Atlas Must Never Show His Back is Breaking

I’ve been a bit shaken for about ten minutes, since I remembered suddenly that I had a dream about my mother last night. I don’t remember what that dream was really about, but it was significant, and I don’t often dream about her. Why should I? She’s been gone from my life for 17 years–well over half of my life, since I was 12 when she vanished inexplicably in the summer of 1999.

I told my sister last week that I plan to file the paperwork to have her officially declared dead. That’s long overdue. We need to put this matter to rest. While my sister agreed, I also realized by her tone and how she put things that she isn’t convinced that our mom is dead. Even more unbelievably, she believes the story that she “left with a truck driver named Tim” and thinks that our mom probably was murdered some time after that.

No. No, my poor, denying sister. Our mother was killed by the man she was living with, the one who put out the statement that she “left with a truck driver named Tim,” the one who was suspected of killing his parents, and the one who just got out of prison for killing another woman in Arkansas. It’s not exactly rocket science. When I said this, she remained unconvinced. I tried explaining that the murder was 6 or 7 years old when D. was finally arrested in Memphis and charged with it, and that it takes a lot of overwhelming evidence to find someone guilty of murder 6 years after the fact and then to sentence them to ten years in prison.

I wasn’t aware of how broken our justice system is until I began looking into that. Apparently, ten years is a huge sentence for a murderer to receive 6 years after the murder, and it’s apparently really hard to get a judge to be that harsh. How amazing. You can kill a human being in the state of Arkansas, live free for six years, be sentenced to only a decade in prison, and then get out on good behavior without even serving that entire sentence. While no sentence would ever have brought justice to the family of the woman he killed in [withholding the location to protect my identity–we are talking about a murderer, after all], it’s a damned shame that you can serve only about 75% of a weak sentence for murder.

My sister wants to apply for the survivor benefits that would have been due to us if her body had ever been found. I don’t really agree, because I don’t think I should be given money because someone murdered my mother. In hindsight, from that point of view, though, it’s good that no one ever found her body–our father would have ended up receiving the checks, and would have spent it all on drugs.

I’ve often felt guilty for using this story as such a major part of Dancing in Hellfire–for which it seems I’ve found an agent!–but I vastly prefer that over having the state write me checks. I’d rather tell the story in a fascinating, emotionally jarring way and earn money through the story-telling than have it gifted to me after other people were robbed to give it to me. But I no longer feel guilty, because my mother’s story is my story to tell. In fact, there is no one else who could tell it.

Even knowing as I do that she is certainly did–see above–does nothing to bring me closure on the matter. How could it? Her body is buried in the woods in some random place in Arkansas, rotted to the skeleton, forever lost. She has been given no memorial, no tombstone, and no real burial. These are things I intend to rectify. I will talk with D. somehow, and I will do everything in my power to convince him to give me the location of her body. Perhaps I can work with law enforcement to promise him immunity from prosecution. I don’t care. There’s no chance of having justice delivered anyway. For 17 years I’ve lived not knowing whether my mother is alive or dead–there’s no way to bring justice to that. So why bother?

But even if that can’t be worked out, I’m going to arrange a memorial service, difficult though that is to process and think about, once she is declared dead.

I don’t really want to do that, though. I don’t want my dad and grandmother there. I don’t want them patting me on the back or pretending to express sympathy. They didn’t show any goddamned sympathy seventeen years ago when she vanished. They would come, but it’s got nothing to do with them. It’s between me, my sister, and our brother. And our brother is dead, so it no longer involves him, either. He was killed in a car wreck about a year after we reconnected with him, after about five years of estrangement because he wouldn’t come to see us–because we asked “difficult questions about mom.”

So he wouldn’t deserve to be there, either.

No one on my mom’s side of the family deserves to be there. Her own mother would, but she’s dead, too. Her sister, my aunt? Hell no. My aunt knows exactly what happened–she knows damned well that her ex-husband killed her sister. She’s known it all along; everyone on that side of the family knew it all along. It’s the great elephant in the room, the sleeping dog that no one dares to wake. It would be an insult to have them there.

It’s ultimately between my sister and me, and, honestly, that would just be more awkward than anything, because we don’t share emotional moments. We’ve only hugged once in our entire lives, and that was awkward. How could we be comfortable showing emotions, after the bullshit we went through as kids? We trust no one with our emotions, not even the other. Then you have just me and my sister standing around, probably with her husband there, saying goodbye to a mother that isn’t there, in spirit or in death. It would be pointless, as neither of us would be willing to say what we were really thinking, and neither of us would be willing to shed a tear over it.

Carry on, weary soldier. Carry on.

Atlas must never show that the weight of the world is breaking his back.

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