Cut Away The Rotten

Reverb ’13, Day Two: Nourishment

What made your soul feel nourished this year?


As he stood there, screaming at me with a baby in his arms, the stale booze oozing from his pores and filling the air with its acrid stench, I did the mental calculations of what I was willing to pay for him to vanish out of my life, and more importantly, out of HER life and her boys’.  I pictured missing front teeth and inwardly shrugged.  Worth it.  A broken nose? wouldn’t be the first.  Jail time for throwing him down the stairs?  Self-defense.  When she took the baby from him, the rage in me grew, and as the spittle flew from the worthless hole in his gob, I felt the vibration start in the center of my chest.  With one calmly condescending retort he was reduced to a sputtering ball of cowardly incoherence and I watched with satisfaction as he retreated out of the house.  

Jarred, but calm, I did my best to console the oldest boy, and we all curled up on the couch, leaving the unspoken to lie, my heart breaking for my girl who I’d left alone on a different coast to fend for herself.  

In the midst of laughing at the dinner party scene in Beetlejuice, the three of us started upon hearing the lower door open, never for a second expecting the spineless lout to return that evening.  But return he did, and the vibration started again, spreading rapidly through my chest and into the tips of my fingers.   My breathing shallowed as his feet ate up the stairs and then caught completely in my closing throat, unable to finish the in or out.   When he reached the couch and bent to gently kiss the baby and then my fucking girl on the forehead, my vision clouded and all I could think was out ouT OUT!!  I rose on autopilot and fought the faint, willing the panic away and managed a call to her younger sister.  “I need you to come and get me” was all I said and I stuffed my belongings back in the North Face and went to wait on the curb.  And when she pulled up and handed me a cigarette, the years came round full circle and the story poured out.  

With the words, my voice evened out and the fight-or-flight subsided; a panic attack narrowly averted.  I found nourishment in those next hours, with a family I had chosen, that despite proximity, had no idea the truth of my girl’s life.  I cried at the timeliness of my visit and at my ignorance, and together we processed the reality.  We laughed nervously at my shaking hands and wondered how it had all gotten this far.  And then, the littlest sister, MY sister, who I’d known since she was 12, invited me out for drinks, and I took a moment to marvel at how she’d grown and suddenly become the woman before me.  

We choose our friends, hopefully wisely, and years pass without us knowing; and if we’re lucky, even in the darkest dark, we find ourselves able to shake our heads bemused.  How on earth is this 12 year old girl old enough to invite ME for drinks?


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