Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My mother called today with a very quiet, "I have news. Dan died."

I have written a little here about my ex stepfather, but I try and step lightly around the fact that I lived in terror of the man from the time I was eight years old. It was because of him that I had to leave the house on the run so many nights, fleeing from the threats of his angry drug dealing friends or of his angry drug abusing self.
I spent years and years hiding out from looks and touches that were just off to the side of appropriate, spent years pretending to be a stuffed animal and practicing getting into certain hiding spots. I taught myself, at one point, how to climb into my bottom dresser drawer and close it with myself in it. Just in case I couldn't make it out of the window in time.
I spent years protecting all of the grownups around me from learning just what was happening that they didn't know about. I lied and pretended and stopped eating and cut myself to ribbons in an attempt to not make things worse for everyone else. And that has to be some sort of joke, right? I was just a kid.
Of course, because of this man, I stopped being a little girl for good one October night when I was seventeen. Even still today, whenever I hear bumps in the night, my first instinct is to cover my face, to hide.

News like this you expect to come from the sky in a flash of lightning. You expect to be able to see the striped stockings roll up under the shattered porch, expect someone to take you by the hand and introduce you to the wizard. But there is no light, no wizard, no explanation for anything. There is just a very quiet phone call from my mother. And on the one hand it feels like a great big weight is gone, like a heavy package I'd been carrying has just been taken away. But on the other hand, well, it feels a little silly to hate someone so much that isn't even alive anymore--and I feel cheated by that. Like I've just lost a shade of green that I didn't even realize I had been looking at.
I have been searching for a couple of hours now for some sort of sorrow, for some sort of compassion that this creature that was human--that my mother loved--is no longer alive. And the fact that I can't find even a ghost of sadness worries me a little. I do not want to be a girl who is so consumed by the things she can't change that she doesn't feel for people anymore.
This isn't to say that I won't accept any hugs brought my way. I'm a little stricken, feeling a bit like a rug has been yanked out from under me.

In a very few number of hours I will be headed off across the world. And suddenly, remembering where I've come from, that really doesn't seem so far.

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