Janie Doe

By Michael Montoya

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The phone rang. It was my mother’s number. I reluctantly answered. “Hullo?” I asked unenthused. I wondered what she wanted this time. I was doing homework, and she always had a sixth sense, like she knew to bother me when I was super busy. But instead of her loud, obnoxious voice, I heard another woman’s voice crackle from the phone.

“Are you Michael Montoya?”

“Yes?” I replied, unsure of the question.

“I have something to tell you…”

In that moment, I just knew. My lungs pressed all the air from my body, like a brown paper bag being crushed underfoot. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I knew the basic gist without having to hear the details. My mother was always so sick, marred from a life too rough. She partied hard in her younger days and had all the scars to prove it.

I was shocked, yet not surprised. My mother was only 58 years old, but she had lived the lives of three people. Hell, by the time she died, she had gone by no fewer than two different first names, and four different last names! Like a chameleon, she was always under a state of camouflage, trying to blend in to an all-too-ugly world.

I was relieved yet burdened at the same time. As her youngest child, I was also the most responsible one. My two older brothers are always in jail, so I had to plan and attend her funeral all by myself. I oversaw all the arrangements, but I was also the one financially accountable. I was the free one, yet I felt so enchained. I felt so angry at everyone and no one in particular. I
needed to rest but had so much work to do. I was up, and down, and all around. Like riding on a reckless rollercoaster at the carnival, I felt nauseated by it all.

You never appreciate what you have until it is gone, so I am still trying to decipher it all. I stayed in the shower until all the hot water ran cold. I couldn’t stay in any longer and be pelted by the icy bullets, but I also didn’t want to have to step out and re-adjust to a world much too dry
for my now parched persona. I felt so foreign. I am not quite the chameleon my mother was.

I love to write. I most often write essays and poems. Sometimes I’ll write drama pieces. And on really rare occasions, I’ll write a short story. But for the very first time in my life, I had to write an obituary. What do I say? How do I honor her memory and remember her legacy? Should I focus on her past, or her present? For the first time in my writing career, I was at a loss for words. I am sure there is a proper format to writing these things, but then again, my mother
was not a proper person. She proudly traveled her own path.

She always used to say to me, “I’m rude, crude, and tattooed.” Also, “I’m evil, wicked, mean, and nasty. But only the good die young, so I’ll live forever!” Oh, how wrong she was. Wrong, for all the right reasons. Or was she right for all the wrong reasons? She must have been sweeter than she wanted to admit. I must have loved her more than I ever wanted to admit.

As her youngest child, she used to refer to me as her “baby.” I would roll my eyes so hard, my eye sockets would vomit from the dizziness. But even though I am currently 28 years old, and nowhere near my infancy anymore, I have never bawled so hard as I have this past month. Now there is nothing I want more than to have her ring me up on the phone, hear her deep, raspy smoker voice, and let her call me her baby one last time.

About Michael Montoya

Michael Montoya is a student, writer, and father. Montoya is a first-year student at Pueblo Community College in Pueblo, Colorado where he studies literature and composition/rhetoric.

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