How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.
So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.
There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?
When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.
Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.
Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.
So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.
In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.
What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?
To my cousin, may she rest free.
The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in bed, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.
Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.
Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears. Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.
She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.
She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.
Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.
He backed his truck into the spot he’d unofficially claimed as his many years ago at his place of work, turned off the engine and took a deep breath, maybe it was a sigh, and then collected his things and hopped out into the early morning drizzle. He had his lunch pail and when he grabbed his ‘ol coffee thermos and kicked the door shut behind him, his fingers slipped and his mug, this bare metal mug, its bottom wrapped in duct tape, with all its dents and dings has been there for him every single morning; Monday through Friday for the last many years fell from his grasp.
The world seemed to slow down in that instant, the rain fell silently, slowly, his gaze dropped and he fumbled with his lunch pail and his phone but just couldn’t get there before his mug hit the curb. As the sun seemed to pause for him while it peeked over the horizon, shards of light spewing through the mist and reflecting off of the sidewalk he watched in horror as the twist on top shattered into pieces, the mug bouncing and spinning, spitting coffee from a crack at its base, he knew this was its final abuse, its last trip and in its final dramatic moments, it spun like a top on its side before finally resting in the wet grass.
He stood for a moment, glaring at it and when he picked it up, it was covered in freshly cut grass, grit from the sidewalk and a shallow film of coffee as it dribbled down its side and over the back of his hand. He stood there, his chest tight, his mind awash in memories like the time it fell from his motorcycle and rolled down the highway and into the ditch halfway to Kentucky on a trip with his brother. It was always a survivor, it always kept him a hot, freshly brewed mug and when he sat down at work and readied his self for the day he could always rely on the roasted beans and its clean, velvety flavor he could only get from his percolator.
He walked into his place of business, he felt hollow, he didn’t say hi to Deb in finance on his way by, he didn’t knock on his friend Paul’s cubicle as he passed and when he sat at his desk he set the remnants of his ol pal on the desk in front of him and gazed at it, reflected in memories spanning years, through hot summer days and cold, snowy mornings. Like the blood of a sacrificed cow in the Philippines he drained what coffee was left through the crack at its base into an old company cup he’d had stashed away in his desk. There it was, in all of its dark, nutty presence, as a single swirl of steam furled from its russet surface rising above the rim and dissipating into the office air, was the final swig of what would be the last from this mug. Like so many losses we suffer through in life, this too shall lead to other freshly brewed adventures.
So long my old friend, take heed in your well deserved rest, your service has been recognized and celebrated.
Have you ever gone an extended amount of time without seeing someone? Maybe they live far away and all you do is talk with them on the phone, maybe they are distant relatives and you see them once or twice a year, or maybe you haven’t seen someone because you grew apart, one upset at the other; and your hurt too much by their words and actions, or maybe you both decided it is better to go your separate ways.
Yesterday I went to my dad’s shop. I drove into the parking lot and his truck was parked in the back. The previous three times I had gone there in the past 9 months, he wasn’t there. His lot was empty, his shop closed, and my heart still broken. We haven’t seen eye to eye for quite some time. My decisions don’t exactly measure up to his plans for me. He couldn’t understand my logic or my life’s path. So, there was silence. A long silence. And a distance grew between us even though we were only 20 miles apart. So I would take out a piece of paper, write a note on it, “Dad, I miss you. I love you. Wish you were here so I could say hi.” I taped it to his front door, sat in my car for a few minutes, cried, and then drove away.
During those months of silence my heart ached. It ached out of loneliness and sadness. It ached for losing my father, for thinking I wouldn’t hear his voice again and see his face, or feel his skin on my skin. It’s a devastating thing, to have family torn apart, ripped at the seams that once were sewn in place so carefully. With my little sister across the world and speaking badly about me, my older sister second guessing my decisions, and my dad upset with me, it left my mom in the middle. By no means was she happy with my decisions, but nonetheless we tried to remain somewhat in touch, somewhat civil. I’m sure some will ask why? Well, because, we are family and there is love between us, and when nobody else talked to me, I tried to mend things with my mom.
I remember there were times I cried, I sobbed, I couldn’t control my emotions, and the tears just poured out of my eyes. I couldn’t stop the pain and hurt that I felt inside and I wondered how could I go on without speaking to my parents.
But on this day, my dad’s truck was there. Part of me was nervous, and excited, and part of me fearful. It had been 9 months since I saw him and now was the moment I had been hoping and waiting for. I knocked on the front door of his shop, my heart pounding. I put my forehead onto the glass and peered in, I saw him walking towards me. He unlocked the door and opened it. We both smiled at each other. Father and daughter face to face. I looked at him, his face old, tired, thin, his hair gray, he seemed to have shrunk, I was just about as tall as he was now, his back hunched over slightly, and his belt seemed to hug his body tighter. I was certain he had lost weight. Time doesn’t stop when you grow distant, it keeps going, people get older. Faces change and age is more easily seen. He will be 68 next month and after months of not seeing him, he is looking like an old man.
I said, it’s good to see you. He said it’s good to see you too. As he started to talk about his work and walk into the shop, I asked, can I give you a hug? He paused, turned to me and we embraced. It was short hug, he patted my back and let go, that sort of hug was not unusual for him. But then I said, a longer hug, please. I held on tightly to him, my arms wrapped around his body, not wanting him to go. After a moment, he softened, and we hugged, for real. He started to tear up, as did I. I whispered I love you and I have missed you in his ear, and he said I love you too. As the hug finished we stepped back from each other, I looked at him, and couldn’t believe how much time I have lost because of not seeing him. But on this day, I was grateful for him, for the time together, and for being near him.
It rained today as I walked along the shoreline of a pond; I stopped to watch the drops sink below the surface of the water strewn with dark red leaves, and studied the shallow ripples as they rolled together, slowly dying out.
The air was quiet, dull, thick and moist and as I walked the fallen leaves made no sound below my feet.
I didn’t mind the rain, it was light and the drops seemed to float to the ground in no big hurry.
I wasn’t really cold nor was I warm, and the rain on my neck didn’t bother me much.
I didn’t care that I had to go back to work soon and I didn’t care that the trees were bare and the sun was away.
In fact the only thing that seemed to matter was the lack of everything; I felt no connection to the Earth, the trees or the sky.
But pain is always there to welcome me, there is a sense of sadness, a feeling hidden somewhere beyond the colors of the fall and the reflections of me in the raindrops.
It’s there always, rising from the ground like humidity in the desert brilliantly reflecting everything back at me, making everything appear real, but I know it’s just a vision, a transparent image that hides the hurt until I need it again.
Sometimes though, the reflection hides even the good, the happiness, and then I can’t see it through the pain.
Don’t let people that don’t matter, matter too much.