Tuesday, December 4, 2012

At the Intersection of Childhood and Innocence Lost...

She was sick. That was true, but why did he accept that as a good enough reason to leave her behind? She was always sick.

She stays hidden. Just as her mother told her to do. She doesn't let him see her. Not that it matters, he doesn't ask.

Jolie places her head against the wall, as close to the edge as she possibly can and strains to hear their conversation.

"She's sick again?" her father asks. He doesn't sound concerned, only angry. "Why is she always sick?"

"I don't know. She's just been coughing and wheezing. Her nose is really bad too." she hears her mother quickly explain.

"She can't even come with us to get ice cream?" he asks and Jolie perks up. "Yeah Mom," she thinks, "it's only ice cream, besides, it'll make my throat feel better."

"No, she's resting."

"Fine then, it'll be just us boys, right Roger?" her father says without hesitation. Jolie can hear her brother's squeals and laughter as her father scoops him up into his arms. "You can't keep her from me forever, you know that, right?"

"I'm not keeping her from you, you can go see her right now, she just can't go with you because she needs her rest."

At this, Jolie darts back into her grandma's bedroom and climbs back into her grandma's big bed and pulls the covers up to her chin. Anxiously waiting for her father to come in and check on her.

But he didn't.

Jolie should not have been surprised—even then, at five years old—that he didn't care to check.

She spent all her energy trying to make him like her. To pay attention to her.

But he didn't.

Then, much later, he did, and it was the most glorious time. He spent so much time with her. He took her rollerskating at the local roller rink and shopping at the mall. They visited museums and played in the park. He sang her songs from the operas that he loved.

She didn't realize he could hurt her even more than he already had, but, ever so slowly, ever so perniciously, he did.

And just as slowly, she learned to never trust him, just as her mother had. She had learned the hard way of course.

Yet, despite all of that, this little memory was the one that hurt the most. Jolie could still feel the cool hardwood floor beneath her feet. Still feel the painted cabinet that she traced the outline of with her little pudgy finger as she listened covertly to her parents those twenty years ago. Still smell the wallpapered wall  pressed up against her face, it smelled like her grandma's house. She could even feel the elastic waistband and shoulder ties of the little romper that she wore that day (she never did tell her mom how much she hated those).

At the time she was very confused, but not angry with him. She was angry with her mom for making her stay home, but she was not angry with him. She was hurt, very hurt, that he didn't come to make her feel better. She wanted to hear his voice...maybe even a sweet song from him.

She has come to understand that her mom was attempting to protect her from him. Protect her brother too. Her mother knew she couldn't keep both of them, but she felt that if only one of them went, then her father would be more likely to return her brother.

Besides, Jolie was always sick and her father never forced the issue.