OYM Day 41: Poor Girl, Rising Sun Pt 5
Mom didn’t come home that day. It was a Thursday. She usually came home right after 6 o’clock, sometimes a little later if she walked instead of taking the bus. It was a quick bus ride if she caught it in time, but otherwise she’d walk the 20 minutes, occasionally stopping for a rotisserie chicken or dollar hamburgers. At 6 I was usually sitting on the front stoop writing songs about catching a break or doing cartwheels in the empty lot across from our house, being sure to dodge the broken glass and rocks with each tumble.
The sun started to set and I would glance down the street every few minutes, hoping she had just seen my perfect combination of cartwheels and spins. But she wasn’t there. It got too dark to trust where my hands were going and my stomach started to feel sick. I went inside.
Our tiny white house was so quiet without her. Her energy bounced off the flimsy walls with music and good smells and commotion. I knelt down in front of the big window, propping my head on my spread hands, my arms bent in the sill, like a candle melted down to the stump, cradling the flame and anticipating lights out. And I waited for her. It’s like people always say, when someone starts telling you a particularly sad story. You just get a bad feeling.
I knew something was wrong and I knew he was back. I thought I had seen him running into the gas station when mom and I went to pick up treats for our drive-in movie. But I didn’t mention it. I thought speaking it out loud might make it true. What was he doing 2 hours away? How did he find us? What did he want? But I knew the answers to all of these questions. He was looking for her, she probably called him drunk when I was sleeping, and he wanted to kick her like a good dog that keeps coming back.
I started to cry. How could she do this to me? How? Things were so good now and she had gone and messed it all up. I had almost forgotten being second place to man that physically and mentally abused her, that hit me, and would never love her. Not like I did. I suddenly hated her. I sunk to the floor and let my head rock back and forth on the air register.
I imagined him meeting her in the parking lot of the travel agency. He probably smelled of liquor and pine aftershave. He wouldn’t have flowers or anything like that. Instead he’d have a bottle of cheap wine and one of her sweaters. He’d say she forgot it when she left town in a hurry and wanted to return it. He’d say he was glad she called to apologize and come back to him, and that it’s a bad, bad thing for you to leave the father of your child like that. With no word or warning. He’d say they should drive to Hillpointe Beach and talk it out over a drink, shaking the paper bag at her with a smile. He’d say it’s just him and her, baby, and there was no escaping their destiny. She’d say she shouldn’t, because I was at home waiting for her. She’d say calling him was a mistake. She’d say she’s getting on her feet now and really trying to make a change. For me and her. He’d tell her that people never change and she’d tell him to speak for himself. He’d tell her to be careful… and his mouth would become small, tight, and his eyes narrow. Mom would tell him it’s best that he leave. He’d say to have it her way and call her stupid, white trash, and a big mistake, with a laugh. Then mom would say it. She’d say what she shouldn’t have said and that would be the beginning of the end. She’d tell him that he was the mistake, that he was the drunk, the trash she kept dumping at the yard, but somehow kept coming back. She called him a pig, a low life, a swindler and a fraud. She called him a dead beat, an inbred, and a lousy lover. She’d be red in the face as the words rolled out like high tide.
That’s how it plays out in my mind. She was standing up for herself. For me, too. She wasn’t going back to him. That’s what I tell myself. But in reality, I’ll never know. She never came home that night. She didn’t come home the next night, either. It was early in the morning and I sat on the stoop in my nightgown. I called for her quietly under my breath. She didn’t respond and I didn’t see her rounding the corner, blinking hard to see. I called Grandpa and he called the police. The nice cop said they’d find out where she was and that everything was going to be ok, but I knew she was dead. The cop knew it, too. The difference was I knew who did it.
They sent me back to my old town, to my old neighbors apartment for 2 weeks while grandpa dealt with the police and made space for me. It brought me closer to Daryl and I just knew we were lining up to spar eventually. It was unavoidable. She was a nice older woman, with frail, tissue-paper skin, and fluffy short hair, dyed an unnatural red. “Poor girl,” I’d hear her say into the phone. She would peek at me from her cramped kitchen and I would pretend not to notice, instead losing myself in a sea of cable television. Commercials for microwaves, marshmallow cereals, and bubble bath. Mom and I didn’t have a TV and I took this time to take in as much of it as I could. My neighbor didn’t seem to mind. “Poor girl is just zoned out completely”, she’d say.
She had no idea that in just a few weeks I’d be cutting off my long braid and walking down the train tracks to his nightly haunt. She would marvel at all the gasoline I siphoned from the cars in the parking lot. Even more so at the hole I would lead him to. “Can you believe it?” I’d say. “It was already here! Like a sign from God!He took my mother, but He gave me this hole!” I would fill it with mud so dark the night sky would shake.
Part 6, the finale, tomorrow.