I was trapped in a steaming kitchen, with pots boiling over so dangerously that the tsunamis of scalding water made it impossible to reach the stove to turn off the heat. The lids made a sharp rat-a-tat-tat as they danced on the rims of the pots. I tried to scream for help, but no sound came out, and I was moving in slow motion, unable to reach anything.
Then I realized that I was still in my car. My body was covered in a slick sheen of sweat, the sun glaring through my window from an angle that meant it was probably almost noon. The realization that I was not in a hazardous kitchen quickly turned to bewilderment because the tapping noise that I’d dreamed was still audible.
I rolled over in my seat and gave a start when I saw someone staring at me through the driver side window, then bolted upright when I realized that the woman outside my car was the overwrought mother who lived in the house down the ridge.
Afraid she was going to yell at me for parking by her house, I tentatively rolled down my window, still trying to shake the confusion of the dream world.
“Sorry, am I blocking your driveway or something?” I looked around, wondering if between the darkness and my agitation I’d somehow parked illegally.
“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have alcohol poisoning or something.” She said, the concern in her voice tinged with bitterness.
“What? Oh, no. No I wasn’t partying, I just…there was…I couldn’t sleep there.” I couldn’t make eye contact, feeling my answer was inadequate in light of the months of sleepless nights she’s endured due to the parties at our house.
When I dared to look up at her, I saw her expression soften and her eyes fill with compassion.
“It gets to you doesn’t it?” She asks gently.
I don’t say anything, torn between not wanting to open up to a total stranger yet feeling like we were somehow the same.
“Well, if you ever need anything, this is my house.” She gestures to an aqua house, slightly elevated on cement stilts with matching blue latticework covering the spaces between the concrete blocks. She turns and walks back to the house, the pareo (or sarong) around her waist swaying as she walked. I stared after her in shock, unable to believe she had basically just offered me help. After all we’d put her through!
The screen door slammed shut behind her and broke my surprised gaze. I turned the car on and glanced at the clock. It was just after 11:30 in the morning, and I couldn’t be sure that the invader in my bed would be gone yet.
I decided to head to the nearby Ala Moana beach for a quick swim to cool down. The long expanse of sand was dotted with people laying in the sun. As always, the water was calm, thanks to an outer reef to keep out the waves. As soon as my feet touched water, I dove horizontally to submerge myself and try to drown out my fear and anger from the early morning hours. I held my breath as long as I could, wondering what it would feel like to never come up for air.
I knew I’d never kill myself. I’d had too many friends commit suicide, the first when I was twelve, and I knew how much it devastated innocent people without actually solving any problems. But for the first time, I understood the feeling of hopelessness that must lead to that decision.
As I clung to the rocks and coral on the ocean floor, watching the seaweed waving slightly with the current, I thought about the things that had led me to this place in my life. The warning signs I’d ignored, the advice from well meaning friends that I’d brushed away, the constant feeling that the world was against me and I must always be on my guard. Except that somehow, when it came to guys, I was so easily manipulated and led into situations I didn’t know how to escape.
The pressure building in my lungs was infinitely more bearable than the pressure of the unknown emotions I’d been burying in my heart for years. But eventually, even that became intolerable, and I burst to the surface sputtering and gasping desperately for breath. I gulped in huge lungfuls of salty air, and was reminded of the metaphor I’ve heard pastors share on how we should be as desperate for God as we are for air.
I shook my head ruefully, God hadn’t wanted anything to do with me for a long time. I was damaged goods, far too messed up to be worth His time.
I thought about grabbing some lunch, but there was a heavy pit in my stomach and I wasn’t sure I could keep anything down, so I decided to risk going back home.
When I arrived, the house was empty, except for the used beer cans and liquor bottles all over the living room and kitchen. I cautiously opened the door to my room and was immediately slapped in the face by the stench of vomit. No,no, no, no NO!
I ran to my now empty bed and was glad that I’d skipped lunch, as the odor from the pool of vomit on the sheets made me gag violently. I yanked everything off of the bed, bunched it up and went outside to the washing machine. I shoved them into the washer and angrily slammed the hinged door.
Back in my room, after opening the windows to air things out, I used a towel and rug cleaner to scour my mattress. I began rubbing and rubbing the wet spot, scrubbing furiously long after any trace of vomit had been removed. All my anger and frustration and fear was channeled through my arm, taking it out on that stupid mattress I’d had since the third grade.
When my arm finally gave out, I collapsed on the floor, wishing I remembered how to cry.
As I lay there, thinking that even being homeless was better than this, I heard a voice. Not an audible voice, but a thought in my head that hadn’t come from me. Not even a thought, it was stronger than that. It was something I hadn’t heard in years.
“If you don’t come back to Me now, you never will.”