Back when the world was a coloring book
and my box of crayons still small,
the questions to my answers began to rattle in the wind
of a storm that blew in without warning
on an ordinary morning as I sat pulling on my school shoes
so I could hurry up the hill to catch the bus.
I was however old you are when the girl of you has turned to go
but the teenager isn’t ready for the task
and you wade through sixth grade and the in between to see what even fits anymore.
It was Springtime and I was wearing shorts at last but were my legs tan enough
and did they look fat and maybe no one see me please that hard.
I wrestled my unloveliness as I heard my Father’s quick clip headed down the hall
toward his room at the end
when a shot of pain lurched through as something struck my inner thigh
and also thwacked my cheek and lip.
One of my after-school shoes landed hard on the floor,
the other lay like a dream in my lap.
They’d been trespassing in the living room on the green rug where I had sprawled out after supper
to listen to music on the floor.
On the green rug where my father ran in place every morning,
counting, counting his high steps fast
as the floor trembled beneath his intensity.
It was where he began his day and my shoes had been there unwelcome.
The after-school shoes that should have been in my closet before I took my bath.
That morning they landed on me hard as he threw them through my door
into the room where they belonged.
Maybe he hadn’t seen me there.
Maybe he’d meant to simply return them to me hard.
I couldn’t wonder. Couldn’t think the questions.
Just scrambled out the door before my tongue could taste the blood.
I climbed the hill, climbed onto the bus, climbed the stairs to the third floor
in the busy throng of chatter as life swarmed around me boisterous
but I couldn’t climb over the tears quickly rising,
tears that threatened to expose the unlovable of me
no matter how hard I pushed my loud and happy to the front.
Don’t cry, dammit; my jaw burned from willing down the sob swelling fast in my chest.
I feared the storm rising wild in my emotions;
please just don’t look at me right now.
But Mrs. King did look at me, piercing,
and her eyes jabbed a question that I tried not to meet
and quickly tears betrayed and crawled over the fists I’d planted to look casual against my cheeks
I was called down the hall to the long table where more troubled eyes poked
and my brain got stuck and I couldn’t make the words talk sense like I should
but instead cried more in the heat of their gaze.
Did my father abuse me ever? No, and I never said he did.
But talk of shoes didn’t match my pain
and my meanings got mussed in the haze.
I returned to my classroom relieved to go free, and to the day and then the bus
and down the hill that afternoon to change my shoes and eat a snack and watch TV and feel at home.
At the table still we were a family until a phone call ripped the seam.
I was in my room reading when the voices changed.
My mother’s cheeks were pink and demanding when she stormed in and said the things
in a tight, angry tone that trembled I had lied and what did this mean?
The world slipped sideways;
what lie had I said?
It was an un-say-able kind of lie and I had told it
and now do I even know what people could think?
I didn’t know exactly except that my father didn’t come.
He didn’t come to ask what or why or how is this thing?
The house had no more air for talking,
holding it’s breath until the morning came.
He would do what we did in our culture when shame came storming.
He erased me.
I had to sit again with the grown-ups at school who wanted to know
and I couldn’t make the words – maybe didn’t have the crayons
or know how to blend the colors true.
I painted muddy because mud was all I felt,
wanting only to back up, to back out of this terrible mistake and never cry ever again.
But I backed into a wall that would close in between me
and all that had felt safe and known.
We would never speak of this again.
I had broken something.
Broken it so badly that I lost my place at the table.
“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them
to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone
and unworthy of love and belonging.”
– Brene’ Brown
“You are here, and more than you know,
you belong. There is more in you
than you ever see, more than the less you convince yourself of
when the dark pieces of days seem to outlast the light ones.
You are a soul alight, the flames of stars and shadows dusted
with moonlight and pitch.
This world cannot spin without you inside it.
You are here, and you must remain.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson
Oh please don’t climb off now; I won’t leave you here, I promise.
There is love enough, and grace and
I will park us somewhere lovelier when next you come
* this post 3rd in a series *