All the late-night adventure stories, turning herself into the hero of each. Love stories she whispered of the sweetest: the first love, when each touch was an embrace, each slap a display of affection. Should she have explained the wisdom which comes only with age. The knowledge that love doesn’t hurt, that possession and desire needn’t go hand in hand, that those we love would not shut us out from those who love us. A child’s understanding of love, and she allowed it to thrive in her daughter’s heart.
These stories she had convinced herself were fairy tales, for her own sake, for her husband’s, her daughter’s. She had told them over and over, had laughed at parts she now realized were full of dread, of deadly terror, of DEATH. Now she saw her stripped innocence and her daughter’s same loss.
This return–unchanged, seemingly un-aged–to steal away her child. This guilt, heavy and pulling, because mingled with the fear and desperate longing for her daughter was a jealous rage, all that she had left behind and her own failure to be taken again. Should she have expected him to seek for her: strands of gray, a new sagginess to every part of her body. Knowing she could be so easily replaced by her own daughter. It was two kidnappings: the child, and the dream-child she once was.
Her husband’s hands, which had taught her, daily, the truth of love, the gentleness of desire, sought to give comfort that was unavailable. They spoke with the authorities who would no more find their child than she could. And she kept quiet, knowing that to tell the truth would make him fly just as far to escape her wickedness.
She drove through empty streets. Not really knowing where she was going. Searching, as though for somebody to ram her car into. Searching with a hatred of everything and everybody.
Maybe not for somebody, but for something. Something she could really get a bead on, really gather some speed, hit with a force that would propel her un-belted body through the windshield and onto the accordioned hood of the car. Or onto the brick wall/tree/median strip.
If only she didn’t need to admit to herself just how tired she was. If only she could continue to live the lie for another few weeks. Another month. Another year. What difference did it all make, it all turns out the same. What makes today any different from any other day, she wondered. What makes any lick of difference at all?
And she kept driving. Glaring out the open window, feeling the ice in the rain whenever the wind shifted the right way. Feeling the heat of her own skin radiate from her face. Wondering how long it takes the body to truly cool. Wondering when the redness would be gone from her cheeks. Glad the child in the back seat was finally quiet.
It was too much.
She closed the window, pulled over, checked his head. He was warm enough. The rain hadn’t touched him. Another day, she thought. I can make it another day. She smiled at his little lips, the furrow of his sleeping brow when her colder hand touched his cheek. Wrapped up in his car seat as though traveling through outer space, instead of the quiet backstreets. We all just need some sleep, she thought. We’re all just exhausted. Not me, she thought. I’m going to make it. We’ll be fine. She remembered the necessaries of tomorrow. She remembered the niceties of today. She closed the door on the exhaustion she had almost welcomed in.
She turned the car around. Another day. We just need another day. And she counted the trees on the way home, skipping the tiny ones, those her car would just drive over.