According to the little note in the bag, she had a pretty good weekend. The bruises on her legs and arms tell me otherwise. Black and purple marks running the circumference of her legs I assume came from the bus ride. The big ones on the back of her arms came from elbowing the table and walls – I don’t even need to be there to tell the action. I’ve become the family medical examiner, reviewing the evidence, determining the cause, levying the blame. Clearly, while I was on the back porch enjoying a late evening symphony of frogs and crickets – she was struggling with some other demon. My gentle wrap of a warm summer breeze was child’s play in comparison to her wrap of pain and abuse, aimed at removing an annoyance that I’ll likely never discover.
She was excited about being home, I could tell by the anxious breathing, the pacing, the deep, furrowed brow. Her quick reaction to my first words followed by a two-fisted punch to the chest; later, a quick blow to the jaw; “welcome home, I missed you”.
People ask how we do it. I simply tell them that when I swim, all those little bubbles across my body just take the frustration away. Wash it right out of my soul to be diluted in the waters of the community pool. That’s what I tell them anyway, what really happens is I flail about in the water till I’m so damned tired that I just don’t care anymore. Numbness nicely masks pain and appears on the surface as genuine compassion. Nice arrangement, I think.
A lace curtain with its slight billow from the breeze, a Towhee’s call from a nearby tree, the low buzz of a bumblebee, the mournful wail of a passing freight train a couple miles away; all of these sensations are made sweet by a simple weekend, free of the constant care of Bethany. It’s odd when she’s gone – you realize all that beauty, missed. Then you stop and hold your tongue because you know its not gone really; its just kinda’ been replaced. The sunrise is replaced by a grin that’s nearly as big. The birdsong, replaced with a gentle rattling of waxed paper, the bumblebee becomes a steady, rhythmic cadence of a plastic rattle against her teeth.
All those mental images, curtains, sound and smells from a time gone by seem to blend into a new, rich and at times painful experience. One that opens our eyes more and more to the beauty and complexity of this little girl in this big world.