If I had to describe her, I’d say she’s an eclectic superwoman with the ability to weave words into wonderment. She is captivating without trying and has done nothing but share connection and heartwork pieces in A Cornered Gurl and I, for one, am very happy to have experienced her work. We also share a birthday. She is our Featured Writer for the month of June. The piece selected? Tightrope. Just one read, and you’ll see exactly why I shared the description above.
A flash of lightning may one day strike me down but in that half-second of illumination, I can see for miles. Some doctors call it temporal-lobe epilepsy others call it PTSD and years ago, they called it a Dissociative Disorder.
I don’t answer to those names, anymore.
Thunderstorms, even tornados don’t frighten me as much as the dark stillness that falls just seconds before they hit. For fifty years, I have continued to walk leaning forward into the wind. My journey is inward. My head spins — I close my eyes — and after all of this time, my sleepwalking feet are steady. There is no tightrope too thin for me.
At fifteen, living with my mother had become unbearable. My father was residing in Moore, Oklahoma. I had not seen him in years. After the divorce, my brother and I were never truly wanted by either parent but we were used like weapons that could be withheld or inflicted. Child support went unpaid and visits were scheduled and missed in this monopoly. We had no other value outside of the game. Resentments festered. When I asked my father if I could stay with him, he saw it as a chance to strike back at my mother.
My brother remained in Los Angeles. He barely attended school anymore and spent most of his time with the boys we grew up with; friends who had turned mean under pressure. Despite their hand-hammered armor, they knew how to ease his pain. They shared a brotherhood through glass pipes and punches. My brother didn’t need me anymore.
Still, I was used as bait to lure him back to my father but my brother refused to play the prodigal son to the man who had abandoned him.
My father said that he went back to Nicaragua to fight in the war but I never really knew what side he was on. I don’t even know how long he was actually there but for four years, we waited for letters that never came. When our dad finally called from Nicaragua, he said we had a new sister and that he was coming back with his family to the U.S.
My father’s smooth-skinned wife had never scrubbed a toilet, washed dishes or done laundry. She showed me a rash on her hands and handed me some cleaning rags. She was reluctant to immigrate to the United States but soldiers had seized her family’s ranch. They tied her brother to his prized horse and sent him out to the desert to die. In her mid-twenties, she had no choice but to flee with the help of my father but she could never fully leave her memories of the cook, the maids, the gardeners, and good silver. She had nothing left of her former life but a depressive aunt and a nursing infant.
The hidden casualties in the Contra War were often apolitical citizens like her. She watched me from the corner of her eye. I was a terrible maid. She and her aunt hissed my name from a distance and hid their secrets in deep pockets of whispered Spanish.
Within two weeks, I was sent back to California — without warning or explanation. On the flight back, looking down through clouds, I watched the barren landscape shrink back. I wondered what it would feel like to be forced to leave one’s country, to lose an estate, complete with an equestrian center, in exchange for the small and charmless home of a factory worker. I thought about my stepmother serving my father his dinner and I remembered her weak smile. Without him, she may not have escaped but when my father boasted of her previous wealth, she seemed like a souvenir pressed under his thumb.
Sometimes, I can’t look at my face or hands without thinking of my father. He had a way of owning those around him. Few of us broke free — none of us entirely.
I don’t remember very much about that stay at his home but I remember looking out of a bedroom window. It was early summer and the sun was reluctant to leave me alone. I had never experienced such oppressive humidity. My hands rested under my chin on the window sill … my nose touched the glass but I could not see any sign of my breath. I scanned the red and gold field, it was flat and as dry as a well-ironed sheet. Then, suddenly, at the very edge of the horizon, I could see dust spinning upward. It twisted and gained strength like a dark and furious shadow. At that moment, I felt a fist strike my head, out of nowhere. It cleared everything in its path with a final blackout.
This memory became a recurring nightmare until six years ago when Moore, Oklahoma was finally destroyed by a horrific tornado. I watched the news on the television as I rode a stationary bike at the gym. I could no longer feel my feet and my ears hummed as bad as 80’s rock thundered over the sound system. I leaned forward and looked up at the screen. Sometimes, it is hard to believe my eyes but this time I recognized what I saw as a true memory.
a red and gold field
is torn away through thin glass
an angry sky twists
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