Swallows

March 3, 2012
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I can still remember that humid summer day. The thick, sticky air pressed down against our faces, dewing little droplets of moisture on our foreheads. The all-purpose scissors were brought out and
snip snip gone was the tangled, sun bleached hair we had grown out and treasured for months on end.
I can remember the smell,

So sickly sweet. Rotting fruit mixed in with our mother’s sugary perfume that she only wore on “special occasions”. I didn’t see how special they could be, considering that we were never invited to them.

I can remember that afternoon, sneaking away from my little sisters. I met you in the peach orchard. You grazed your fingers over my tear-stained cheeks like they were glass then wound them through my jagged haircut. I tried to turn away, but you wouldn’t let me. You said it was pretty. You kissed me.

I can still remember running across the front yard, flip flops squelching in the sweat-soaked grass. Up the peeling front porch stairs, sprinting to the screen door and pulling it wide open, jumping into the kitchen. That’s when I remembered I didn’t have anyone to tell.

I can still remember padding quietly over to my sisters’ room that night, avoiding the loose floorboards above the living room.

I tell them it’s okay. Take them by each of their little soft hands.
Mommy and Daddy are just talking.
No, they’re not angry at you, of course not.
You’ve done nothing wrong.

I can still remember tucking them into my small bed, folding the quilt up to their chins. It wasn’t a shield, but it was all I had. When they finally fell asleep I opened my door. Pressing my ear against the top of the stairs, I muffled my dry sobs in the carpet.


I can still remember that it was my fault. My fault they got married when they didn’t want to. Because of me. The bruises, the long sleeved shirts, everything. My fault.



I told you that the thing I remember most was the thing I wished I could forget. My mother’s scream. You twirl your fingers in my hair, grown back out into golden waves. You tell me that in time I’ll forget. I never hated you more than when you said that. You never knew that, did you?
I guess you know now.


I can remember when Auntie May drove up. It was a Saturday, and he had already left for that seedy bar a few blocks over, the one you got kicked out off for being underage. Momma was sitting in the kitchen, her arms clutched around herself, as if keeping all of her from spilling, cracking, and falling apart. I remember when May marched her pink pumps up those steps, rapped twice on the door, and walked right in, not bothering to wait until I reached it. She dumped an empty suitcase on the table and handed one to me. She looked her straight in the eye.

You’re coming home to Mom’s. And you’re taking the kids with you.


I can still remember deciding what was important enough to take. I was so vain, so trivial then. A hairbrush, jewelry, clothes. Of course there was our picture, and our mix CD, and that dress that you said was pretty. All of the clothes you had told me you didn’t like stayed in the back of the closet. I left them there, suspended in time. If I went back, they’d probably still be there.


I can still remember hugging my sisters close as we sat in the back seat. I kept them close, as if I let go they would disappear. I remember May driving down the dimly lit main street, and catching a glimpse of your house, and your pickup truck that we would ride in circles for hours, me singing along with the scratchy stereo system, just for the heck of it. Screw greenhouse gases. I flattened my palm against the car window, and was about to cry when I realized that some things were just a little more important.


I can still remember after I finished putting my little sisters to bed, walking slowly down the grand staircase of Gramma’s house. You always hated it, said it made you feel like a pretty pretty princess walking down them. What’s wrong with the make believe, anyway?

I remember sitting next to Momma on that antique blue couch. She had a blanket wrapped around her, probably May’s doing. Her petite fingers grasped the fraying edges, her sunk back eyes continuing to stare at the opposite wall.
She looked like one of those baby birds that used to sit up on top of town hall… swallows. It wasn’t even in their migration pattern, and people used to visit all the time to take pictures… The babies would stare down with those big, wide eyes, sometimes even hide behind their mother’s wings.

I bit my lip, and reached out for her hand. She didn’t take hold of it at first, but eventually she held it lightly.
A few minutes later she laid her head on my shoulder. Her skin was drawn tight across her face, her cheekbones digging into me. I thought of the picture I had of her when she was my age. She looked just like me.
After awhile, I noticed my shirtsleeve was wet.

We must have sat like that for hours, staring at that one little spot on the wall. At first it was just yellow wallpaper, little daisies and tulips dotting along in uneven rows. As I continued staring it morphed into his face. I wanted to cry to him, tell him that I missed him. Only a few moments later I wanted to hit him, lash out, scream at him and show him Momma. See how he likes it. After that I wanted to plead with him, to tell him to love us, if not for me and Momma, then for my little sisters. They deserved to have a Dad.

I remember when his face morphed into yours. You told me to come back, that you loved me. I told you that I had something else that was more important than us. You didn’t like it when I said that.

May told me that she found us later that night still on the couch, a good six hours from when I had sat down. She said we were both asleep, Momma still leaning up against me. I had cradled her in my arms, as if I was protecting her. Or as if I didn’t want her to go back, afraid she would run. I stayed her guardian angel, and still am.



So, you wonder why I’m telling you all of this? It’s pretty simple to everyone I’ve talked to, like Momma and May. I use up all of my heart protecting everyone I care about. All I needed was for you to protect me.


Oh, and how I hate you. For not telling me to stop hurting. For not telling me how god d*mn stupid that haircut looked.
For saying that you loved me.

Well, maybe that’s not all true. I hated you. I spent all that time and put all that bitter energy into how I thought you were one of the worst people that ever lived. But you’re not. You’re just another man that hurt me, just another man that didn’t live up to my expectations.

I heard about you and that girl. At first I was p*ssed. You couldn’t have just waited until after I left. But then I heard about your boy. Only three months old.



Try to make his childhood last as long as it can. It’s hard, I know. But even when he’s older, and he doesn’t adore you, doesn’t run to leap and hug you when you walk in the door… love him. Tell him over and over again, two, three times a day at least. And protect him. Protect him and love him. If you ever mess up, that’ll be the only reason he might come back to you. It’s the only reason he might try and forgive.





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lollie2244 said...
Mar. 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm
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