Updated: Feb 7
Moments. Vivid memories that seem to define us, are all that we essentially made of. Moments, and memories that make good stories. Or terrible stories, it depends on your perspective. They’re really yours to be made, it’s all on you. The words, the facial expressions, right down to which direction you move your hands, can change the entire story. Moments.
I remember colours very well. It’s probably one of the reasons I do what I do. I have a love/hate relationship with colours. I notice how light changes the depth and tone, how shadows play, where the light is best, as to see certain colours to invoke emotion. There is a certain shade of green that makes me cry. It isn’t terrible, it’s actually exceedingly calm. Almost a neutral in its paleness. But I hate it, it makes me feel sick. My son’s hospital room was drenched in it. Floor tiles, gowns, chairs-Green.
There is a day in April, that this colour plays into defining moments not only in my life-but my child’s. My oldest is sitting on a green vinyl chair, surrounded by kids ranging in age from the tiniest little thingto strapping teenagers with large runners, glued to smart phones, with ear buds hanging out of the sides of their heads. My teenager is small in comparison. She’s my size, short hair, gloves with fingers cut off, a hood pulled over her face. She’s not talking to me. I thwarted a plan to run away and hurt herself. So, she’s not talking. To her right and slightly behind, a security guard quietly side eyes us in the waiting room. He’s there because I had whispered to the triage nurse, “She doesn’t want to be here, and I’m worried she going to run.” I look down and count green tiles on the floor-they form a pathway through the waiting room to green chairs.
Jump to a room with green walls, swear words are scratched out of the plaster. I think the plaster is green is as well, a lighter shade-but green. I look up and tune back into my child whispering her story, tears down her face. Her hoodie is off, the scars on her arms are deep, and angry. We are at the part of the story, where I failed as a mother.
“She refuses to call me Nic, and told me it’s a phase. I’m lonely, and I’m not allowed to be who I want to be. I want to be Nic, and I want to do what I want. Do I have to be here? Why are you making me stay here?” I’m cringing because I remember my shock a month earlier when she asked me if I would love her as a boy. I flippantly said of course, but I had been reeling. This was out of the blue, did she know that becoming a he would involve an emotional, and psychological resolve most adults can’t handle? Was she aware of the danger she was putting herself in by transitioning? The violence of people who refused to understand, the SEXUAL violence most trans teens will experience BEFORE they’re twentyone. So yes, in my fear the word “phase” came out of my mouth. My refusal to call him by his new name Nic, a passive aggressive protest made in protective fear. Not my finest moment, but I hadn’t reached the “So your child is Trans” Chapter of my mom handbook.
I had felt my control as a mother slipping for a few weeks before this particular incident. However, as he spoke his story over and over again that day, it was clear he was broken, and blamed himself. I hadn’t held him together like I was supposed to.
It's ten o’clock now, and we are let onto a ward by a nurse who quietly tells us the rules. Visiting hours are this, no that allowed, you have chores, school. “Just like home” Except there are locked doors separating every section of the ward, every child here has their own nurse. Nic’s room is green. Green tiles, a strange shade of green on the walls, but here there are dents in the walls. My head hurts, and I wonder if it was fists, furniture or forehead that made the marks. The window has a mesh between the glass. Everything is double bolted. The door clicks closed, and its freaking green. I sigh, I’m exhausted. As I look at Nic, he’s handed green scrubs because he’s not allowed his street clothes, laces, electronics, and the nurse is telling us other NO’s but I’ve stopped listening. So has Nic. His tears had stopped hours ago, but now he’s picking at his skin. I recognize the anxiety tactic, my own tattoos cover pocked scars from picking in fear, and silence.
“I have to go, I can’t stay. Are you going to be okay?” I ask this question, like the answer might be yes. He’s not okay. I’m not okay. Nothing in this moment is okay. Hes sitting on the edge of a bed, with a thin green vinyl mattress, the kind I slept on at sleep away camp. No words, just a nod. I side hug him, and he tenses up so tight I feel the skin under his shirt pull away from my forced gesture.
The nurse escorts me out. My arms are full, and my eyes hurt. I’m counting tiles again, to an elevator to go one floor up. “We will call you Mrs. Smith if there is a problem. Nic can call you whenever he wants as well. He’s safe, I promise.” I nod, and 11 hours after arriving at the Children’s hospital, I finally feel like crying. I stare at the nurse, for the first time notice how burly he is. His body is very clearly the product of hard work. I look up, all the staff are incredibly fit. There are security guards everywhere, black shoes that thump when they walk, and vests as shields make them all look barrel chested.
“What if Nic fights you, or tries to hurt himself? Or won’t calm down? What happens then?” As I ask this, a child yells, and a door slams. The nurse tells me to follow him. And he unlocks 1, 2, five doors total. Shows me a room the size of a small walk in closet. The mattress is on the floor, and the door is propped open.
“This is where they go, the door is left open so we can keep an eye on the kids. If they are particularly violent, aggressive, or refuse to listen, we do take the bedding, and lock the door” I feel him watching my profile. I can’t tell if I haven’t blinked, or if I’ve started to cry. But my eyes are burning as I whisper “He’s safe, he’s alive, we will be alive tomorrow. Try again tomorrow” I look at the nurse, he’d heard my words, and for the first time, empathy is there. I walk past him, back the way we came. I’m done. I’m going home.
I’ve made it to my car, surprised I didn’t get a parking ticket. I throw the bag of clothes and electronics on the passenger seat, and a screen lights up under the white platic. Its Nic’s phone. I was to busy trying not to fall apart, I didn’t think to check it. I open the screens, and read pages and pages of text messages.
“Your mom doesn’t get you, I bet she wished you’d kill yourself”
“Why are you acting this way? You're being a bitch”
“Just fucking die already.”
“My mom doesn’t get it. I know she hates me. Why didn’t she let me go? I can’t be loved like this. I fucking hate myself so much. And she just reminds me all the time...” I couldn’t finish it. The day finally came heaving out of my chest. Sobs so powerful I’m seeing stars. My hands shake and drop the phone. The very phone that had helped us find her over 13 hours before. There are weeks of stored messages, all of them becoming darker, and angrier. My baby was feeling everything, and had no way to cope. He had no way to cope-because of me.
I’m angry. So incredibly angry. I know in my heart the majority of my friends, if any will actually go through this. No one will understand how to be still, and strong for someone who isn’t a child, but not an adult. I’m mad as hell at my mom for not staying alive long enough to help me through this. Or to take over, as she would in her own way. I'm mad at my ex-husband for not seeing this either. One of us should have seen-but neither of us did. I’m mad at Nic for making me be this mom. Those minutes, of gut-wrenching emotion, were all about me. Every last tear, sob, cry and swear word-were for myself.
In that parking lot that is lit in orange, I stare at the blue green Alberta Children’s Hospital sign, my skin is itchy, and I'm picking at my arms. The muscles in my body are shaking and tense, but I’m absolutely frozen. My own phone is alight with 15 missed text messages, little round faces in the corner of my phone screen tells me my Facebook messenger is just as busy.
My breathing has finally slowed. I’ve found a baby wipe in the glove compartment, and I’m removing my streaked makeup. I ignore the messages, and turn on my Spring play list.
“Needless to say, I keep her in check She was all bad-bad, nevertheless (yeah)…"
I pull away from my illegal spot, singing along hyper focused on the lyrics. The day is done, and tomorrow is a new beginning. New normal. New people in our lives, I’ll come with clean socks, and a forced positivity fueled with a latte and a shower.
“... Then you're left in the dust Unless I stuck by ya You're a sunflower...”
I fucking hate the colour green.