At first she hadn’t liked the little room above the bar, but it didn’t take long to discern the advantages. Mother slept downstairs, in the rooms behind the bar, and because the bar was open until two in the morning, Mother was still sound asleep when she slipped into the makeshift kitchen for a quick breakfast and scrounged something to take to school for lunch. The downside, of course, was that Mother was there when she got home from school in the afternoon, but ordinarily she could quickly escape upstairs with the magic word: “homework.”
The room was tiny, dingy, shabby, and sparsely furnished. When they moved from the little flat, Mother had brought all the furniture, but she had crammed everything except the cot and a small chest of drawers into what was meant to be a storeroom behind the bar, and moved into the space herself. The bar had a sink and toilet for patrons, so Mother only climbed the steep, rickety wooden stairs that clung precariously to the outside of the weathered old building when she wanted to use the shower upstairs. It had turned out to be a heavenly arrangement, for although she spent most of her time alone, without even a television or radio, it was blessedly silent and solitary. She had her books and even though the room had no heat and it could get a bit chilly, being only half a block from the ocean and its brisk winter breezes, she could fold the blankets in half and snuggle beneath them to read. It was the most relaxed she had been in a long while.
OK, the noise from the bar downstairs was sometimes a bit loud and annoying, but it kept Mother well occupied, and that made the noise almost welcome. She stayed “out of sight, out of mind,” as her Grandpa liked to say. She would show up punctually at suppertime and make her way into the short-order kitchen to partake of whatever Mother had cooked up as the “Daily Special” for her customers, wash the accumulated pile of dishes, then unobtrusively melt out the door and back up the stairs. It was a peaceful time and she had come to almost look forward to the end of school each day, rather than to dread it.
Spring was in the air, the sharp nip of winter beginning to give way to warmer days, even while the mornings were still quite frigid. It was difficult to choose clothes appropriately, for that which was warm enough to withstand the chill ocean blasts at 7 am while standing on a street corner awaiting the school bus, was sweltering hot by midday, and heat stroke-inducing by afternoon. Her wardrobe was spare, but adequate, her thin cotton shift dresses working well in a layered arrangement to provide warmth in the morning and an armload of clothing to drag about in the afternoons. It could be a bit awkward, trying to carry an armload of books and another armful of jackets and jerseys, but she made it work. She needed the clothes for warmth, the books to while away the long, blessedly solitary and silent evenings, and having always been something of an outsider, she was inured to the sometimes odd looks she got from her peers as she carried around what looked to be the better part of her closet.
It was Friday, the Friday before Easter Vacation. She had gone to school chilly this morning so as to free her hands up to carry extra books on the way home. She had secured permission to visit the public library on the way home from school by saying she had to do a book report over the holiday and the book she needed as not in the school library. Not entirely untrue, as she had intentionally selected a book that was too new to be carried in the school library, her actual mission being to have access to the public library’s greater selection and bring home books from both libraries in sufficient quantity to get her through the week-long holiday. She struggled to carry the tall stacks of hardbound volumes from the bus stop to the stairs, reckoning she would have to make two trips to get them all to her room.
Her first inkling that something was wrong was that the bar was silent and the doors were closed. The bar always open in the afternoon and never, ever closed on a Friday…Friday was payday for a lot of folks and Mother wanted them to cash their pay checks in her bar and spend the proceeds before they went home. The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her something was wrong.
She put the books in two piles at the foot of the steps and climbed the swaying stairs two at a time. Her key still fit the lock to the hallway…it still fit the lock to her room…but her sigh of relief was premature, for when the opened the door, the room was bare. Everything was gone, the empty closet door gaping open, even the thin, faded curtains gone. She felt tears prickle the back of her nose as her breath came in short, sharp little gasps.
“You’re 16, you’re not a baby” she chided herself as she raced down the stairs and headed for the back of the bar. “Maybe something awful has happened and Mother needs help…”
But her mad dash through the alleyway ended at the storeroom door, padlocked as usual, with nothing appearing to be amiss. Except the curtain over the window in the door was askew and she could see that Mother’s quarters were also empty. Her stomach squeezed tightly and she gasped for breath. What on earth had happened? Mother, she who could pinch a penny until Lincoln screamed, would never close the bar on a payday unless something awful had happened, would she? Surely, if something had been planned for today, she would have been told before she left for school today, right? She hurried back to the front of the building and cupped her hands over the glass, trying to see inside. It was dark, but as far as she could tell, things looked neat and normal…and empty.
Puzzled, and growing more alarmed by the minute, she went to the side of the building and sat down on the steps. The clock on the parking lot entrance across the street gave the time as 3:30…she would ponder her options until 4:00 before taking any kind of action.
And then what? she asked herself. She had no money, not even a dime for the phone. She wasn’t allowed to have money except for her bus fare and six cents for milk doled out to her daily. And even if she did have money, who would she call? The whole family, except for her father, lived more than a thousand miles away. And her father? Would he help her? Yeah, he would, but calling him would just open up a whole new set of conflicts between the two of them, and she had seen the inside of the juvenile court enough times. She had no intention of going back.
Four o’clock. Still no word from her mother. She had walked around the building again, thinking that maybe, in her initial panic, she had missed the note that Mother must have left for her. Maybe the note had been blown away by the brisk wind…or stolen by some prankster? A few bar patrons came by, puzzling at the locked doors, but she could not answer their queries as to when the place would open and refused to respond to their less-than-proper queries otherwise. By five o’clock tears had begun to leak from her eyes, despite her efforts to withhold them, and she began changing her mind’s occupation from where was her mother to where was she going to spend the night. Upstairs, in an unfurnished room with no bed, no blankets, no heat? Definitely better than sitting outside in the cold. Her stomach rumbled. It was nearing time for dinner, and she was thirsty and needed to use the bathroom, but if she ran upstairs, even for a minute…well, what if her mother drove by and she wasn’t there? She squeezed her muscles, wrapped her arms around herself, patted her feet, and waited, wiping her cheeks on her shoulder every few minutes for the tears simply would not stop flowing.
As dusk began to fall and she could no longer read the clock across the street, the wind from the ocean picked up. She curled herself into a ball, huddled against the side of the building, and pulled her skirt down over her bare, goose-fleshed calves. Her hands were tucked up into her armpits for warmth and she had tried to construct a little wall with the books to deflect the brunt of the ocean wind, but to no avail. She was shivering in earnest now, hungry, and thirsty…but still did not know quite what to do. “I’ll wait until dark,” she promised herself, “Then I’ll go upstairs because it isn’t safe to sit out here after dark…”
Wiping her cheek against her shoulder and turning her face to the wall, she sighed and closed her eyes. Was she an orphan? Had someone killed or kidnapped her mother? What about her stepfather? Where was he? Should she go to one of the neighbouring bars and beg a coin or two to call her father? What was she going to do if her mother never came back?
Her ruminations were interrupted by the blare of a car horn. “Hey,” bellowed a familiar voice, “Miss Priss! Cut the daydreaming and get your ass into the car. I don’t have all night…”
She leapt up, scooped up the books into a single precarious armload, and bolted for the car. Without a word, she took the passenger seat, the books spilling from her arms onto the floor and the seat space between them, causing her mother to give her a glaring look in the waning light. One look at her tear-stained face and Mother’s lip curled with disgust as she rolled her eyes skyward.
“Oh, Christ, bawling again. What is it with you, anyway?”
“I didn’t know where you were,” she said, a little catch in her voice.
“And so you were sitting out there on the steps bawling for everyone who came by? For Chrissakes, you have more attention-getting devices than Carter has little liver pills. You knew I’d be here eventually, didn’t you?”
She was silent a moment, pondering the consequences of either possible answer.
“Well?” her mother repeated, a menacing note having crept into her voice. “Didn’t you?”
She nodded her head quickly in assent, prepared to hear yet again the litany of her never-ending sins over the past sixteen years…which was seldom accompanied with slaps, smacks or punches, making it an infinitely preferable form of punishment.
“Where are we going?” she asked, hoping to put off the inevitable just a few moments longer.
“Home,” her mother said, and put the car in gear. “We moved.”
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.