Her hand is in mine; clammy because it is hot on these streets that smell of burgers, oil, and urine. She tries to lace her fingers with mine. I pull away slightly, aware of the implications.
“My mother didn’t like holding my hand,” she tells the therapist casually. “Sweaty palms triggered her.” She is old enough to understand everything now. The therapist is helping her process the hugeness of it all.
We are on a family outing. She skips ahead with her brother as my husband wraps his arm around my waist. We look like an adorable family. I dress casually. My hair is cut short; shaved on one side. My husband’s Batman t-shirt attracts the attention of the crowds of teenagers gathering in the streets for a comic convention. My daughter dances when she walks. There is a constant beat in her head. My son follows her steps like a disciple. He worships her. Today she is 11. He is 8 and 16 hours. His devotion twists me up inside
and I am following him down the steep staircase because I would do anything for his attention. He is my god, and when he throws me aside, I am turned to dust. His love burns through me, shredding my sense of self and every future moment I feel a fragment of this moment poking into the bubble I will have to form around me so that I can breathe.
I love that they love each other. I love that we all love each other. I lean forward a bit so that I can have a lead on the time capsule that forever pursues me. I lean too far
and I am holding my son in my arms and telling him he is big and strong and capable and it is ok for him to leave me. I am shattering my heart with a mighty hammer of lies. I am pretending I am able to let go. I have made a life of imaginary corridors I conquer with a presumed strength because I could not let the only grounding facts of my life weigh me down, drowning them with me. My home is emptying of the now and I am left without reasons to keep the monster at bay. My husband will feel the wrath of the past. He will welcome it and accept it as he has all the pieces of me throughout our love story.
I lower myself onto the grass, inhaling the end of summer. They are playing, the three parts of my present, while I
run. He is chasing me with a hairbrush, screaming that I left it and he just wants to talk. I push past my friend and pull the door closed behind me. I bolt it and sink to the floor. I can still smell his desire. I am 15, and I am 8, and I don’t know where I am anymore as I
pull the blades of grass and run my fingers through the earth while my husband stretches out a stable hand to me
and lifts me onto his lap and opens my mouth with his teeth and demands I learn to kiss because that’s what all brothers do
and I walk along in this postcard of a family full of joy
and I don’t know how to be a grownup. My children resent me because they found out all the truths I still can’t say and ask me why I never told. My parched lips part
I scream in silence into time
and his tongue is in my mouth, and his hand is clammy, and I hate the body I am in and wander up into the lights where I hide the child I will never be
I am mother, wife, child, sister, friend, and I am worthy
and people are asking questions that confuse me so I stutter and they call me a liar
and I take her hand in mine. It is clammy. I want to pull away.
My past, present, and future line up to challenge my memory bank. The transactions are mixed up. The numbers are wrong. I can’t find the point that is me on a timeline because once upon a time when time still ran its course, I followed the devil down to a place where time stands still and runs away, always and forevermore.
She is 11 and he is 8 and I am every moment I ever was and ever will be.