“Stranger than your sympathy, All these thoughts you stole from me, I'm not sure where I belong, Nowhere's home and I'm all wrong”
-The Goo Goo Dolls, “Sympathy”
“Evan, are you sure you want to do this? Please, just reconsider, Bruce is a great man, we can be a family again, together.” My mother said. I could hear the desperate plea in her voice, but my mind was already made. When she told me she was getting a divorce and would be marrying this Bruce guy, I decided I would stay with my father, but, you know, since he’s dead and everything, I’ll be going with Gram instead. No question. I would not stay with my mom, she wanted a divorce and she got lucky, she didn’t even have to fight or arrange papers, since the contract says: till dead tear us apart. Congratulations mother! So I would be going to live farther north on California, to a place called Samson Valley, where my grandmother’s house is- a four hour trip on car with no traffic. I grew up there until I was ten years old and my father got a better job here, so we moved to San Diego. And today I was leaving, my mom would stay here, in a new residence, with her new husband, a baby incoming, and the family she always wanted. Lucky you mom.
“I’m sure.” I said in a toneless voice, a cloud of sadness and disappointment crossed her eyes.
“Okay” she said, completely defeated, she took a step back. My mother could have easily made me stay, but after what she did to us - me and my father – and after everything that happened, she owed me this, I had the right to control this part of my life. I placed my last bag on the trunk and headed toward the passenger side door, Gram already in the driver’s side, ready to go. I got in and closed the door; my mom leaned on the side of my door, motioning for me to roll down the window.
“Promise me you’ll call if you need anything or if you change your mind.” she said.
“Here,” she handed me a pack of dollar’s, from what I could see they were are all a bunch of hundred’s.
“I don’t need this, I –“
“Please don’t, just take it, I’ll call you latter.” I didn’t what her money. I didn’t want anything that had to do with her. I hated my mother, she destroyed our family. She broke me way before I knew what being broken really was.
She kept her hand extended, waiting for me to take the money. I didn’t move. She signed heavily. “Jillian, could you please take this and give it to her whenever she needs it? If I just give it to her now she’ll probably burn it.” Gram leaned on to my side to take the money from my mom.
“Of course,” Gram started the car, we were ready to go.
“Goodbye Evan, I mean it, call if you ever need anything. I love you.” She said.
I was so incredibly angry with her, I wanted nothing more than to be away. I was hurt by everything she had done, yet, I could not contain the next words, “I love you too.” I mumbled. It was the truth, I did love her, but you can love someone and still not want to be with them. And they can love you back and still hurt you. Love is a tricky thing, that’s why I hate it. . .
We got on the road. Gram and me stayed in silence for most of the trip, exchanging a few words here and there regarding stuff of no real importance, such as the weather – it rained the whole ride. I watched the world change completely along the freeway, from tall buildings, to big classic houses, from malls, to nothing but trees, a few glimpses of the sea here and there, which meant we were getting closer. We also drove past the local college, you could see clothes hanging out the windows of the dorms, also glimpses of the mess inside of them through the windows. It was easy to imagine this place in the summer, people running on the sidewalks every morning, headphones pressed to their ears, walking their dogs, all of them unaware of the shift in my life, we shared a planet, but we did not live in the same world.
I could see the ocean clearly now, the only thing in sight for miles and miles, the waves crashed furiously against the shore, persistent. Green signs flying pass on top of me, giving me directions to find my way home, and yet, I felt lost. I kept staring out the window, all I could think of was everything that had happened, my boyfriend broke up and left, my friends left me, my dad left me, my mom betrayed me, and in a way, she left me too. . . now I was alone, and I was heading back to where it all once started. I guess that’s how life works, right? you star at one point, you may grow, move, progress, change, fly, run, whatever you want, any imaginable cliché you can think of, but in the end, it all comes down to the place where you started, everything comes back to that one place were life begun.
* * *
“We’re here.” Gram announced after six and a half hours of driving. I proclaimed war against traffic, making a mental note to curse the goddess of traffic later that night, I was too busy focusing on the house standing before me at the moment. Light raindrops fell on my face as I took it all in, the two story house where my grandparents lived and my father grew up, it was still painted white, though in urgent need of a retouch. It was obvious that the house was ancient, but it looked solid, almost defiant to anyone who dared think the contrary, it would easily handle an earthquake, or another six generations of children. I had spent many summers here before, we didn’t live far away from this house when we were here in Samson Valley. Glancing around I noticed that we had neighbors, years ago this place was the middle of nowhere, now, it was a residential zone, each house had a very generous amount of space between them, and in the backyard, there was nothing but woods, and farther still, far where I couldn’t see, there was the ocean. I picked a few of my bags and stepped inside the house.
“Your room’s on the second floor right to the left, there’s also a full bathroom right next to it, and there’s another room to the right, it’s yours if you want it, though it has nothing in it. And there’s another one filled with boxes and old stuff, it too, is yours if you want it.”
I turned to look at her, confused. “You’re giving me the whole second floor?”
“Yeah,” she said, placing the last of my bags on the length of the stairs.
“But. . . why?”
“Because I’m an old lady, and I can’t go up and down those stairs anymore, so the second floor is useless to me, think of it as a duplex.” That was hard to believe, since Gram was one of those ladies that, even if they were old, looked pretty solid – The woman carried most of my bags inside, for Christ sake. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to stop her, she insisted. Stubborn Lady.
“I don’t want my own apartment.”
“Well, use the other rooms if you want, don’t use them, I won’t even know.” She shrugged, “go ahead now, since your grandfather died this house had been too big, useless to me, the second floor is just there because it had nowhere else to go.” She gave me a pointed look and started heading towards the kitchen.
“Thank you.” I called after her.
“You’re welcome sweet pea, I will be placing your funds in the fridge, grab ‘em if you ever need them.” I rolled my eyes. The fridge, how original. I just hoped I never had to use that money.
It took me two trips to get all my stuff upstairs. Second door to the left, Gram had said. I stood at the top of the stairs, the narrow corridor looked less terrifying then it did when I was a kid, I used to believe there was a monster living behind each door, hunting, waiting for me, I would run through it, trying to avoid their reaching hands and claws, they all wanted a good grip on me, eat me, tear me up. I headed to my room, the old wooden door creaking when I turned the knob, walking directly into the monsters mouth.
The room was still painted the same light blue I remembered, though it was coming off now, I walked inside, the floorboards complaining loudly with each step I took. It was a big room, there was a queen bed on the corner, a desk near one of the windows, a bookshelf beside it, a vanity, and walk in closet, I pushed the sliding doors aside and stepped inside, there were hangers on either side of me, boxes filled with more of my stuff, and at the end there was this wooden thing, I assumed that it once worked as a shoe rack, but right now I was sure that if I tried to place a single shoe there, it would come crumbling down. Mental note number two: must buy a new shoe rack. I went over to the bathroom, opening the door and gazing inside, compared to my new room, this was too small. A crowded space with a tiny hand washer, the toilet right beside it and right next to it a tiny shower. One would think that if your room has enough space to hold a vanity in it, the bathroom would at least have a decent bathtub. My hand traveled along the wall, searching for the light switch, after fumbling with my hand for a few seconds and not finding anything, I ran my gaze along the walls.
“Where are you?” I whispered to the missing light switch.
Mental note number three: do not come in here at night, not unless you bring a flashlight or you want to die, the monsters would eat me for sure.
I continued to explore my duplex, mocking the word in my head. Let’s see, first door to the right. (the only door to the right, actually) it was a room even bigger than mine, though most of the space was occupied by a bunch of crumbled old furniture, which included a bright pumpkin-orange couch, a strange box that I should probably be referring to as a television, though by doing so I would be insulting real TV’s, the only way that thing could be addressed as was trash, and a turntable equally as old –and these items were the good stuff. Only one more door to go; I went to the end of the corridor and placed myself in front of the door, I turned the knob and. . . nothing. It didn’t open. I tried again. Nope. I kneeled to take a peek through the keyhole, I used to love this things, the typical door knobs that only existed in movies, all of the doors in this house were like this one, except for the main one at the front. When modernization came along with thieves, so did a modern doorknob for the house. I always asked Gram for the keys, but she didn’t have any, she said they got lost somewhere around the third generation of people living here. There were no keys and no locked doors, which meant that this one was simply stuck. Through the hole I could see that the room was painted in white, dim light pouring through a single window right up front, I couldn’t see much aside from that, few bunch boxes on the corner, all of them labeled with dark marker, an old bed resting on the other corner. And then a memory came to me.
I was four years old, wearing a beautiful white lace dress my mom had bought me just the day before. I was spinning, spinning and spinning and I didn’t want to stop. I was flying, right up to the sun. I could feel my father’s hands around my waist as he carried me around the room, the morning sun poured through the window, we were both laughing and I got lost in his scent, in the perfection of the moment. I could feel bubbling laughter rising inside of me.
“Daddy, I’m Flying!” I yelled.
“You will always fly Evan, always.” he murmured to me, placing me gently on the ground.
“Is this what snowing feels like?” I had always dreamed of snow, and so did my dad.
“Exactly like this, you’ll see. One day, it will snow here.”
“But it doesn’t snow here, dad,” I wined. He kneeled before me and bended just a little so that we were at the same level.
“Oh, but it will, and I’ll be there with you, and we’ll watch it fall from the sky,” he held my gaze steady, like he wanted me to understand something important. But I was only a child.
I blinked. “Again!” I yelled. Dad laughed and stood up, lifting me up and making me fly once more.
I truly believed I would fly away. That it would always last. That nothing could tears us apart, if only we keep spinning, keep spinning, spinning. . .until the snow came down.
Just another promise he broke.
I jerked away from the doorknob, falling to the floor right on my butt. It hurt, but not so much as the memory did. I didn’t even know I had it, buried deep down. That used to be my father’s room. I took a few cleansing breaths and stood up carefully, steadily. I headed back to my room and went directly to the bed. No covers, no pillow, no anything, it was all still inside the boxes in the closet, but I didn’t care. I began to feel the pull of the pain, the memories, they wanted me to acknowledge them, overwhelming me, I squeezed my eyes shut and send them to the back of my mind. I couldn’t deal with them, not now, not anytime soon. It had been a rough day; I would simply let myself get lost in sleep. Tomorrow I would go back to school, I had missed a few weeks of class back in San Diego. It was time to face the world again, to see kids that had once been my friends and fall back in line to a lifestyle I used to know so well. It amazed me how things could be so different and yet the same. Tears threatened to run free from my eyes, but I also pushed them aside. Tomorrow would be a new day and I was not going to carry my pain on my sleeve for everyone to see.“Close your eyes, take a deep breath, push it aside, and no one will notice.”