Without Thought
Morgan Eldridge



My mother is twenty-six. I am six. She has just left her first husband. I go to school. I go to the girls club after school. We live in a rental house which is old and divided into sections that are different apartments. It is located across the street from the girls club. At six I walk across the street to my new house. My mom gets ready for work. She leaves at eight to drive to Indianapolis for school and clinicals. She has just filed for divorce and started at a respiratory therapy school. The woman who lives upstairs is responsible for me. I do not remember what she looks like. I think it was a situation where if there was a fire or known break-in she would consider that I am home alone. 

This is what I remember. 

My mom would ask me often about how her body looked in contrast to another woman’s body. Do you think that I am about the same size as that woman? Does my hair look kind of like hers? I have just quit smoking, can you tell? Do you think my face looks different? I just answered honestly, without thought. 

When I enter a room, someone pokes me—says something about my body in general, or a specific part, but often in an indirect way like girl, you gotta eat more.

I sit down to write and I think about the apartment. Meeting my mom for the first time—as a woman who is able to communicate freely, removed from an oppressive marriage. And me—old enough to be cognizant of the changing form of mother as a lonely figure. My mother is talking for the first time. She still does not know how to hug me. And we—the apartment with three rooms and a bathroom. The only room that has a door is the bathroom. The ceilings are high and my mother lets my pet rat named Bob run freely, as he is the only thing at night that makes me feel protected. I remember envisioning Bob growing in size when my mother left for work, the sun starting to set. I believed this to be true.

This was the year I gave away all my possessions to the kids down the street. My mom did not notice for three days. She came into the room and asked me how many days I had been wearing that purple baseball shirt. I said I do not know, but it’s the only shirt I have. She then looked around and saw that I didn’t have anything in my bedroom. It all seemed so temporary.

There were these moments where I kept hiding my mom’s cigarettes inside of the aluminum foil roll. I took the cigarettes out of the box and filled the cylinder with them, then placed the roll back. I always left one or two because I was afraid she would get angry or really sad. 

On the nights where she slept with me in the apartment I would crawl in her bed and listen to her heart beat. She seemed sick and worn down. I worried she would die. She was the only person I had. I would ask her questions like, if you die what will happen to me? Do you think Bob would come back if he got out and ran away or do you think he would be excited to be free and forget we exist?

In the closet of my mother’s room, which was the middle room in the house, I went behind her clothes and I pooped in a cup. She was in the bathroom with the door closed with her new boyfriend. They had been in there a long time. She had been screaming. I thought maybe he was killing her or hurting her. I  knocked lightly on the door. I was afraid of him. I waited in the corner with the cup for a long time until they came out. Then I snuck in the bathroom with the cup avoiding them and flushed it down the toilet. I took the cup outside and buried it in the side yard. I dug until it got dark. I did not talk to my mom or her new boyfriend. I just went to bed and Bob curled between my feet at the edge. 

One night, Bob bit my mom’s new boyfriend in the balls. He screamed and said he pissed himself. I assumed that he peed from his balls. The moment that a child realizes change exists in big ways and nothing is really stable and you can lose—a massive weight in the heart forms. I understood my mom’s new boyfriend was human when he too screamed. Screams easily pressed throughout this apartment with no hallways and no doors, just three rooms and a bathroom.