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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

proof and blankets


She pads to the bedroom door, waiting in silence.
"I can't." E says, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I tried but I can't."
I hold her, then stand with her face burrowed into my shoulder. She slumps against me, and the sounds do come.
I walk the L-shaped hallway, turning in the kitchen, stepping once into the living room to see the moon hanging low outside the windows then back.
"You didn't have a dream?" I ask her quietly.
Her head shakes no.
"I just can't sleep." She mutters, then lets out a sigh.

I sit on the couch, wrap a blanket around both of us and rest her face on my shoulder.
In the silence, I hear her breathing, the rabbit speed of her heart.


It was in autumn, on those first cold nights. The fighting had swollen into all-day affairs. The screaming would overlap cooking dinner, me getting E to sleep, to stomping around in pajamas. The neighbors must have been so tired of this, waiting to see if it would be another night of threats and accusations, of venom and bile.
This is when I stopped sleeping on the couch and graduated to the back seat of the Mini Cooper. I would wrap myself in that giant green blanket and wedge my feet into the space between the front seats. It was cold, my breath hanging in the air. As the sun came up I would sneak back inside to be sure E saw me when she woke, on the couch as if I had been there all night.



When we picked up E on the way back from the airport last week she looked taller to me. Perched in the middle of the back seat she spoke in giant sentences, about a new story she was working on about a girl called Emily Tundlekind. She froze then, realizing she had left the notebook upstairs and would not be able to get it for a few days.

In the living room she danced around my bags, as I pulled out new clothes for her - party dresses and jeans, sweaters and polka dot shirts, scarves and mittens, cartoon underwear and shiny blue boots. 

In the kitchen I produced a giant bag of fresh bagels, slicing two and lighting the oven with a match. 
E held one up close to her face, examining it, sniffing once then again. 
"Smells good." She said, satisfied.
"Smells like home." I added.



We take a walk, to buy groceries.
E is yanking at my arm.
"Pop, look." She says, pointing up.
I look at the sky, expecting to see the moon is still out.
"A birdhouse." She announces.
A laugh jumps out of my mouth. We have lived in this apartment for four years and I never noticed it.

Later, I go into the closets and throw old clothing to the floor. A pile grows, jackets sliding off of jeans, t-shirts and old boots. They will all go downstairs in a bag and someone will take them all within a few minutes.
I want to prove I can let go of things.







Comments

liv said…
That brought a gasp - the picture of E on the escalator. She is changing, growing up. Such a beauty.

Glad you are back safe and sound.

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