What Could Have Been

March 12, 2008
By Rachel Ausura, Newport News, VA

What Could Have Been

The tears come easy now. They rush from every corner of her being, from every built-up wound inflicted by her so-called grandfather. Her head hangs down as tears poor from her eyes and splatter below on the cheap, hastily bought black dress. The sun streams through the windshield causing her wet cheeks to glisten. She could still smell the commanding sent of the white lilies and hear the many voices offering their condolences over the loud sound of the organ. She had just left the funeral and was now sitting in her car, immobilized by the unexpected tears that seem to never cease. There was a distinct difference between the usual tears found after a funeral and her own. Her tears were not the typical ones shed for the loss of a human's life and love. No, her tears were caused by something else, the loss of hope, the loss of what could be.

She had never been particularly close to her grandfather, but she could recall fond memories of being with him. She could remember childhood summers spent playing in the yard at his big house in the country while he sat on the porch swing drinking iced tea. She remembers how he always seemed to have some special treat for her after dinner and how he always smelled of cedar chips mixed with something else, something sweet. She had generally thought well of him until she became a teenager and began making some friends that he did not approve of. It was then that she began to drift apart from him.

Over the last ten years or so, their relationship, or lack there of, had been notably strained. Other family members tried to deny it. At the funeral, many of them had stated lies such as "Oh, you were just his pride and joy, He really adored you," and other such nonsense. The truth was that her grandfather, at least in his head, had disowned her. He had severed all contact with her. She had not seen him or heard his deep, rich voice since five Christmases ago. The reason for this could be disguised and made to look more complex then it really was, but in reality it was simple. Too many of her friends, and even her boyfriend, lacked a particular trait; none of them were white.

Call it bigotry, racism, ignorance, or hate. Whatever the name, her grandfather believed that if you were white, it was unacceptable for a black person to be anything to you but a co-worker or casual acquaintance. Holding "one of those people," in his words, as a dear friend or lover was inexcusable. His pure hatred for people, simply because they were different than himself, baffled her. How could her friends, her boyfriend, the people that she loved so much be despised by someone who didn't even know them? This question had plagued her for years. Previously, the thought of it had evoked anger and frustration but now it was causing something else, something different, a deep painful feeling of grief.

The tears that flow from her puffy eyes are for the loss of what could be, the loss of opportunity for change. In the back of her mind she had always hoped that one day her grandfather would let go of his hatred and change into a person who could love and accept her. She had realized that it was unlikely that an old man deeply set in his ways would ever change, but there had always been a glimmer of hope. But now that hope was dead; it would be buried alongside her grandfather and because of this she continues to weep.

Eventually, the crying ceases, and as her tears run dry, she looks out the window with red, swollen eyes at the soft rays of light that trickle through the surrounding trees. The warmth and beauty of the spring day seem to mock her. To her current melancholic outlook, the warmth of the sun seems like cold darkness in disguise. The place begins to feel ominous, like some horrific beast disguised by the perfection of the scene, is closing in on her. She turns the ignition, backs out, and drives away from the funeral home, away from her dead grandfather and her dead hope. She drives off, seemingly calm and collected, back toward her life, the one that has no need for a hateful old man. She drives off, mostly successful in leaving the grief back in the parking lot, but somewhere deep down, covered and crushed by hatred, is the little girl who desperately wants to be loved and held by the grandfather who wanted nothing to do with her and her love for people regardless of their skin color.

"This will certify that the above work is completely original." Rachel Ausura

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