“I think about her all the time.”
“Well, of course, that isn’t so unnatural.”
“No, you don’t see,” I hesitate, “all the time.”
He doesn’t get it. I know. Not really. Doesn’t get it when the mind does that. Put you into a loop. Doesn’t let you get out of it. He has probably never felt that way, at least not for a long time. I have. It’s been 3 months now. No actually it’s been 3 months, 2 days, 4 hours and probably 6 minutes. If I would have to guess, but I don’t really have to guess. Not really. I know exactly how much time that has passed since our last conversation. “I don’t get any rest,” he looks at me through those round glasses, tries to figure out what I mean, or at least that is what I think he is doing. Maybe he is thinking about what he should eat for dinner. “I go over the last conversation in my head, over and over again.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Yeah, just a song and at the time I didn’t feel like it was important, but then it turns out that it was.” I don’t like that song. It has been stuck in my head ever since that conversation. Stuck in my mind for 3 months, 2 days, 4 hours and 9 minutes. That is too long. Always waiting at the back of my mind for a moment’s silence, and then I can hear that melody. Can hear it louder than my own thoughts, like something that consumes me from inside. Of course that isn’t possible, it is just a song. Not even important. I just can’t get it out.
“Why are you so sure that it was important?”
“Cause she told me,” she really did, I just didn’t listen. At least not enough.
“What did she tell you?”
I don’t like him. He isn’t the best psychologist. Not at all. I think I picked him for his mediocrity. Picked him because he wouldn’t be able to get it.
“She said that …” it’s hard to get the words out, it’s almost like I can see her. Exactly the way she looked when she told me. She had gotten too skinny. I could see that. Was wearing clothes that looked like they were too big for her. A blue sweater and some washed out jeans. Her hair was hanging down, made her look a bit different, mostly she would have her hair up. Her lips were a bit dry and I had thought about it while we talked if I should mention it to someone, that they should buy her a lip balm or something. I remember everything. “It is strange, she said,” the mediocre psychologist is still looking at me, waiting for my revelation, “when I listen to that song, it is like I hear the voice of what lives inside of me.”
“Oh,” that is really what he says. Just that. Oh. I get up. I need to go. “You’re going?” he says, as if he has forgotten that our time is up.
“I have someone I need to visit.”
“You’re Mira’s sister?”
“I thought so, you remind me of her.”
“You know …” she leans closer to me, “after she got skinny.”
I know what she means. She doesn’t need to explain it. I get it. Me and Mira we didn’t really look that much a like when she was fat. I know that, but when she got skinny we looked more and more like each other. I think she liked that people told her that, at least she seemed to like it. Used to get a big smile on her face when someone said it to her. I liked it too. Felt that it brought us closer. It probably didn’t. Not really. Too be honest it probably did the opposite.
“I haven’t seen her in forever, she’s okay?”
Ruby looks at me. Got the right look in her eyes and everything. Really does look concerned. Mira mentioned her several times. Talked about her as if she was her friend, or the closest thing to a real friend that Mira had after she got skinny.
“No, not really,” I don’t know if I should tell her. Not yet at least.
“What do you mean?” still Ruby is managing to have the right look in her face. So concerned, worried about my sister, that probably were her friend, or maybe the closest thing to a friend that Ruby could have, it works both ways I guess. Still, she isn’t going to be able to keep this up if I don’t want her to. I know the tricks, after all I did grow up with my mother and then I had to deal with Mira all the years after she got skinny.
“That’s an amazing painting,” I say smilingly, pointing to the canvas behind her.
She lights up. The worried eyes are gone. Just like that.
“Really, you think so?”
She gets up. Walks towards the canvas, almost seems to be in a rush as if it suddenly dawned on her that she has been away from it too long. “I have worked on this color for weeks, but I just can’t seem to get it right,” she points to some light color in the picture, I don’t really know what the color is meant to be. Some kind of light coming through a ceiling. Looks almost religious. “I will find it, you know,” she stares so intensely at the picture as if she actually thinks that it is hiding somewhere in the painting, “I always do, even if it takes some time.” I know she does. I have seen Ruby’s pictures. Most of them are in museums and galleries, but once when I came to visit my sister she showed me a picture that Ruby had painted for her. A strange picture really because Mira was skinny then, but Ruby had painted her fat. The weirdest thing of all was that Mira that never had liked the way she looked when she was fat, liked the way she looked in the painting. Like Ruby that hadn’t even known her when she was fat had managed to capture something that Mira herself never had noticed. Brilliant, I remember her saying, over and over again. Staring at that picture.
“Tell me more about that color?”
Ruby looks up. She has forgotten that I’m here again. If I stay quiet and don’t say anything, she does that. Quite quickly to be honest. Doesn’t take her more than a minute to get all absorbed in the painting again if I don’t say anything. I can just sit there and watch her. Watch the intensity. Her trying to recreate something she apparently see in her head onto the canvas. “It is supposed to be soft, I don’t know how to explain it differently, so soft that you almost can’t see it, but it is still going to be there,” she talks quickly. No time to waste. Sitting still on her chair, just moving her brush, and still I am sure that her heart beats fast as if she is running or something.
She forgets to eat. Someone comes knocking on the door at every meal time, if she doesn’t go to eat, this sweet old lady enters and manages to get her away from her painting long enough to get some food and water into her.
She doesn’t get aggressive. Not like mum could get from time to time when she would get too much into her bubble. Mum could get really bad. Not against me and Mira, she seemed to be able to control herself then, but Frank her new husband, she could really get angry with him. He didn’t take it the wrong way though. Didn’t take it personally. Calmed her down. Held her hands when she tried to hit him. Didn’t say anything when she kicked him. Sometimes she would throw things at him and get him pretty good. I watched him fall down the stairs once when I was a kid after she had thrown something at him. I don’t remember what it was, something a little too heavy at least. She probably could have killed him, but Frank never said anything about it to anyone outside of the family. Made me promise not to tell anyone. You and me, we get your mum, he said that, but other people, we really can’t trust them to get her like we do. I think he was right about that. No one would have liked it if those stories had come out.
Ruby doesn’t seem to struggle with that at least. Sure, she wants to paint again, but when the sweet, old lady tries to almost push the food down her mouth she lets her. I don’t remember Mira being aggressive either. Just mum.
“You know about mine and Mira’s mum, right?”
Ruby turns towards me again. Same surprised look on her face as if she has discovered me for the first time again. I haven’t said Mira’s name since yesterday, and strangely I can see some grimace pass over Ruby’s face.
“Of course,” she smiles,” everybody knows about your mum.”
She is right. Everybody knows about mum. “And you know her story, right?” Ruby nods. Seems to be able to focus on me better now that I am talking about mum. “When she was young she was an alcoholic,” I hesitate, I have never really liked to talk about that part of the story, “and she wasn’t allowed to have me and Mira. They took us when Mira was 5 and I was 3.”
“I know,” Ruby seems strangely focused, as if this story actually in some way can compete with the painting, at least for a little while. “but she got you back.”
“She did. Just a year later.”
“A happy ending,” Ruby says. Smiling.
“It was,” I bite my lip, a bad habit that both me and Mira shared, “so I was just wondering, before your happy ending …”
Ruby seems insecure for a moment. Not angry. Not annoyed. Just insecure. Sure, it is a personal question, but that really isn’t it. “You don’t remember that well?” I try to seem helpful, even try to smile.
“No, I guess not,” she sighs, “I haven’t thought about it in so long.”
“But you do remember?”
“Of course,” she looks down for a moment, almost seem to have forgotten about her painting for a moment, “it was drugs.”
“So did you get the answers you were looking for?” the little, old lady is smiling at me as I come out of Ruby’s room.
“She is wonderful, isn’t she?”
“She is.” No doubt about Ruby’s talent. No doubt at all. “You’ve worked for her for long?”
I don’t remember her name. She did say it when she came in, introduced herself, but I didn’t pay attention. Another bad habit I have gotten these last months. Like there really isn’t that much room left in my head for anything else.
“More than 15 years,” she has that look on her face, as if Ruby’s her daughter or something, but she isn’t. Mira told me about Ruby. Her mum died when she was really young and Ruby ended up on the street doing drugs when she was like 12. Now she’s in her 30’s producing one amazing painting after another. You just don’t get to talk to Ruby if you’re just an outsider. You can’t come her and disturb someone like that with your questions unless you are somebody. Of course I had to use what I have for what it’s worth. “I remember your mum so well,” the sweet, old lady says, “I cried the first time I heard her story, and that beautiful picture of you two girls with your mum outside that fancy apartment building,” she hesitates, maybe she is afraid that she’ll offend me, “it was just something so hopeful about it.”
I have asked for this. I know. I’m nobody, but my mum is somebody. So I had to use her to get in her. If I wanted to talk to Ruby, and I really did. Just really wanted to talk to her. “My son,” the sweet, old lady suddenly looks so sad, and I guess I should have known that something like this would come, “he too was an alcoholic, but it didn’t really end that well for him.” I nod. Try to hold her hand for moment to show that I care, before I go. I don’t really care anymore. I have heard these stories too many times. How my mum’s life changed. How she was this useless piece of shit alcoholic, the biggest cliché of them all, the bad childhood, the kids that she couldn’t take care of, until everything changed for her. For us. It all flipped. Just like that.
I love my mum. I do. Too be honest I don’t even have a single memory of her drinking, probably I was too young when it happened. She wasn’t an alcoholic to me. Not that type of addict. She could be wonderful to talk to if you knew how to ask the right questions.
Tell me more about computers mum, I have no idea how many times I have said that sentence.
I like taking the bus. Don’t really know why. Maybe because we never did it when I was a kid. We were always driven around in those fancy cars. Fancy cars taking us to even fancier schools.
“Have you heard her latest song?” the girl in front of me takes her headphones off. Looks at her friend that just shakes her head.
Don’t you know me now
I can hear it like a whisper coming from the girl’s headphones, but I have heard it before. Heard it the day they called me to tell me about Mira. Then I finally got it. The song she wanted me to listen to. I needed to listen to it. Only it was too late.
You see me now
The whisper coming from the headphones isn’t really like the song. I know that song. It is a little too much.
Waiting for you
“Shit, I like it,” the girl says, “I only listen to flipped musicians now,” she says it as if this was a decision she has been thinking a lot about, “ordinary just sucks.”
Let go of your thoughts
I don’t agree with her. I don’t like it. Too be honest I try to not listen to flipped musicians at all. Probably why I didn’t listen to it when Mira told me about it.
Let go of your life
I know I should have. Should have just listened to that stupid song. How often would she talk to me about anything else than her project? Almost never and then she talked about this song, and I just didn’t get it. Didn’t get that it was important.
The girl turns towards me, I can see the look of surprise in her face. She has recognized me. They still do, even if it has been years since our pictures used to be in the papers all the time. Me, mum and Mira. Sometimes they would let Frank be on the pictures as well, but they prefered it without him. Something about the story I think. The strong, single mum that got her shit together. For real. Made us all famous, whether we wanted to be or not. I was fine. Didn’t bother me. I was fine with all eyes being on me back then. Mira wasn’t fine. She ate. More and more. Got so fat that for a while I thought that would be what killed her.
I knock on the door. Stand there waiting. Frank has probably been raking leaves. Like to keep the garden perfect.
He holds his arms out. Gives me a hug. He has gotten older. I know. I don’t like to think about it, but he has. His hair is all white now. Used to be black.
He nods. “Working?”
“Is it a good day?”
He stops in the hallway, probably wondering how he should answer that question.
“Well that depends?” he finally says.
“What you think is a good day,” he smiles crookedly.
“She thinks it is a good day?”
I look towards the door to her study.
“I think she does.”
“So it is a good day for working,” I sigh, “but not for talking?”
He turns to go to the kitchen. Limping a little bit. I don’t like all these signs of old age in him. I need Frank to be young, or at least not old. He’ll go to the kitchen now, make us some food that we can eat when I’m done talking with mum. Just like he used to do when I was a kid. He’ll let me talk about whatever I want to talk about. Will just listen. Like he always does.
She looks up. I can see that she is a bit annoyed, but she does smile.
“I need to talk to you,” she is already struggling. I can see that. Her eyes drifting towards her laptop. Her fingers making these movements in the air as if she is still typing something. “There is this piece of code I’ve been writing,” she is talking fast, “I really need to finish it while I see it clearly.” Frank was right. It isn’t a good day for talking. Not at all, but it doesn’t matter. I just need to get this over with. It’s been 3 months. Frank and I haven’t been sure how to handle it, if we don’t say anything about it, she will never ask. For sure. So why even tell her?
“Mum,” I hesitate, but just for a moment, “Mira is dead.”
“Oh,” she bites her lip, her eyes get this strange watery look.
“Actually, it’s been 3 months since it happened.”
Her hands are shaking. Shit, maybe I should have had Frank with me, but she isn’t good at focusing on other things than work. Too many people in the room tends to make it worse.
“They don’t know.”
Mum writes code. This language filled with hidden meanings, of course she is going to know when I’m lying. She looks down.
“Really?” I can barely hear her.
“No, not really.”
“Then what happened?”
“She killed herself.”
Mum is nodding. Looking down and nodding, as if she saw it coming. Takes a deep breath and then she turns towards the laptop again. Typing quickly.
“She forgot to eat, got too skinny
“Oh,” mum isn’t paying attention anymore. Just stares at that screen intensely while she is typing.
“You remember, right?” feels like I’m talking to no one, “That Mira liked to eat so much, got really fat. Don’t you remember?” she is in her own little bubble now, doesn’t seem to notice that I’m here anymore, “It really bothered her, made her really sad.” I know all the rules. I know what to say to her to get the reaction I want. Know what not to say.
“Just like you mum,” I hesitate, I would never have said this before, but now I don’t care anymore, “you know, how you used to drink.”
She stops. Actually does that. Doesn’t type anymore. “You remember that?”
She turns to look at me. Eyes focused on me for a change. We are not supposed to talk about it, how life was before. “You know mum, before they flipped you?” She doesn’t say anything. Just looks at me, but I know I got her attention for real this time. “They flipped Mira as well. No more obsessive eating for her. Another one fixed,” I sigh, “Just like you.”
“She liked computers too?” Mum seems confused for a moment.
“No they didn’t flip her for computers,” such an old fashion word, “You know they don’t call the things you make for computers anymore.”
“I know,” she smiles, though the smile doesn’t really reach her eyes. “Of course I know that.”
Frank says he can’t get her to sleep more than 4 hours and that is only if he is lucky. She is just as skinny as Mira were. The strange thing was to see Mira becoming skinny and not really giving a shit. She finally became what she always wanted to be and she might as well have been fat she wouldn’t have noticed.
“What did they flip her for?”
“What do you mean?” even mum doesn’t seem to get it.
“Her new obsession,” I take a deep breath, “was death.”
I still remember the day she came over to my house. Talking about death like if it was a riddle she was going to solve. I knew they finally had gotten to her. No more food. Just death. It does take a couple of weeks before the full extent of it kicks in. A couple of weeks when she was still my sister. Except for Frank she was the only person who really got me. Got us. Got this family. So I felt betrayed. I did. She wasn’t going to deal with this anymore. She was flipped. Her new obsession was ready to go. She would think about death. Just like mum always thought about computers. Leave me and Frank behind. Join mum. I refused to talk to her for the next couple of weeks. Too be honest it took a full year before I visited her. She was messed up then. Pointing at paragraphs in books and equations I didn’t get.
“She really isn’t having a good day,” Frank is pouring tea into my cup, “I’ll talk to her later about Mira,” he will. Probably do a better job at it than me, he knows how to deal with her. I don’t know if it is true, but they said that he met her in the weeks before the flip was complete. I’ve never asked, but of course there is a chance that it’s true.
“You know I feel it growing,” I say as I pick up the cup.
He doesn’t say anything. “I have felt it these last few weeks.” It’s a lie. I have felt it ever since Mira died. I can’t let her go. Really can’t let any of it go.
“It will pass.”
He says that, but then again I come from a long line of obsessions. We both know it is in my blood. My filthy, useless, alcoholic, overeating blood. Finally has it found its purpose.
“They have already noticed,” I look down, “I can’t let her go. Can’t accept it.”
“You’ll have too.”
“Not really,” I try to smile, but it becomes more like a grimace, “I could let it grow, then let them flip me.”
“Why would you even say that?”
Frank doesn’t get it. Not really. Not when all other thoughts become something far away. When it consumes you. He has never been consumed.
“I think she solved it,” I really do, even if I haven’t said it out loud before.
“You’re not getting your sister back,” he says that because he stood beside me in that church and later in the graveyard seeing her body being lowered into the ground in that coffin.
“They say they can flip me for the same thing.”
He almost knocks over his teacup.
“You want to be flipped for death?”
Mum was brilliant. Still is. They come to her house several times a week to keep up with her latest inventions. Ruby paints like no one I’ve ever seen before. So why couldn’t Mira solve it? Figure it all out. She would be able to do that.
“So what if she solved it,” Frank sighs, “You’re mum wouldn’t drink even if I put the whiskey bottle straight in front of her, Mira wouldn’t eat unless you stuffed it down her throat.” I know what he is going to say, of course I know, I’m not stupid. “Once they flip you, you won’t really care if you get her back.”
I really like the bus. It calms me. Makes it easier to at least try to think of something else. I think it is the way it moves.
“My daughter is talking about a wedding in July,” the two ladies a couple of seats in front of me are talking a little too loudly. Makes it hard to block them out, but even that feels good. Feels distracting. The bus and the stupid conversation might be all I need. Maybe Frank is right.
“Oh, how wonderful,” the other lady says, almost sounding a little fake. Maybe she too has a daughter, maybe she wishes her daughter would get married in July. Her hair is a little too black. Like she colored it and left it in too long.
“Oh, I know,” the lucky lady with the daughter that is getting married says, “of course you’re invited.” The black-haired lady smiles and the smile does have a little more warmth to it, so the invitation must have made the whole thing feel a bit better.
“Who’s the lucky guy?”
“Oh, they have known each other for a long time. Went to high school together.”
Mira had a boyfriend in high school. He wasn’t very nice to be honest. Said that she should lose more weight. Not that it really worked that he told her, just made her eat more it seemed.
“That sounds wonderful, what does he do now?”
“Oh,” the lucky lady smiles, that kind of smile you have when you have been going around keeping a secret that you just have been dying to tell someone.
“He doesn’t really work right now.”
“No, he’s a bit of an addict.”
Now the black-haired lady really can’t hide her annoyment anymore. I bet that other lady really hasn’t deserved to be this lucky. “And he has already applied to be flipped.”
I hope you have enjoyed ”Obsession”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories.
About the song:
Music composition/lyrics/vocals/mixing: Therese J(Me)
If you like the images that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first, second(SoundCloud) and third photo is by Jusben and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth ant the eleventh photo is by abstractxpressionist.
© Hilde Therese Juvodden, MyStoriesWithMusic, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Hilde T. Juvodden and MyStoriesWithMusic with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. – Simply don’t steal my stuff 😊