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This week’s prompt is about forgiveness. Forgiving others, forgiving yourself. Write about a time of forgiveness. 600 words.

All concrit is welcome and helpful.

“She seemed a little off,” said the guy from the gun shop.

The 5-day hold on the gun license was automatic. The ‘courtesy’ visit from the Seattle police department was not. When the officers asked my step-mother Cristina why she wanted to purchase a gun she said,

“Because I can hear him in the copper plumbing.”

“Who Ma’am?”

“My psychiatrist. He’s listening to everything I say, everything I think.”

With that her dreams of a gun were released into the ether. They were soon joined by others as the disease slowly but completely burned all evidence of sanity and the precious, highly-regarded intellect from the being she once was.

At first it was poetic justice. As if all the karma she gathered from the mental and physical punches aimed my way came due in the same moment. Some nights I rocked myself to the lullaby of her suffering and terror as she swam up from the depths of the murky pool of paranoid schizophrenia to take brief desperate gulps of sanitized air. I gloated when my baby sister and brother aged 3 and 5 were removed from her house the final time with strict binding and legal no contact orders. I used the tales of her disease to entertain my friends giggling hysterically and painting vivid pictures of her stalking a columnist from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Stalking him to the point of changing her name and moving into his house while he was on vacation.

“He comes home and hears the ticking of his engine cooling. He puts his hand on the hood and it’s still warm. ‘What the fuck,’ he must have been thinking. He goes into the house to find dinner on the table and my step-mother standing there saying, ‘Hi, honey, how was your day?”

That incident began a 15-year rotation of jail, state-run mental institutions and halfway houses. Still I danced around the maypole of her misery feeling righteous and gluttonous on the notion that in fact, the Devil does get his due.

But then when he was thirteen a fear came into my brother’s storm blue eyes, “What if I become like her?”

He spends his teen years reading about the statistics of developing paranoid schizophrenia. He exhausts himself with self-vigilance, constantly in terror that he will find a crack in his own reality and disappear just as surely as his mother did. This new cost of her disease thickens my throat with tears. Knowing that I would do anything and everything I could if either of them ever develops the same sickness brings forth a fragile seedling.

Through my brother’s eyes I see the journey that his mother’s life has been, and find it unbearable that she never knew and will never know her children. Loosening my white knuckled grip on my own self-defining anger allows the notion that she couldn’t help herself to take hold. I wouldn’t wish her road on anyone and it is shameful to have been so small a person for so long.

Years later, my step-mother finally does get in touch with my sister and in a panic she asks me, “What should I do?”

Forgive. Take a breath to the bottom of your lungs, then exhale slowly letting it flow out into the ether of what once was, and what could have been dreams.