It had been seven years since she’d seen her mother. Walking in the Jacksonville Airport toward the baggage claim, she had no idea what to expect. Seven years of tension, anger, tears, love and confusion hung over her like a lurking cloud casting a shadow- not quite raining, but always reminding her that it’s there. She had met her uncle, who lives in Houston but was flying into Jacksonville to see her, at a layover in Atlanta. Nine years since she’d seen him. The last time they were in the same room together, he promised he’d marry his current girlfriend Zula- and made her promise not to tell anyone yet. Two years later, they were married. One year later, they were divorced. Much like many relationships in her family, they took a while to form, but were easily destroyed. The thickness of the Floridian air did surprise her, and her surprise made her feel almost ashamed for forgetting such a simple detail of her home state. “I see Jaden,” her uncle said while motioning to a man across the baggage claim. She looked around and noticed all the people passing by, wondering where they came from, and where they were going. She heard loud thumps as she looked up and saw a large man, wearing quite loud flip flops, running toward her. Jaden. As quickly as she saw Jaden, she saw a tan figure running next to him. “Baby, I’ve missed you so much.” the tan figure hugged her hard, as though she were trying to stop a frantic bird with its wings cut off from flying out of a nest. Her mom looked so different than what she’d rememered. Her smooth, glowing skin now held a grey tint, as though someone had ripped off her top layer and poured dirty concrete under it before slapping the skin back on. Her face appeared to be centrally scrunched, as though someone had pinched her nose and twisted it to where her skin would follow, and her skin was left permanently in that shape. But the most noticeable difference was her missing front tooth. She tried not to look too long at her mother, but the differences shocked her. Maybe she shouldn’t have visited- then she could’ve kept the image of her mother that had landed her modeling jobs way back when. She seemed to walk as though someone was stepping on her heels, or as though she had terrible blisters on her tendons and everytime she stepped down it hurt her, so she’d quickly take the next step- except she never wore shoes with an actual back, only flip flops. Throughout those seven years, one thing te daughter missed the most was the natural smell of her mother. Often times, she would find a scent similar to her mothers on her pillowcase, or while walking in a store and some older woman walked by. The smell was a trigger for her. It was always something of bliss for a young daughter to feel her mother's touch and smell her naturally. On the day of reuniting, her smell was much different. What once was reminiscent of old roses and incense now was of cigarettes and a hint of dirty sand. There was a startling lurking smell, almost of something rotten, that followed her. As her mother hugged her, all of her sense were electric and desiring the things she’d missed so much- but they were quickly confused. “I’ve missed having you in my arms,” she said. She was happy to see her family that she’d missed for so long, but there was so much controversial history there. She’s seventeen now; so much has changed. She’s had to face the whole world without their support and they wanted to act as though she were the same ten year old they’d left years ago. Everyone seemed as though they were walking on eggshells from the start- no one wanted to accidentally bring up the past. The three hour car ride from Jacksonville to Tallahassee was dominated by pop music, which no one really seemed to care for. There was little conversation except for questions of school. The words her father always used echoed in her head many times throughout her two-week stay: “They always talk at you, but never to you.” She recognized her grandmother's love and truly missed her so much. She had gone down to Florida that summer to reconcile and reinvent; her mother was of poor health, a common consequence of continual self-abuse, and she desperately wanted her mother to know that she forgave her- she also needed to know for herself if she forgave her.
Feelings of guilt overcame her quickly, as though it was a hurricane. She had felt this many times, so was very accustomed to it. It felt like the violent rushes of a hurricane- not the calm eye, but the earth-shattering winds and lightening of the chaos. She imagined it as though there was this tower, and inside of the tower was the hurricane- it whipped and spun in madness, but it could never reach the outside of the tower. The tower was hell-bent on looking as though it were untouched, just like all the other towers, but it were raging inside. The wall of that tower were the walls of her heart. The hurricane would race itself through her veins, breaking barriers and shattering lives. She was helpless to its effects. All she could do was stand there and promise the other towers she was perfectly well, because as one tower falls, the world of towers falls with it. In her stomach was a burning inferno, with swirling flames that reached all the way up to the tip of her ribcage. A grey haze often times took over her vision. Shed walk through her day in regret, feeling the haze and wanting to urge herself out of it, but not having the energy to go through with her own escape from her body.