And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.
Somewhere in the middle of the east side of the midwest, I sit in the back seat of my own car, head leaning against the door panel, a cloud-soft baby blanket wrapped around my neck pretending to be a neck support. Nothing but the dark sky outside, stars thrown across the black sky like a handful of silver-white jeweled pinpricks. No lights, just the black on black outline of the trees at the edge of the road against the flat fields that I know are beyond the clearway. My arm is draped across Mini in his carseat, my hand pressed against his warm belly wrapped in pjs, the only attempt I have at comforting him. He is sleeping angrily, sulking against the indignity of being trapped in the seat for so many hours now, kicking at my arm against him as if to say, “Do not even touch me if you aren’t going to get me out of this thing!”
I will die alone and be left there.
Well I guess I’ll just go home,
Oh God knows where.
Because death is just so full and mine so small.
Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.
I am so tired. I hate this drive every time we make it. And even at this point in the night, I can do little more than catnap, slipping in and out of dreams, waking each time Mini grunts or wiggles, with each small movement of the car that is magnified into a crash in my dreams. Despite the warmth, the comfort that I’ve achieved wrapping myself into that small leather corner, I cannot sleep.
The thought wanders aimlessly through my mind: we do not have a problem with our marriage. We have a problem with ourselves. A small revelation preceded by years of the same behaviours. We are stuck, each of us, in the grooved tracks worn deeply over time. I feel, as I often do at these moments, that I am at least trying to change. I know what is wrong with him; the childhood pain from that vulnurable time that he was never able to move past, the confrontation that would have to occur but that never will. I can see him as he was, a memory created through the minds of others long before we ever met — still a child in a man’s body, heart ripped open by the ones who should have protected him, forced to assume a role far beyond his years. He has never mentioned if there was an apology. I can imagine both that there was, or that there was not. The truth, either way, is long lost in the mists of memory and doesn’t really matter. Said or not, it is not believed.
Childhood poverty creates memories that are more visceral than mental. Fear. Worry. Afraid to speak, afraid to inflict more pain by voicing my own desires. I learned early to deny myself the luxury of want, to blend into the background that was already there. We always scraped by, always tiptoed along the ragged edge of just enough, somehow. It was my job to be perfect, to do what must be done, to carry more responsibility than should have been required.
I cannot ask for what I need, and he fears being rejected. The wonder is not that we struggle to find common ground; the wonder is that we find enough.
And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
The song comes on again. Soft english lyrics still new and raw to my soul, pushing me over into tears again. I breathe deeply, trying to let my eyes fill with tears and run over without him hearing me again. This moment, this is mine. I picture her, the awkward walk no longer encumbered by the child that should be there. Looking up at the stars in her sky, wishing to god that it wasn’t true, that it was all a dream, and that she will wake up … now. In that moment, in the dark, alone somehow in those close confines, I am her. I am her and she is me and her pain fills me up and my pain comes charging back from where I have pushed it down into the dark and I can only imagine. Love has broken my heart, broken me in half and half again, splintered me open and spilled out from the ragged edges, and I cannot tolerate any of his pain without feeling it myself.
Grace. I do not deserve this, and yet, I have it. It is here, he is here, I am here. Here. Now. Love.