I watch my father's bowlegged walk back to his car, alone. Snow falls like a soft scolding, dusting his bare head and the shoulders of his coat as he reaches in his pocket for the keys. My knees dig into the scratchy couch fabric as my intense gaze out our living room window wills him back inside, willing him to burst through our front door and scoop me into his arms and carry me, as if I'm delicate from swooning for want of him, out into the snow the snow the snow.
Headlights burn into the gauzy night, burn a bleak light on the white humpbacked bushes bracketing our front walk. As the windshield wipers jerk to life and his car begins to back out of our graveled drive, my heart lurches. There are no words to call him back. There will be no words with which to woo him back to me and I, little and drooping against the couch, my skin hot with sorrow, am ignorant of the fact that I won't see him again for 7 long years.
Late one night when the house has been hushed for hours, Willie Ray sneaks into my room. I awaken with a start to his hands undressing me; he doesn't need to hiss at me to be quiet, I already know better than to cry out.
My body thrums with fear; I squeeze my eyes against the sight of him bending over me, his face flushed with desire. When I am naked he tells me to get up. As I do, he grabs the sheet from my bed, drapes it over me, and scoops me up in his arms. Without a word we begin an unholy journey. He carries me through the kitchen, mother's meticulously clean domain, where I see by the teapot wall clock that it is just after 3 am. How odd everything looks to me in the dead of the night, being carried naked through its modern banality. The window over the sink is but a blur as Willie Ray nudges open the playroom door with his shoulder. Our destination is the laundry room off of the garage. There I am plopped down on top of the washing machine whose surface is so cold it shocks me through the thin sheet.
A variety of odors assaults my nose as I sit hunched on the washing machine, closing my eyes to whatever comes next. At the squeak of the playroom door opening, Willie Ray swears softly and snaps off the light before hurrying into the garage, leaving the laundry room door open a crack.
Through the open slit of the door I see him standing casually in the middle of the garage while Mom says, "What in the world are you doing out here at 3 am?"
With hands in his pockets, Willie Ray gazes up at the ceiling. "I was thinking I could build some kind of shelving for storage up there."
"Well for heaven's sake, that can wait. Let's get back to bed."
They move from my line of vision; I hear the shuffle of her slippers, a loud whispered contrast to the smack of his hard soled shoes on the concrete floor. In my mind's eye I follow them all the way to the door. When the light goes out I give a hiccup of a sob. Darkness looms like another presence, pushing up against me from every side like a taunting bully. The only sound is my heartbeat pounding in my ears, as thunderous as the summertime sound of metal skates up and down Brightwood Street.
In the soupy darkness my hand flies to my knee scab, like anxiety to a worry stone, seeking its puckered comfort. My stiff fingers read its bumpy landscape like another kind of Braille. My naked body begins to shiver, a mini earthquake that starts at my tailbone and works it way all the way up my body until my teeth chatter. Am I trembling from the cold, or from the growing realization that Willie Ray may come back to finish what he started? Whether or not he does, in the meantime here I am trapped inside the laundry room, dark as a pocket, with its smells of bleach, detergent and wet diapers, picking at my knee scab.
Do all journeys eventually come to an end?
This is what it is. It's not that I think I'm still that little girl, stuck in that laundry room, terrified of the dark and what awaited me if I lingered there, or what awaited me if I tried sneaking back inside.
It's not that I think I'm still the broken-hearted 7 year old who watched her daddy walk to his car in the snow, his headlights intruding on my sorrow.
I know I am in the here and now. It's not a matter of grounding myself, of reminding my parts that it's now 2014 and we're safe, all safe. But in a very real sense I am that little girl, hunched naked, picking at her scab. I am the one on the scratchy couch, limp with loss.
I haven't been able to make a home for myself here, in this apartment. I'm out of do-overs. I've lost my touch, or more accurately my motivation.
This isn't my home, I lost that decades ago and there is no going back in time and regaining anything.
Home wasn't a place, home was my father.
Home was the safety and comfort of his presence. I get that now. When he was lost to me I lost all ability to ever feel at home anywhere.
I've tried over the years. I've made each home as cosy as possible, but when night falls and I'm alone again, and I really might as well still be that naked little girl hunched over the washing machine waiting to be raped, well who am I kidding. This is not a home; none of the places I've moved to with regularity have truly been home, it was all make believe because, really, what else was I to do?
I am not healed. My sorrow is still raw, my wound gaping. I've come full circle, after having spent decades thinking I was out-running my childhood.
None of us want sympathy or validation or anything of the sort, it's just that I knew if I didn't write this out something bad would follow. It always does.