UPDATE: You can get a free copy of this story and two others by downloading the free Voice of the Mute Tales, Volume 1 for Kindle or EPUB readers. You can also get a free copy of The Ignored when you subscribe to my mail list. To stoke your interest, I include an excerpt below.
Monday morning comes after a busy weekend where I did nothing but watch my two brothers and sister run around town from parties to soccer games to recitals back to more soccer games while I tagged along and got bored. I watch them now, jumping out of bed when Dad calls them while Mom, who has already been up for an hour, finishes getting ready. I step out of my sister Angie’s closet, where I’ve spent another sleepless night. I go over to her bed, touch it. The warmth is fading, but still enough of it lingers in its soft padding to make me wish I could sleep like her every night.
No one, not Mom, not Dad, and less than all my brothers and sister care whether I have a warm blanket or a pillow. They ignore me. They try to forget about me. They don’t care if I get out of the closet or stay in it all day. But if I did stay in there like I want to on days when I’m sad, they would not only ignore me, but forget me. I can’t let that happen, so I don’t stay there.
As my brothers and sisters go down to the kitchen and sit around the table to eat the cereal Dad made for them, I run down the stairs after them, hoping that today there’s a place for me. But I find none. It’s as before. Three places for Jorden, Brenden and Angie, one for Mom, one for Dad, none for me. So I do what I do every Monday to Friday. Once Dad runs off to work and Mom comes into the kitchen, ready to gobble down her own breakfast before taking us to school, I sit in Dad’s seat, even if there’s no food for me. But that’s only Monday to Friday. On weekends it’s a full house for breakfast, so I have to sit on the floor, where I definitely don’t get any food.
I used to get hungry, but I no longer do. It’s what happens once you get used to it: to no one saying your name, to no one looking at you, to no one caring if you’re hungry or if you need any clothes. You don’t get hungry. You don’t get cold if your clothes are thin or have holes. Which from watching the news and seeing all the starving and naked children around the world may seem like a good thing, to never be hungry or cold. But it’s not. It’s a bad sign that things are going the wrong way for you. That’s if like me you’re among the ignored, the ones moms and dads still remember but don’t pay any never mind to because they’d like to forget you. If they succeed, then you join the discarded. You go away, and you never see Mom and Dad again until many years later in a place where they say there’s no more hunger, no more tears, and no more pain. That place sounds good, but the thought of going there and staying there alone for many years scares me. I rather hang on here as best I can.
This means I do whatever it takes to avoid becoming one of the discarded. I have to tag along, stay close to Mom and Dad, though lately for me it’s Mom because I think Dad is a lost cause. I haven’t been keeping track, but I think he’s ignored me long enough that he’s finally forgotten me. If I accept this is true and he’s no longer thinking of me at all, then I’m halfway out, halfway to becoming discarded. Mom’s all I have, and though I refuse to accept it, I fear I’m losing her, too.
Though just last night Mom thought of me. It was clear. No doubt about it. Write it down in the records. There’s hope, because unlike Dad, she’s given me a name, and sometimes while looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, with the door closed and just me and her in there, she says it.
My heart fluttered when she whispered it last night, and I shouted at her that I loved her. But that’s all she did, just stare at herself in the mirror and whisper my name. Once. A long time ago she used to cry when she thought of me. Now she just stares with empty eyes, which is better than nothing at all, but worries me because I can tell she’s trying to forget and getting better at it, colder about it, maybe even angry.
When Mom comes into the kitchen, she kisses Dad. The two of them exchange a playful look, like something happened between them, maybe last night or earlier this morning. Something that used to happen more often, I think. Anyway, I’m glad for her, because her eyes don’t seem empty anymore. And maybe that’s good for me? I don’t know. When she’s happy and things are going well, she doesn’t think of me, so maybe I have things backwards. I’m still trying to figure out how I can keep her remembering me, even if she tries to act as if I’m not here at all, but I also like it better when she’s happy. I want her to be happy. I love the way her smile makes her face prettier, and the way her eyes twinkle when she’s happy.
That’s because even though she ignores me, I still love her. Very, very much. It’s something that’s true about the ignored. With every passing day, with every bit of disdain, rejection and neglect, we love our parents more and more, no matter what, without needing their love in return, even though we long for them to love us, especially the more they ignore us.
“Okay kids,” Mom says. “Time to go.” I can tell she doesn’t mean me, but I rush out to the minivan anyway and get in first.
To read the rest of The Ignored, download Voice of the Mute Tales, volume 1, free this weekend (9/13-14/2014).