4. Adrift

March 5, 1991

“Tommy needs to go to the hospital,” the doctor said. I started crying and shaking. No, my mother wouldn’t dare take me there, I thought.  She would keep me home and take care of me like she always did. I didn’t feel any sicker than usual. My asthma couldn’t be that bad. My earache didn’t hurt any worse than any of the others I’d had, even if I did rupture my eardrum this time. But what did I know at six years old? So once again I was whisked away from the comforts of home and put in a strange building filled with people I didn’t know and didn’t want to, people who yelled at me and said I was stupid.

After several days I was curled into a ball in my hospital bed. I had no appetite anymore, and the drugs didn’t help. Every couple of hours I had to pop pills, slurp spoonfuls of pink shit, puff on machines, and get drops in my ear.  I was on more drugs than most musicians. I was wasting away from not eating so they stuck an IV the size of a Sharpie into my hand. My parents and the doctor started fighting about what to do with me. I heard them arguing out in the hallway one afternoon.

“We’ve got to take him out of here. He’s not getting any better,” my mother insisted.

“What is the matter with you people? You’re not doctors, you don’t know how to take care of him! He belongs here!” the doctor yelled. They all yelled, back and forth, back and forth. I turned and faced the wall as tears ran down my cheeks. Soon my parents entered the room, the doctor breathing down the backs of their necks.

“You see what you’re doing to him?” he chastised my parents as he pointed at me. “He’s getting worse because of you! All you’ve been doing is bringing in outside food and feeding him that crap, and it’s not helping him any!”

“But he’s not eating anything else!” my mother protested.

“Well, you’ve got to get him to eat! Look at him!” he ripped the sheets back and started prodding and jabbing me like a pincushion, showing them my bones poking through my skin. “He’s going to be a skeleton soon, and it’s your fault. What the hell kind of parents are you?”

“Well, if he won’t eat, then we can have him force-fed,” Dad suggested. My mother turned to him.

“No, we are absolutely not force-feeding him,” my mother told him. The doctor looked as if he thought it was a great idea. I sobbed with fear and crawled under the pillows to hide as their voices raged around me.

The next day the IV was taken out and I was taken home. But they couldn’t take me out of the shell I’d crawled into. For the next eight years I had no appetite. And for the next two months I recuperated at home until I was strong enough to go back to school, but I still looked like anorexic.  Wonderful.  As if the kids in school didn’t already have enough to make fun of me about.


Mom and Dad didn’t sleep in the same bed anymore… although, technically they never did – just two twin beds pushed together.  But they didn’t even sleep in the same room anymore. I didn’t know why exactly; I questioned Mom about it but her answers were cagey at best.  But I was old enough to formulate a theory.  First of all, Dad snored.  He snored so loudly you heard it throughout the house.  He drooled all over the place, he coughed up phlegm in his sleep, and his gums bled.  His pillow looked like a bandage from the Civil War.  And to top it off he talked gibberish in his sleep, even sitting up and laughing at times.

Whatever the real problem was, Mom first tried to solve it by pushing their beds apart, and when that didn’t work she moved her bed into the little room across the hall, right next to mine.  She was perfectly positioned to hear everything that went on – like when Dad came home late and woke me up to ask about my day.  I was always happy to oblige, but Mom was not happy with him waking me up at ten or even eleven o’clock.  Every time she interrupted our merry little chats and hustled him out of the room.  Their raised voices drifted in from the hallway until Mom closed my door and they moved deeper into the house to continue the argument.

As I drifted off to the sleep, my last rumination was that Mom and Dad were fighting more and more.


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