Memories can be like ripples in a lake.
| Another sleepless night! I had learned to surrender that there would be no sleep; as a kid, I used to look out of the bedroom window and count cars when sleep escaped me. Some nights I counted until dawn.|
I will go for a walk. I can hear crickets chirping away as I approach a small pier. I gather stones and toss one into the water. It is ironic how a pebble thrown into the water causes ripples to expand in all directions until they become weak and fade away.
Was it not a single event in my life that had caused a rippling effect? Only my ripples may never fully fade and disappear. That is a secret I may take to my grave.
I really should tell someone about my childhood decades ago. Yet I remain silent.
I was eight when my life changed. Another rock sails into the water, causing more ripples.
She takes a seat beside me and places an arm around my shoulder.
“Honey, one of those nights?”
She is wearing a pair of fluffy pink slippers. Her hair has that I just woke up and all the mirrors are broken look.
“I can’t sleep. Go back and get your beauty rest, not that you need it.”
“Can I entice you back? I miss my man when he is not there, you know?”
“Thanks, but I would keep you up.”
She sighs. We have played this scene many times.
Telling her scares me. What would she think? More critical, will I survive telling it? Can I live much longer with it eating me from the inside?
I watch her slowly walk back. How can I tell her that neither of us can continue on our path when I have not yet come to terms with this darkness?
“Lefty, can we could talk tomorrow?”
A few hours ago, we had just finished making love, and she slipped into a content sleep while I remained awake watching the red numbers of the alarm clock.
I fear that if she knew, it would end us. Would it be fair to dump all this on her?
The crickets have gone silent, giving into the sound of the flapping wings of gulls. A reddish tint of the rising sun can be seen.
Red skies at night sailor’s delight ~ red sky at morning sailor take warning!
She descends the staircase in her fluffy slippers. “Is that coffee? Did you get ANY sleep?”
“Yes and no! Coffee is made; no sleep. I let work know I will not be going in today.
She smiles and teases, “Silly boy, it’s Saturday?”
“Crap! You're right; I should have known I cannot handle sleep deprivation well as we had our weekly Friday night affair. “Can I tell you what little I know about why I think I can’t sleep?”
She places her coffee mug on the table and gives me a Mona Lisa smile, “Darling, I would love nothing better. Talk to me, love.”
“I don’t know where to begin. Have you noticed that most of the time after we make love, I have a hard time getting to sleep?”
“Well, I think the reason is I feel guilty and ashamed.”
“Why would you feel that? I don’t understand. What do you feel guilty about?”
“I don’t know; it’s connected to what happened to me as a kid.”
She leans forward and asks, “I thought you didn’t have many memories. What happened? Did it have anything to do with your sister and her illness?”
“I’ve been getting some vague memories, but I can never tell if they are recollections of something that happened. Many are so bizarre I am afraid to think about them, let alone express them. It’s related to my sister ~ it almost has to be.”
After a pause that was a mere few minutes but seemed like hours, she pressed forward, “I know your sister has that MPD thing from some childhood trauma. What memories?”
“I don’t want to burden you with them. They don’t paint a pretty picture.”
“Pretty or not, you need to talk. Why not the one girl that loves you?”
“That is why I am not sure I should tell you. If you knew, you might not love me anymore. Then, I would be the guy no woman loves, not even his mother.”
Taking my hand, she leads me to the comfort of the living room. “Listen, I loved you when you were so sick you couldn’t get from the bed to the toilet. I cleaned that mess. I doubt you can tell me anything that could cause me to love you less, talk to me!”
“Ok, I get it! You know my sister got MPD because she was sexually abused many times, right?”
She nods as she tucks her long legs under her as only a woman can do.
“I have visions of being sent to the spare bedroom to get her. I stop at the doorway because I hear her crying. Not a normal cry, more like a scream in a horror movie. It sends chills through me.”
“I opened the door, and Manny, our landlord, was on top of her. I was too young to understand what was happening.”
“Wait, how did your landlord get into the bedroom? She asked as she placed her coffee on the coffee table. One of the few times I saw her put anything on the coffee table that did not have a coaster under it.
“I don’t know. My only thought was I needed to do anything to stop it. I had been told that it was my job to protect her.”
“I recall yelling at him, calling him a big ape until I got his attention. As he rolled off her to confront me, it seemed to work.”
“So you’re a hero and the bravest boy I have ever known!” she remarked, encouraging me.
“Nope, I was a failure and did nothing. I managed to make it worse. Manny gave me an option. The only way I could save her was by taking her place. I did not know what to do but knew it was my responsibility. I agreed; how stupid?”
She almost dropped her coffee from the edge of the coffee table as I continued. I got the sense that I had said too much. “So now you know, you married a failure.”
“Listen, you were a kid, and it took courage even to confront him.”
“It displayed more stupidity than courage.”
“Not so. What happened next?”
“Nothing?” It’s alright; trust me, I feel there is more. Please?”
Feeling my eyes water, “I can’t talk about it; I don’t know what happened.”
“Yes, you do; talk to me,” she whispered ever so softly.
I couldn’t look at her. If I was going to get through this, I had to forget she was there; I took my hand away from hers and rubbed my eyes. “After I agreed, Manny laughed. He said he wasn’t gay!”
“Lefty, he…. He….”
“It’s alright it was a long time ago, and you’re safe now.”
“Manny abused me with a screwdriver handle, laughing and taunting me, saying things like, do you like Mr. Phillips! I had never felt such pain, and when he finished, I was so relieved until I heard my sister crying. I did that to save her and, in the end, prevented nothing. Not only could I not save her, but I also could not save myself!”
I could feel tears cascading down both sides of my face, but I could not open my eyes. I knew she would show the hatred on her face toward me, the failure. “Lefty, it was my entire fault.”
“Honey, did you tell your parents? It wasn’t your fault.”
Tossing a pillow and knocking her coffee off the table, I reply, “I told dear old mother, and that only made it worse. You ask why I seldom send my mother a card on Mother’s Day or her birthday, why I do not visit. Well, I told her what happened, and guess what she did?”
“She yelled and told me that only happens to girls. Mother had a way to ensure I never spoke about it too. She forced me into one of my sister’s Sunday dresses and locked me outside on the back porch. It worked, too; I have not told anyone, and now I am waiting for you to tell me it didn’t happen, right?”
I continue my rant as I pace, “Now, do you understand that making love for me leaves me awake? Sex, for me, represents something it shouldn’t. I lay awake feeling as if I did something evil.”
Exhausted, I did not know what to expect. Neither of us had the strength to speak, but somehow she placed her arms around me and rocked me gently for what seemed like hours. She got up and retrieved several framed photos.
I watched her thinking she had just started packing and would leave me. She took a seat on the couch. Her eyes had become red, and mascara traced her tears. How badly had I hurt her by telling? I knew better ~ some things should never be spoken.
“Honey, look at this picture; look at the kids.”
“Is there a point here?”
“Yes, the kids were probably not any bigger or stronger than you were when this terrible thing happened. Look at them; could any of them do battle with a grown evil man? Do you think any of them would have had the courage?
“Lefty! Don’t do this. I should have done something, anything!”
“What could you do? Tell someone, and you did that. It is not your fault. You did everything you could, more than any eight-year-old would do.” Taking a second photo, “What do you see in this one, honey?”
“That is my sister at the fourth of July picnic.”
“Right, and do you remember what she said?
“She thanked me, but it was for the grilling.”
“Honey, she thanked you for being there for her.”
“I stilled failed Lefty. We were both abused for years.
“Honey, what caused it to stop?”
She wiped my tears; I started to feel that this might work out; Lefty would stay.
“Honey, why did you move?”
“Not one of my finest moments. I got into a fist fight with Manny’s son Mark. He was a bit of a bully. I lost it; before it was over, I was sitting on his chest using both hands to hit his face.”
“Do you realize that beating Mark forced your family to move and stop the abuse? Sounds a bit like a hero to me?”
“But Mark was not abusing….”
“No, but the result was your family moved away, right?”
Holding the third photo, she continued, “What do you see in this one?”
“That is our wedding day. I love that look on your face.
“Do you remember what we said that day, what our vows were?”
“Something about to death do us part in sickness and health?”
I notice she has a huge smile. “That’s right, and I am here for the long haul. You’re a fantastic man, and I know you have started a journey toward putting your past where it belongs ~ in the past.
Exhausted, I start to doze off, but before I fall asleep, I hear her whisper, “You may need to buy a new carpet if that coffee caused a stain, and you will need to find a way to make love to me without feeling pain, but I am sure you will get there!”
I dream of ripples in a lake and watch them fade as they get further from the center.