The waves rise and fall and crash in a gentle rhythm, and I can almost forget. I get to the lighthouse, turn around, and my footsteps are already gone. There’s something about the impermanence of it all that settles the heart. How one moment can be replaced by something different. I like that, but there are certain things you can’t erase.
I stand at the edge of the ocean and feel the sand between my toes. I feel the cold water as it rushes against my skin. I have an overwhelming urge to cry or scream, but instead I am silent. I am good at that now, holding it all in. How long has it been? Ten years? Fifteen? It is so long ago, you would think I would have forgotten, but it is somehow ingrained in my skin. No matter how hard I try to shake the feelings, the pain – they refuse to let me go.
I would like to say it wasn’t always like this, and perhaps it wasn’t. I just don’t remember. All I can feel is the pain, the confusion, a strong desire to rub my skin until there is no trace left of me, of my past, of them. It is sad that I cannot make peace with my past, but no matter how hard I try – it aches to be me. That is the earliest feeling I remember. It started when I was a young child. Mother never spent much time with me growing up. You would think as a stay at home mom she would be around, but she was always busy and I felt more like a burden than anything.
Looking back at it now, perhaps she was also unhappy with her life but it would be difficult for me to know. She never talked with me. I was talked at. I was scolded. I was shamed, but I was never talked to. I grew up in the age where children were told often, “Children are to be seen not heard” so it wasn’t like I could have ever spoken up. To think of even asking questions would have been unthinkable. I wasn’t even supposed to think. I was just supposed to be quiet. So I spent my childhood in silence, barely feeling any value at all aside from what attention I could get in school. School was my escape. It wasn’t that I was popular, but that I could get away from home. Any chance I got – I got away.
Mom was not the only problem. When dad came home, everyone had to be on their best behavior. One thing out of place and he would go through the roof. Sometimes he even seemed okay, but then he’d lash out in anger. It was a common thing to spend your every waking moment waiting for that next slap to the face. How many bruises have I counted? How many lashes? The threat was always there, hanging in the air and I had to prepare myself. I was always ready to run. I had to tell myself to be strong, but inside I felt so alone. Go ahead, you might think… tell someone, but stories upon stories showed on television shows and in novels of kids taken away from their parents only to be abused by someone else. Even in the middle of being beaten, I was told to go ahead and call social services. It was a very real threat. At least, I tried to hope, here they love me. But did they? It was never certain and it is not even certain now. I have not spoken to them in years.
Soon, I found ways to spend more time at friends’ houses. I would stay there for dinner or for the weekend. It would save me. I ached for the normalcy of it all. There, I found acceptance and someone who wanted to know what I thought. They did not feel threatened by my voice. Further and further along the way, I learned to stay away from home most of the time and found solace in the houses of others. I returned home only when I had to and even then, I had to walk carefully. Some say it is like walking on eggshells, but it is more like walking on broken glass and trying not to cut your feet. That feeling of being on edge never leaves you. You feel it even in normal conversation when people question you. You feel the need to fight, to protect yourself, and sometimes – to hold it all in.
It ached because I did not understand why I had no value. It ached every time I questioned my own worth and even now, those questions reverberate in my mind sometimes. That is what led me to visit the ocean. I needed to get away. Even now, those voices that call to me as I watch the waves rolling in. It has been years since I have lived at home, but the pain is still real. It is a distant ache that time to time washes in with a vengeance. I can’t help but wonder if I ever deserved their love, or anyone’s for that matter. Deep inside, I know I have value, but those voices question. Those voices bring tears.
Not long ago, I had thought to end it all. I figured, at the time, that it was the answer to all my problems. I wanted to push everything painful away. What could be more permanent than that? I knew I wouldn’t even be missed, but somewhere deep in my heart I knew it would solve nothing. Somehow, I talked myself out of it and over time, my life has gotten better. I no longer speak to those who broke down my soul for their own entertainment. I had had enough. I moved away from home and built my own life. It was not easy and things did seem worse at times, but I survived it all. That part matters, doesn’t it? After all I had gone through, I had survived.
If I made that one mistake, it could never have been erased. I would never have fallen in love, I would have never married, I would never have known what it was like to be valued. I never would have held my child in my own arms or become a better mother than the one I had known. I now love openly and fiercely. All those things that I now cherish, would never have happened.
I think about that as the water continues to rush at my feet. The coolness against my skin soothes me somehow but also shakes me awake. It is so much easier to see clearly – here and now, without all the noise berating me. I guess that is why I treasure silence the most. In the end, my heart has learned a few good lessons, but none as important as learning there are certain things you cannot erase.
© Sumyanna 2017