was locked. I knew it was a stupid idea to put a lock on a closet door. said that the first time I saw it there. He wouldn’t talk to me. I could hear familiar music. I had bought a tape for his tenth birthday. It was all he had wanted. He had wanted it for so long. He still had it. I started to walk leave when Ivan knocked on the door three short knocks. I knocked back twice. Those knocks were kinda our little thing at our old house. His room was next to the master bedroom. I would knock three times and he would always knock back twice. It was kinda like saying “I love you” I guess. As soon as I had finished, Ivan slipped one of his paintings he had done under the door. The background was black and gray, with a red heart. In the heart two people, one with long hair the other with short hair. I turned it over and on the back was a note: “I love you mom. Ivan” I didn’t thank. I just left. I didn’t know what to think. I had the painting framed. It is hanging in my living room now. Ivan has still never seen it, and he has still not spoken to me. I decided soon after to look for some support. Divorce is hard, but I took mine too far. It destroyed my family and we will never be the same, not that we were ever really happy. I am so happy to have found this group. I hope you can help me relieve some of the hurt. Thank you.
Brian Fuchs 5.23.1998
Character: Jean (Original Version)
Jean walked swiftly into work at nine fifteen and sat at her desk, stopping a moment to catch her breath. “Hi Jean” Sue said from the next desk.
“Oh… hello,” Jean started, “Ivan was over last night and I took him to school and I had to get gas. It’s been a long morning…did I miss anything?”
“No. It’s been a slow here.”
Jean allowed herself time to worry about Christine, as she always did. Christine had married Jean’s brother, Robert, and when he ran off with another woman, Jean became closer to Christine and checked on her frequently. Christine would slip into periods of depression sending her children to stay elsewhere. Ivan almost always ended up at Jean’s. He was close to Brooke, Jean’s daughter. The two would talk about school and their parents acted so much alike. His brothers would end up at a friend’s house or at Jean’s mothers, but never together. Jean constantly worried about them. She does this too often, Jean thought to herself, she is missing her children grow up. With that, Jean decided to go talk to Christine after work as she always did when Christine was like this. She was too stubborn to let Christine waste her life away.
By four that afternoon, Jean’s mind was racing in anger. “I’m going early, Sue.”
Jean pulled up to Christine’s house, being sure to lock the doors as she got out of the car. She walked up on the porch. The glass on the storm door was still missing. Christine had thrown a mantle clock through it when Robert walked out on her. Jean rang the doorbell. Receiving no answer, she fumbled angrily for her key and walked in. She sighed as she walked through the house. The laundry was in heaps in the living room and the dirty dishes overfilled the kitchen sink. “Chris?” she called. “Chris….” She went back in the kitchen. On the table, among various bills and schoolwork from the kids, there was a note:
Jean- I knew you would come. I had to leave for a while. I don’t know how long I will be gone. -C
Jean’s eyes widened as she read the note. She didn’t how to take it. The anger she felt turned into guilt and she stood there with the note in her hand, her mind racing with where Christine could be. She stuffed the note in her purse and left.
When she got home, she wasn’t sure what to do. “Ivan!” she called. “Ivan?”
“What,” Ivan asked calmly, appearing from the den. Jean ran up and hugged him. He was taller than she was, which made it difficult, but she held on tight. Ivan reluctantly put one arm around her. She let him go and just stood there, looking at him. “Dinner will be ready at seven and Jerry will be home then.” Jean turned and walked into the kitchen and phoned her mother. Ivan looked over at Brooke and raised his eyebrows in confusion. Brooke shrugged her shoulders.
They ate in the den. Jean was not chatty as usual. She explained what had happened and they were completely silent. “I’m going to bed,” Ivan finally said, not having finished his meal. Jean got up, found him some blankets and told him to sleep on the floor in Brooke’s room if he wanted. Jean couldn’t sleep that night. She worried about Christine. Ivan cried himself to sleep and Brooke fell asleep soon after Ivan’s crying stopped.
Ivan woke up with a sharp pain in his stomach. He wasn’t sure if it was fear or guilt or sadness.He had spent much of his time like this lately, but now that his mother had gone, the pain was much greater. Ivan had become a master of confusing himself. He would tell himself one thing, while he would want it not to be true so badly that he would tell himself that. He did that with his mother. He did not want her to be gone so much that he would build up a deep denial and feel she had not run away.
“Honey… better get up and get ready for school.” Jean said solemnly as she passed by Brooke’s door.
“Okay.” He said, with a deep crackle of morning in his voice.
Ivan sat in class, trying carefully to look as if he was listening. As his first-hour teacher explained quadratic equations, Ivan’s mind raced and his stomach ached. It was still early enough that his eyes were sore from last night. He thought mainly of his mother, but he would occasionally have an out-of-the-blue thought about the history test next week, how he felt he wasn’t normal like other teenaged guys with their girlfriends. He knew that he wasn’t going to have a girlfriend; he did not want one. But then, he would think about his mother, sharpening the pain in his stomach.
“Ivan!” the teacher said.
“Oh… what?” Ivan said trying to sound likr he misuderstood the question.
“Can you work problem twenty-seven on the board?”
“No… I need to go to the office… I don’t feel well.”
When Jerry arrived at the school, Ivan was sitting on a bench in front of the building, hugging his knees for comfort. He grabbed his bag slowly and seemed to crawl into Jerry’s truck.
“Hi Ankle…” Ivan said slowly. Jerry was called “Ankle” by the entire family. When she was younger, his brother’s daughter could not say Uncle Jerry, therefore she called him “Ankle Cherry.” The name stuck and Jerry was now so used to it, he didn’t notice.
“Upset?” Jerry asked, trying to sound compassionate.
“I feel sick.”
“My stomach hurts… and my eyes… “
“Well, you just need some rest.”
Jerry dropped Ivan off, as to get back to work as soon as he could. Ivan went up to the garage door, entered the code and went inside.
Brian Fuchs 3.31.1998
Featured image art: Mark Rothko, “White Band No. 27”