Based on A Few Notes For Orpheus
Prompt: What does this text suggest about the ways in which individuals deal with the uncertainties of the past?
scars on my shoulder
My father held me aloft, over his head. My back was warmed by the sun that glinted gold off my spider-silk hair and I giggled. Laughter tumbled from my lips and spilled onto his beaming face. The golden barley in the field danced jubilantly. Yes, it seemed to whisper with certainty, this is happiness, this is your future, here you will stay.
My mother drifted toward us, barley parting by her hips. I didn’t see the exertion on her brow, didn’t know how feebly her heart pumped blood through her straining muscles, didn’t see her collapse, sinking into the barley. My father did.
My father dropped me to the dust, a scream issuing from his lips. I remember how soft the barley heads looked while I floated above, how little they cushioned my fall. I recall my father disappearing from view, tearing toward the collapsed figure across the field. I remember nothing else.
a quiet man
His radiant smile never found its way back to his lips after that day. He must have dropped it in the barley field when he frantically pulled my mother’s limp figure onto his lap. He must have checked for breath, sobbed when he felt none.
He lay perfectly still in his bed more and more, curtains drawn, eyes shut. After his smile, his vibrancy left him next; days in the dark whittled him away to nothing.
I raised myself, feeding steadily off my memories of sunlight and his strong embrace. Its enough, I told myself, he loved me proudly once, he loves me quietly now, and that is enough.
It wasn’t enough.
One day he whispered my name and I drew close.
“I’m not much of a father to you Kate.”
I bit my lip
“I wish, I wish, I could be.”
I longed to hear the words, “I love you Kate, you know I do.” And I felt them in the air between us. Both of us knew he had not the strength to say them. I wanted the certainty of knowing now, not just faded recollections.
I turned away. I wanted to reassure him. To hold his gossamer hand in mine. But something bit into my throat and crushed my lungs. I left him there, his hand still outstretched. It was unfair; I deserved more.
The sunlit memories faded to flashes and colours, the feeling of golden warmth grew cold. And on my eighteenth birthday, he slipped as quietly from his life as he slipped from mine. After a fittingly quiet funeral, I left the farm. My feet had traced this path a thousand times. I slipped silently through the barley, knowing well my feet would never touch this dusty earth again.
My baby boy came into this world screaming. I held him close to my chest and let a silent prayer tumble from my lips to his forehead. I lay in the hospital room alone, my baby and I. We left the hospital alone. We arrived at an empty house.
Before my baby could speak, we began a ritual. I would hold his hands and look into his eyes, see how the light danced in them.
“ I love you Gus. Did you know that? That I love you?”
I’d wrap him in a hug so tight he’d squirm. I knew he’d grow tired of it, embarrassed, one day. I didn’t care. I gave him certainty, a steady foundation to grow from. It was the only choice. I knew the alternative too well.
Gus never realised it, but as we filled the house with laughter and sunlight and drawings pinned to the walls, something inside me began to fill too. An emptiness I had believed to be tattooed on my heart faded with each golden day.
My baby and I both lost the security of a third set of arms before he ever tasted it. I suppose my father had lost that too, years ago. But I refused to let my arms hang down at my sides, to shrivel and grow pallid beneath the smothering comfort of a blanket. I deserved better, my baby deserves better.
No, we face the blinding sun together, let it warm our hearts, and shake free of the dusty earth that clings so easily to those who lose momentum.