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And Then It Stops

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Why would I lie to you? The words every great liar tells his prey before he sucks them in and devours their souls. Their minds being proclaimed by his tolerance and disobedience. Yet his words are only said to control you. His small, subtle voice of uncertainty knows what it wants. It perhaps won't proclaim loudly, but it will do so with grace and poise. His proper posture and his fancy combed-down hair creating an illusion for his words to tangle you in his mind.


The words that came from his mouth were like the mud stains that lined the back pockets on my favorite bright blue shorts. The mud that stained left words on repeat in the mind of an 11-year-old girl. I had never run faster from that uneasy feeling in my stomach. I had never wished to be anywhere but there until then. Sprinting, I felt a drip of sweat rapidly fall from my face as my hair blew deeply across the crisp sky. A rush of anger and fear flowing across my skin. Blood churning into deep flames. I ran to my mother’s arms. I cried. Her face melted as she hugged me. Her once-pretty, pale face was grey and her smile began to die. She smoothed my uneasy hair back into place, I watched her knees bend to a fold as she crouched to the ground. They cracked; she forced a small grin. I could taste the strong scent of mint gum that came from her breath. Her eyes were a dark-chocolate brown. I could see my cracking skin and teary red eyes looking back at me. She tapped my rosy nose with her pointer finger; she forced another grin. Before I could smile back, her smile was gone, just like the child standing before her. The child within had been lost. She put her hands on her knees and stood quickly grabbing the the rear door in one motion. She helped me in and lightly dashed to the driver's seat.


I stood behind the empty swing pushing it back and forth. Waiting. I was always waiting. I was 11 and still waiting. It had been years since this so-called father of mine last saw me. He had gotten another girlfriend this past year. So I assume he was trying to show off his great parenting skills. The soggy rubber swing left my hands, cold to the touch -- the black flakes from the torn swing shedding on my hands. My fingers were damp, water soaking in my palms. I shook them rapidly, setting a profuse rain storm within a couple feet of me. The water bounced off of the wood chips as it hit the ground. I pushed the swing again. It was the only thing that could leave me that I knew would come back. I guess the swing didn't really have a choice.


For a second, I couldn't remember why I was pushing it away if it was the only thing that came back. Why was I so desperately wanting it to go? Why was I telling it to leave me even though it wanted it to stay?


I had learned this past year about gravity and force; for instance, if I were to throw a ball against a wall, the ball will always bounce back.  I was going to ask my teacher if people worked like objects. If I give them a push, would they come back, after they had left. But I thought that was a stupid question, so I decided not too. I looked at my hands -- my small, tiny fingers. I wished to grow up. To be old and have grey hair. At that moment I just wanted to be grown. Away from this kid world so I wouldn't have to think about swings coming back to me and people forcing me to do things. I wanted to be in control of my own life. I looked to see if my mom was still sitting in her car. She was. The playground was surrounded by not-quite dead grass and huge trees. The leaves were turning different colors; some were red, green. Some were even brown. Most were being blown around hovering over the woodchips; I watched as one leaf blew for a couple feet and then  got trapped while running into the tree. They were all dead. Everything looked dead... The air was crisp. But my face was hot. My favorite, bright blue shorts were on and my mom had  made me wear this hot pink sweater. he said it made my blue eyes glisten in the sun, so I wore it. She had smiled when I agreed. She didn't smile often... I was still waiting for my so-called father to make his grand appearance.


I heard the muffled engine of an old, broken-down something making its way down the road. I looked up to see where it was coming from. Sure enough the old, red, beat-up rusted pickup truck barely hauling itself down the road carried what was left of it into the parking lot. My mom used to call my biological father's car a P.O.S. Not sure what it meant, but she always said it with a scowl across her face. I didn't move. I just stood behind my swing. I stopped pushing it. I let the wind do the work. It hit my thighs until it stopped moving. The swing in its natural place. Tired of swaying back and forth, hovering above the ground, silent. A gust of wind slapped me in the face; goosebumps lined my skin. I was no longer hot. I was freezing. My stomach churned and crumbled. I felt sick. I wanted to puke. I watched from a distance as my mom got out of her car and pointed to where I was. She was reading a book. I'm sure she was almost done by now. it had been a good hour since the time he gave us to meet him. He was always so late. I watched him look to where she pointed. My stomach dropped. He smiled and looked back at her. They exchanged a couple more words and she hopped back in our car. He was still talking but she wasn't listening. I knew she was probably rolling her eyes or something. She always rolled her eyes. He walked to me. His stride long and smooth, like a ballerina leaping from one spot to another. His gracefulness uneasy. Aggressive but in a harmless matter. I couldn't move. My feet had melted to the wood chips. The swing now and then lightly hitting my thighs, the wind was growing stronger, I felt the rush of the wind crush my lungs, they scraped against my ribs. My eyes widened. Why couldn't I move? I wanted to run. I wanted to scream. Why was his walk so slow? Why haven't I woken up yet. He smiled. His smile controlled me, so did his cry. He had a way with words. They hurt me.


I watched him glide under the monkey bars and dive around the slide. He stood on the other side of my swing. The swing kept me safe. The distance between us was determined on the swings movement. He looked at me. I looked at the ground. The only words that fell from his mouth were “Hi.”


I couldn't smile. I stared at the ground. Fear in my eyes. I wanted to cry. I didn't want to be here.


“Why are you here?” I didn't mean for those words to come out of my mouth; they just did. “Why now?”


I didn't look at him. I stared at the ground. The tone in my voice demanding and repulsive. I was mad.


He looked at me, then turned his head around, as if to see if anyone were listening. I could see the words on his tongue, his lips twitched, he was about to say something. He turned around again, his neck skinny and thin, just like the rest of his body. He was making sure my mom wasn't listening. Or anyone for that matter.


“I love you,” he said quickly, so fast I almost didn't catch what he said. I looked at his twitching hands, dirt crusted under his nails and in the cracks of his crumpled skin. His eyes were yellow, a milky brown color. His teeth looked like his eyes. He wore this tattered sweater and dark jeans with holes at the knees and paint stains at the pockets and dried mud where the paint wasn't.


“Can I ask you something?” I stuttered as I do sometimes. “How do you love someone you don't know?”


His forehead shriveled up like a dried raisin.


“What did you just say?” His voice repulsive.


I repeated myself, the words falling from my tongue like the blade of a knife falling into a stick of butter.


“How can you ask me such a foolish question? I am your father.”  His voice harsh, like fingernails scraping into cement it became a scream that made my ears cry. It was painful to watch him, but more painful to hear.


My voice cracked, “ Since when? I don't remember you ever calling.”


The wrinkles in his forehead  now creased like a crumpled paper bag. “That's a lie,” he said, “I called you. This is your mother's fault. She was the one who said I wasn't allowed to talk to you.”


I knew it was dumb to continue trying, but it was hard.  I was lost in my thoughts, my mind became inundated with thoughts. I just wanted him to try and fight for me, I wanted him to say sorry and mean it.  But he wasn't ready to be a father. He just wasn't ready to love me.  I asked God to give me words, to give me something to say. My voice fell to my feet,


I cracked.  “Mom asked if i wanted to talk to you. I told her you didn't want to speak to me. Daddy, it’s ok if you don't love me. I just wish it didn't hurt so much.”


He continued to say that's a lie under his breath. I kept going: “My heart can't handle any more pain, I feel so alone. I'm tired of you not coming back. It would be better if you just stayed away.”


He smacked the pole that I was standing by. The swing still between us. He turned his scuffed face to the cars and swore out loud. I was scared but I didn't want him to know that, I could feel my face go soft, my voice grow weak. “I told the counselor I didn't want to come anymore because they said you would be there but you never came. I waited for you. Even after we left the office, I would search for your car in the parking lots and on the street, just to see if you got scared, because I get scared too.” Words started spilling from my mouth. “I don't want you in my life. I don't want to hurt anymore.” My voice a whisper.


Head to the ground I walked to one of the trees, the grasses looked protected. I wanted to wrap myself in it like a blanket, it wasn't quite brown yet, but it wasn't a bright green either. I sat down. I felt the drops of water on every blade of grass soak into my shorts. I looked at the dirty green colored grass, ant hills and torn up grass washed with dirt that had been watered down by the rain enclosed me. I could feel his eyes fixed on me. His glare going through me and into the bare bark that laced the back of my bright pink sweater, 


I watched him, his eyes widened and his mouth wrinkled up at the corners, his jaw unclenched like a snake before it eats his prey. He bellowed, “This is your fault, you spoiled brat, I don't need you, have fun being alone.”


The steam from my face had melted the tears that were falling. The wind knotting my hair as it blew in the wind. I craved to be invisible. I ran. I had never thought my feet could carry me the way they did, I was a lion chasing my elusive prey, but my prey was safety. His yellowed eyes, and tattered clothes behind me, still running I found myself leaping into my mother's arms, her grip and the warmth of her hug lined my body. I felt a thousand rays of light hit my skin, I had love. I had felt her fire in my heart, her soft words soaking into my skin, I knew she was gravity, she would always come back.


I forgave that man, the one who blamed me. It may have been the last time I saw him. But I hope he is doing okay wherever he is. I hope he has someone to love him and give him warmth even on his coldest days. I hope he can feel every ray of light and show a smile when the sun hits his face. I hope someone can paint his sky gold and fill his heart with hope. I hope he finds gravity in the small things and trust himself enough to love again.




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