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All in the world but mostly myself
I am diving through the forest, avoiding the trees blocking me from my freedom. My tired body presses itself desperately into the desolate night; I am begging the heavens and the stars to take me away: to float me up into the compliant void of reality in which my mind wishes to plunge into. My body shivers into the cold, and my legs refuse to move any farther and warily fall out from beneath me. The snow clings to my already frozen clothes as I lay still, the tears cascade from between tired sobs. I push my hands into the ground; the snow melts willingly below my shaking fingers as I slowly lift myself onto my knees. Anger pulses through me, I am shaking with it. I scream as loud as I can into the night, into the silence, shattering it with sheer hatred. It echoes through the forest dissipating the peace and tranquility the forest had once known, and then it fades away into the dark—fades away like I wish I could.
I was growing so sick of nights like that night, the nights when I would drift to sleep, with a pounding headache, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up looking like I had been crying all night. The nights when I could care less about anything except an escape, the escape I greatly needed.
I make my way back up to the house, past it, and sit at the top of the stairs. My teeth chatter, and the wind attempts to steal any of my remaining heat. I curl into my coat with resolution. I refuse to go back inside. It is snowing lightly and my face tingles gently as each flake melts into tiny specks of water that lace into my hair and stream slowly as they drip down my cheeks, as though to make sure I feel their chill. My breath curls from the tips of my chilled lips and floats away into the night, becoming distant, fogey stars too wispy to trace, until they finally disappear. I want to be able to do that, to be unseen sometimes. My mind begins to wander, inventing reasons to do something stupid. Things from the past, the haunting memories, start to slide effortlessly into my mind. I resist them at first, but soon find myself finding the world around me less tangible as I slip into remembrance:
I am seven. The closet door sneaks closed desperately by trembling, resentful fingers. A slight “whoosh” of air breathes out from the door as it cements tightly shut, protecting the inside from being seen by the outside. The sound familiarly creeps into my heard-too-much-for-my-age ears. My heart sinks slightly. My breath quickens as I realize what’s going on— the routine pressed dreadfully into my body and my mind. I sneak readily out of my room; I race into the hallway and knock quietly on the shield of a closet door. My red faced, puffy-eyed sister peaks through the small crack she was willing to safely open, and nods a yes while pulling me into the closet. My little brother is sitting on a box for he, though younger, has the pattern of late night scream matches engraved into him too. His batman pajamas, loose on his tiny body, make him seem much smaller, more vulnerable. His legs are locked protectively in front of him, arms wrapped tightly around them, head between his knees. I watch him. I feel childish for not being able to be of much comfort to him, but its hard for me to. My hands reach over my ears, long nails digging into the soft skin behind them; I do not want to hear this. I do not want to be here. I can’t help but shout shut up in my head. Begging for the fight to end, feeling hated for my pleads to go ignored. I wait.
Headlights bounce off the snow, glaring into my swollen, now dried out eyes. A faint, meaningless smile involuntarily stretches across my lips, but the lights are swept effortlessly back into the night, pulled carelessly away from me, and I am again found alone in the darkness. I think about my Dad. This man whom I loved more than anything— the one that snuck into my life when I was in first grade, and managed to crawl back out again when I was in fifth.
Tears swarm my eyes suddenly. I can feel my Daddy’s arms around my 7 or 8 year old waist, rocking me back and forth as our voices rang out “American Pie” by Don McLean. This was our song from the first time it came on the radio, and I, with wonder, danced around for him filling in unknown words. Yet, like the song, “something touched my deep inside the day the music died.” He was gone. The man I would sit out under the stars with, talking about how life begun, was not coming back. I was still not sure why this hurt. He hurt me so much over my life. He was a manipulative drunk that constantly left us. Despite it all, I love him and miss him greatly. He was after all, my Dad.
I am twelve. My breath catches in my throat, I watch as the police car pulls up; I can hear it rumbling over some rocks on our dirt road. The sirens wail like a child lost in a large crowd: lonely like as it pierces the silence. It cries with acceptance, it knows of corruption, it expects the bad. I can see the motion light flick defensively on as they solemnly walk down the stairs: their frosty, smoking, whirling breath strong. I hear the pleading knocks on the door as they prepare themselves for the job inside. My mom takes a deep drag into her cigarette; then, hiding her imperfection, she puts it out and answers the door. My brother is on the couch, face tear stained, fists balled, and snarl pressing his lips, waiting to see what happens next. I am across the living room facing the wall, crying silently into the sleeve of my jacket, eyes glued to the window, to the night that unfolded perfectly outside, beneath the moonlight.
The cops are talking to my brother, asking him what happened. “I fucking hit her,” he motions over to me; the cop’s heads follow his gaze meeting my pale, teary face with at first surprise, then with indifference. They have seen worse. The welt on my left cheek burns and I am sure the bluish purple pedals are blooming beneath my eyes, as though roses, but they weren’t the pretty ones. I turn away, disgusted with my brother. The respect and adoration for him drains as he angrily explains that he punched me then hit me with the fire-poker. He forgets to explain why he did it. That the incident didn’t warrant for him to hit me. That I really hadn’t done anything wrong, I wasn’t trying to anger him. I wish to tell them that I was a good sister. He had wanted to kill himself and I merely argued with him about it until I was too tired of telling him no, that I loved him. I gave him and told him to go and do it then. He was mad. He purposefully tore off his angel wings that night, the wings I had given him. After everything I had done for him: holding him when he cried, rocking him to sleep when he was unable to go to bed. After that, I could not stand him—he was no longer a loving, baby angel to me. They cuffed my brother, and took him away to a mental institution.
I fought to control my life. I fought to push away the obstacles and the hurdles that tried to block me from getting somewhere. My life was not perfect. Yes, a simple, obvious statement. The meaning of that though is more difficult, it means I am just like everyone else. People may have life’s that differ in severity as to how bad they are, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Like everyone else, if I wanted to get somewhere, I had to fight to get there. I had no one in the background cheering for me, so maybe I had to fight a little harder. One thing was for certain though, no one was going to feel sorry for me enough to take my life story as an excuse as to why I was on the street holding up a cardboard sign. In fact, I don’t recall ever wanting someone to feel sorry for me. That was another reason why I hid myself from others. If I was going to fight back, and really make it somewhere, I wanted to make it because I pushed through it, not because my friend felt sorry for me and let me copy their homework after a rough night. I had learned what I needed to do to get by, as well as make it worth it for me. No mountain was too high to climb if I could emotionally handle it; it all came down to learning what I could do and what I wanted to do. Reality was something that keeps me fighting; it turned out, even if it hurt sometimes.
Because of everything, I am happy to be where I am today. That in itself is confusing. I am not sure if I can say I have loved going through what I have gone through.
The things my family has dealt with have made us stronger, closer. That reeks of cliché, but it’s true. My family gave me something to fight for. Life has thrown a lot of things at me. It’s through this that I found the true meaning of getting by. It wasn’t enough to avoid the obstacles, but to beat them and show that I was good enough to do so. The straight path to the finish line is the quickest and easiest route; however, you learn more when you explore your own way there, when you discover why you’re fighting so hard to swim upstream to begin with. I simply needed to forget the things that could bind me, and instead remember that someday I may be unbound.