My mother was standing in the kitchen in her freshly pressed cotton paisley blouse, stovepipe pants and black-rimmed cat's eye glasses.
“I really think you should stay home for Easter,” she said simmering some onions in the frying pan.
I stood, hands on my hips, thinking how weird she looked and said in a whiny teenage voice,
“I know but I never get to see my friends anymore and Angie has invited me for Easter weekend.”
Angie had her own apartment in a town a few hours away.
Mum looked out the window for a few seconds then looked back, “Okay, do as you please. You won’t listen to me anyway.”
She was right. Like most eighteen year olds, I thought I knew everything and asking her permission was a formality. Still it surprised me with the ease at which she said yes. I chalked it up to two things; she trusted me and also approved of my friend Angie’s invitation. Our families had known each other for decades.
On Good Friday I caught the bus out of town and transferred in Toronto. With a half hour to kill before boarding I decided to walk around the block. I passed rubbies with brown paper bags shuffling the streets while others were rooted in the doorways of deserted office buildings.
Maybe it was the carbon monoxide fumes from the idling buses but as I stepped upon the coach a strange feeling tugged at me. As we pulled out of the station I looked into the streets and thought … why are these people so alone, don’t they have families?
The windshield wipers squeaked in time with the drone of the bus. It was pissing down rain, just like Mum said, “It always rains on Good Friday.”
I arrived in Kitchener and met my friend. We had just finished high school the year before and spent the afternoon reminiscing. For a teenage girl Angie carried a womanly Marilyn Monroe figure, and being brought up on a farm she had a touch of Elly May Clampett. Myself, I enjoyed the liberation of the more androgynous 70's fashion. Being a scrawny girl in high school, I had agonized over relationships with boys then one day Angie turned to me and said,
“ At least you know they weren’t just interested in you for in your body.”
“ Geez, thanks!” I said.
“No really, actually maybe they care what you think or feel,” she said. I never forgot that and it left me thinking about her beauty being a possible liability.
But now that we were legal drinking age, we had our Easter weekend planned; we were all set to party. Saturday night before we went out, we drank some Boone's Farm wine and rolled a number for the road.
A good rhythm and blues band was playing at a local bar and we danced as if no one was watching. Of course someone was. During intermission we headed out to the parking lot. A couple of older guys sauntered over, introduced themselves, said they were going to have a party later after the bar closed…did we want to go? I was mixed about going partially because these guys looked so clean cut, so collegiate. Not my type at all.
I whispered to Angie, “Let’s think about it.”
We went back into the sweaty bar smelling of reefer. The effect of the drinks and the smoke started blending together as we danced our asses off to Mustang Sally.
This story, could've, should've, ended right there.
The band played an encore, made their exit and so did we. To the party, that is.
I recall getting in the guy's car and flying past intersection after intersection of apartment towers. When we arrived the festivities were already underway. There were the mirrors and razor blades on the coffee table.
Mr. Clean started cutting up the coke. With a rolled up American twenty, he snorted the stuff up his nostrils and passed it to me. Back in the small town we came from, the closest I came to snorting anything was dancing to Clapton’s, Cocaine.
But here I was, a stranger in a stranger land and I took it – up my nose. Shortly thereafter I heard the scuffle of dog claws on the parquet floor. From down the hall in came two huge shiny black Dobermans. Someone said, “I hope you girls don’t mind dogs.”
Shit no, I don’t mind dogs: Irish Setters, Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and other doe-eyed types. But this pair of pointy-eared pinchers with studded leather collars, tongues hanging out of their mouths showing off jaws lined with rows of razor sharp teeth ... had my heart galloping like a horse with no name.
There I was under the influence of cocktails and other concoctions with the hounds from hell staring at me and salivating two feet away. I look around for Angie who was nowhere to be found.
Some preppy dude sets down a rye and coke in front of me and makes meaningless conversation. I hear the drink fizz and smell the sweetness of the liquor. I can hardly talk my mouth is so dry. He looks at me, “Relax, the dogs are harmless,” he says.
Then, or now, I've never been fond of someone telling me to "Relax." I start planning our escape.
“Where’s the phone," I ask?
“Why?” he says.
“Just curious,” I say.
Finally Angie emerges from a room down the hall and sits beside me on the couch. I turn and quietly say, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Just then there is a rap at the door. In spills a gaggle of girls. I grab Angie by the arm and while both dogs and men sniff out the new arrivals, we’re out the door. The elevator takes us down nineteen floors. Call it being stoned, mixed with Catholic guilt, but when the door to the lobby opens, I expect flames licking the walls of Dante’s inferno. Instead I see the salvation of a phone booth and call a cab.
Back inside Angie’s apartment the adrenalin and euphoria of escape wears off, and I crawl onto a futon, the room swirling before my eyes. The red digits on the clock stare me down at 3:33 am. The bedroom door directly opposite the foot of the bed is ajar. A light from the hall is casting a strange glow in the room. I get up and shut the door hoping to get some sleep.
I crawl back to bed but a yellow streetlight from outside shines in through a sheer curtain drawing attention to a form on the back of the door. Confused I scan to make sense of the shape until an image settles, and I focus on what seems to be a human form, limbs hanging akimbo and useless.
Straining my eyes I see what seems to be a crucified Christ slumped on the back of that door. I lay before this Christ in the silence of the night except for the pounding of my own heart in my ears. I’m so paranoid laying there I think I hear blood dripping from his hands and feet onto the floor. I press my eyelids tightly to shut out the vision.
Technicolour graphics explode like fireworks behind my eyelids. I peek and see him hanging there mouth agog, dead eyes staring back at me. I want to call out for my friend but like in a dream where your voice is stolen, fear grips me and I am frozen.
I shake and barter with a God I don’t know and keep my eyes shut until the pink sky of Sunday morning rises. I peek through the swollen slits of my eyes to see that the defeated Christ with the crown of thorns hanging there was a bundle of long hanging robes with a small wreath around the hook at the top.
My mouth is drier than an old cork and every cell in my body is screaming out for water. This was last time I mixed the "opiate of the people" with any powdered, inhaled or noxious substance.
I lay there remembering all the Easters of not having to wait until after breakfast to eat the ears off my chocolate bunny. I recalled the baskets, the bonnets, the white patent leather shoe with frilly socks, and gloves we wore with our new spring coats we got for Easter.
I remember looking out the kitchen window seeing a cottontail rabbit scamper across the yard sure it was the real Easter bunny. My Mum told me it wasn't the real Easter Bunny - because he is much larger - but it was one of his babies.
I pictured my Mum standing by that same window in her stovepipe pants and black-rimmed glasses. I imagine her leaning over, opening the oven door, the smell of turkey and easter dinner wafting across the kitchen.
With a pounding head I think about my own stupidity and about how cool my mother really is. I call the bus station to check the schedule and spend my Easter Sunday on a Greyhound. Homeward bound.
This is an edited and reworked version originally posted as "Easter Revelations" on Open Salon 2010.
© Scarlett Sumac.