Two minutes before leaving for school Leta announces that she needs to pack both of her jump ropes but she can’t find the red one. I am unaware that she owns more than one jump rope and have no idea where this phantom red one is or where to start looking. As she starts to freak out about it I have to step into another room and lean against the wall. A long breath in, my hand gripping the back of my neck.
When I emerge I tell her I’m sorry we can’t find it now, but we can definitely look for it this afternoon. She frowns as I take her by the hand and head toward the door.
My hands used to be that small and jump ropes just as important.
My therapist makes me talk about my childhood and how afraid I was of my father. Very afraid, I tell her. My childhood was one long army crawl around his temper. I wasn’t necessarily taught to avoid conflict, but I see a potential confrontation and hide as if it might give me a disease. Because someone might get shoved up against a wall and have a finger wagged a little too close to their face.
I don’t remember him hurting my brother. I only remember the look on my mother’s face.
She calls this trauma. I shrug because I don’t have a horror story to tell. No sexual or physical abuse, no nights spent sleeping in the backseat of the car because my parents couldn’t afford the rent. Maybe it was trauma, I guess, and then the lights on the cop car start flashing red and blue behind me. By the time I roll down the window to hand over my license I’ve covered my shirt in tears. He asks me if I’m okay, and I nod so that he will go back to his car and write the ticket, so that I can be alone and shake my head endlessly.
Before I get home I pull over on a quiet street and turn off the playlist that had yesterday made me happy. The silence fills every inch of the car. I want it to swallow me whole.
My ten-year-old self is a specter who hovers just above my shoulder. I don’t know what the hell she wants or is waiting for.