As my car climbed the hill, I took a deep, cleansing, breath. I knew where I was going. I always know where I’m going when I go there. I know my presence has little impact. Still, I hope for a different out come.
The hill is covered by homes. A comfortable community. It was an affluent area when I was a kid. Ours was one of the first homes built in the area. He was the builder and designer. I see the house differently now. It is no longer an imposition. The things that happen here are a part of me. A part I refuse to deny but I handle with care.
When he called, choking on the news that his uncle had died, I knew I had to go to him. It was eerie though, to comfort the man who had caused so many of my tears. I sat beside him; his flooding eyes catch me by surprise. I listened to his memories. We sat at the window waiting for her to come home. I offered to him what he never gave to me. He received it for a minute. Then she arrived.
Her brisk hello was not to be faltered by his tears. Good riddance was all she could muster as she went into telling of her day. His eyes, now dry, showed interest only for her. No hatred like I see in hers when she listens to him.
As I left, I offered my company for the days ahead. Knowing it would not be utilized.
Driving home, memories dashed through me. Her cold hands pulling me from the bed, holding me at the window as she cried into my hair, waiting for him to come home. The smell of concrete and beer. Cold, hard words. Threats of spankings for tears of my own. Seams in my footy jammies rubbing against my toe while I knelt in the corner. Waiting for the yelling to stop. His belt against my back. Heat left by her hand on my face. Calluses on his hands. Police gathering my things.
I lie in bed that night and thought about his uncles, all of them. I thought of their wives, their children, their ways, their culture. The entanglement of family. They are old now, many are gone. With each passing I see him shed off some of the trappings. Yet as he lets go she clings. She has become all she despised.
Today was the burial. I have spoken with them everyday this week. I was not invited to attend. I was only told after it occurred. I am haunted that I don’t feel disappointed.
I used to feel trapped by what happened there. Even when it had nothing to do with me. I used to feel I was created to be a slave to their design. They chased me, they pulled at me. I belonged to them, I had to take part. I spent years running. Then I stopped running and fought to free them. All my efforts were useless; in vain. Now when the captives swing their chains at me I understand their discomfort is with my freedom, not with the shackles that bind them.