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Living out in the country is only a different kind of quiet.
You can't hear police sirens, traffic, or your upstairs neighbor
stomping around. You can hear bull frogs croaking for late hours
outside your window alongside the crickets, the wind's voice singing a
duet with the gate in the front driveway, and the constant hum of
emptyness given by the miles between you and humanity; the loudest of
them all. Living in Ope, Ohio was similar in quality to living in a
dumpster in New York, but less exciting. Kind of trashy, tough like metal, close-minded, and sticky. The only difference between the dumpster and Ope would be the space. Ope had too much, the dumpster would have too little.
It was a Sunday. During the hottest and longest summer since-
who cares? It was too d**n hot to think. Papa was visiting Aunt Rachel in the hospital again, i was strictly forbidden from going. I did. The red ford pickup rattled after Papa passed 60 mph, so i had to make an effort to not slip out from behind the boxes of garden stones with every press of the accelerator. The stones were for his garden, they were for looks of course, but he had a functional excuse. After a few miles Papa saw me in the back and slowed down to 60mph for my comfort, but didn't stop or turn around. As I said before, "it was too d**n
hot". Aunt Rachel had been in and out and back in the hospital since
last Sunday. Sunday is a unit of measure in Ope, it equates roughly to a week and then some. Anyway, last Sunday was her wedding day. Her husband is tall, dark haired, and so handsome I turn the color of my name; scarlet, whenever he looks at me. He isn't nice though, he
didn't even take her on a honeymoon. Papa won't say why Aunt Rachel needs to be in the hospital but he's more angry than worried. This makes me angry too.
"Scarlet, get out of there." Papa said in a tired voice,
head down, looking at the mud on his boots. I was tired of being
rebellious whenever the commanding tone left his voice, so I did as he
asked. Entering the hospital I was overcome by the smell of ammonia,
red jello, and old people. Papa asked that I stay in the moldy looking waiting chair until he talked to Aunt Rachel. Peeved again, I waited until he was gone before I stood up and walked the hallway. I found a
sign that read 'NO VISITORS'. I walked in. There, lying on the bed by the sole window in the grey room was a purple version of my sweet
aunt. I wondered why Charles wasn't there to comfort his bruised wife.
Papa's angry and Aunt is alone. Charles isn't a good man. Papa's head turned to greet me but his eyes stared through me, glaring at the wall. He looked sick. I walked closer to Aunt Rachel and she tucked the hair in front of my hazel eyes behind my ear and smiled for a tenth of a second. She then said, "I'm sorry." I wouldn't understand why she said this for a few more years. Yet, instinct prompted me to whisper an, "I'm sorry" in return. We stared at each other. Her hazel eyes mirrored my fathers and her auburn hair mirrored mine.
Hours stained with confusion and sadness rolled by one
after the other. My eyes stared at her bruises, each a slightly
different color than from the hour past. Black and blue. It wasn't a
phrase I would use lightly anymore. Papa now sat in a chair blocking
the door. Watching his face, his features tightened and his nostrils
flaired slightly. My legs stiffened. I could smell something new in the air. A mix of thick cologne, cigarettes, and leather. Charles. I didn't have to hear his voice growl from the other side of the door, see him shove past my father, or feel his arm throw me at the wall to know who this man was. This man wasn't the groom at the wedding, that man had a smile and a nice suit. This man had a knife and tall alligator leather boots. They were like garden stones, just for looks with a semi-functional excuse. Papa's boots had served him 20 years of farm work. Their boots told more about the wearer than their voice could tell you in an hour. Rachel didn't say a word as he threw her on his shoulder or when he dragged her to the door. Rachel then gazed at me with eyes screaming, "I'm sorry." as her abusive husband carried her out to the hallway. Why is she sorry for me? I may be young, but I'm tough. I'm the toughest kid in Ope. With these words I began to cry. One tear turned into many as my father lifted me up and held me to his warm chest. The cigarettes and cologne were Charles. Papa was
soft hay and mud.
"I'm sorry." was all anyone could say to me. Papa
repeated it on the drive home, he even let me sit in the cab. Nothing
was wrong with me. Rachel needed an I'm sorry, not me. With one last
sympathetic shoulder pat, I exploded in a childish rage and finished
with, in my mind, an impressive 'd**n'. Minutes that resembled years passed where nothing else was said. In those minutes I met a humbling silence. It held me down and stared me in the face. Orange
light blanketed the sunflower fields as we drove along. This light was life. It glowed and softened the harsh landscape. All details were pulled out of focus. Papa's beard glowed warmly through his graying brown beard. He seemed to have something on his mind. I felt it best to let him alone till' he seemed in a mood for answering. His only words before we reached the house were, "Since when did you start sayin' d**n?". My father isn't a philosophical man, never was - isn't today - and most likely never will be. I don't think people ever really change. The like to think they do, but it doesn't happen. The only change is in our perception of that static character.