I was told not to come home until I was skinny. I circled the neighborhood over and over. The approach of a car sent my heart fluttering. He would follow us to make sure we weren’t taking short cuts. He would yell for us to run. That we were full of lard and grease.
With each step my tears would well, exhausted, my legs sore, my mouth parched.
My mother would leave us ice water on the steps of the house so we could drink as we passed. This was all the help she could offer us.
I was 11 years old. I was a cow at eighty pounds.
As I walked I imagined his demise. I pictured it over and over in my head and that gave me strength to keep going. I told myself he would not live forever. He could not. He would die one day. That gave me hope. That let me cope. I fantasized about knocking on a neighbors door and telling them the whole truth. That my father was a terrible man who did terrible things. But I walked by their door, taking nervous breaths at just the thought of it.
I saw my brother approaching me. His tear stained face said it all. We weren’t allowed to walk together. He kept going past me muttering and angry.
After awhile I found a refuge. A small creek near our home. I would go there and sit on the rocks and dream of running away… Of stashing food under the small bridge at the creek and living there.
I often sat on the rocks at that creek and let my tears fall. Mixing with the slow running water it was as though they never existed.
No one to see them or hear them.
No one to wipe them away.