Note: this is an extended/revised version of my previous piece. My apologies if this seems redundant or unappealing, but also...as blog owner, it's my prerogative to post junk I feel like posting. And with that, I give you, "Home."
And there she stood, basked in the light of half-truths and mistrust. She squinted at him, yearning connection, fearing it more. She stared at his dirty baseball hat, his loose shirt, his messy hair, and then she was staring past him, her eyes set, face expressionless.
“You don’t mean that,” sounded too much like, “I can’t love you anymore.”
“It’s all fine,” sounded too much like, “I can’t afford to care.”
“So what now?” meant, “This is the end.”
She continued to stare past him, past her now, waiting for a new life, a cleansing rain, to drench her.
It rained two days later, loud splinters of water covering the trees, the sidewalk, bouncing off benches and umbrellas. It filled sidewalk cracks and forced worms out of hiding. It poured, it scoured, it enveloped. And she stood, arms spread, staring up. Water poured down her pained face, tears and rain blending in their downward journey, her jaw clenched and shaking. And then her mouth opened and she drank the sky.
It was a Wednesday night when her phone lit up, reading, "Dad" but meaning, "Stranger." The air stilled as she stared at the screen.
And then she answered with practiced indifference.
She sat, biting her lip and pulling at the carpet, as her dad spoke. Rushed words about things she tried to forget.
And then he promised to come see her soon.
She exhaled. And then hung up.
Tossing the phone against her dresser, she let out a shaky cry and whispered he's supposed to love me.
And then she lay on the carpet, fists balled, and wept. Hours later pre-dawn light gently cradled her awake and told her to move.
Three days later she stood by her favorite tree and let the wind rustle her messy hair. She turned slowly in a circle, gazing at the sky, the baseball field, the grass. And then she grabbed the lower tree branches and climbed. Panting slightly, she swung her body up, until she reached the sitting branch. The branch that had hugged her softly when her dad left, the branch that had given her a home when nowhere else felt right, the branch that had made her feel less alone. And now it was the branch that held her while she wondered whether he could be different from her dad. She sat on the branch, her head resting against the trunk, and tried to smile.
But her smile shook and soon she was crying.
Between bursts of tears, she choked, "I'm broken."
On a Tuesday morning she weaved through tables at Bailey's Cafe to sit in a corner booth. She curled her legs under and tried to make herself small. When her coffee arrived, she ripped sugar packets and swirled the brown liquid, methodically tapping the sides of the cup. The hot glass warmed her thin fingers and she sighed.
Soon voices, shrill and scoffing, floated to her table. She looked up and saw a couple, both with white shocks of hair and patterned sweaters, spitting words.
She watched the exchange desperately, searching for answers, for confirmation.
One, "If you would just listen to me-"
The other, "All I do is listen!"
And she heard love doesn't work.
She nodded to herself and turned back to her coffee.
She opened the door, weeks later, and smelled lilac. She gulped in the scent and wondered if this was what healing smelled like. She walked, barefoot, to the lilac bush pushing through her neighbor’s fence and sat in the damp grass to smell, and feel, and see. She curled her toes in the grass and dirt and reached an arm forward to touch a protruding leaf, to pinch it between her fingers. She looked at the different greens on the leaf and thought how they looked like veins. She placed her palm and outstretched fingers against the fence, pressing damp splinters. She forced herself to breath. In, out. In. Out. She closed her eyes.
And then she said, quietly, “I’m still here.”
It was the next day, as she wandered the farmer's market, picking up cucumbers and weighing fruit, that she saw the couple from Bailey's cafe. Their hair was still white and their sweaters still patterned, but they were not the same. The girl set down her nectarine, nervously pushed loose hair behind her ears, and watched.
As the couple slowly walked through aisles of fruit, the man rested his hand on the small of her back. The woman smiled and whispered something. The man laughed, a big laugh, and tipped his head back.
And the girl stood still, staring.
She walked aimlessly through July, stopping at snow shacks and public parks on her way to nowhere. She sat on a hot metal bench and let a trail of ants climb over her fingers. She watched young children in mismatched clothes run and laugh and cry. She gazed with interest at a small boy with tufts of curly brown hair as he bent to the ground, his hand outstretched. And the corners of her mouth turned up as she watched him bring a fistful of dirt to his chin. She let out a single huh when the mom slapped the dirt down.
And then she looked right.
Two benches away sat a young mother in boxer shorts and a stained gray t-shirt. She had bags under her eyes and her hair was unkempt. But her eyes were happy, an extension of her slight smile. The girl followed the woman’s gaze to a small child, pulling at some grass. The girl watched the woman watch the child and the smile never faded.
That must be love, she thought.
It was on a Sunday, as the girl was walking barefoot along the hot cement, when she heard him.
He said, “Where have you been?” and it sounded like-
I missed you.
She said, “I’ve been here,” and it sounded like-
I’ve been finding myself.
He said, “I see you, you know,” and it sounded like-
I can love you.
And she said, “I think I see you, too,” and it meant-