Do you remember the train tracks behind our house? Rust spread across the iron and the dark green of dandelions covered worn wood; but after a good rainstorm, you could see the silver glint of solid steel through the grass. What good times we used to have, the games we played along the abandoned railroad. Do you remember how we used to have picnics there, on starry nights when the moon glowed with clear, happy light? I still have the old, frayed blanket that we used to sit on, funny how it seems so much smaller than I remember. Can you recall the constellations we were taught, the stories that mom wove around the glimmering lights in the sky?
Can you still recall the afternoons when we came home with scraped arms and scuffed elbows? Can you still recall the way dad was so gentle with the band-aids? Do you remember how mom made sure to add extra bath foam into the water so that you could play with the bubbles? Maybe you don’t, but I still do, and every time when it rains now, I think of her.
Do you remember the days before all the fighting? Do you remember going to the beach and chasing after and laughing at the gulls, the smiles over the sticky ice cream that melted away more quickly than it could be eaten? The happiness on their faces wasn’t forced like they were in the Christmas cards right before the separation, and they stood close together as if they had been knitted from one long strand of yarn. But the thread between them frayed, of course, and no matter how hard we tried to stitch them back together, they pulled away, ripping at the seams. The last time we went to the beach, the gulls mocked us as our family melted into the past.
Do you remember the tears and the anger？Can you still see the shattered glass and wedding plates, the flowers knocked over and wilted into dust? Hissed words and cruel remarks saturated the air as they stood apart, the gap between them widening to a gulf. When they signed the divorce papers, all that brushed were elbows and fingers, reaching together before they pulled apart for the final time. Dad forgot about our existence after that, didn’t he? When he packed everything up, plunking old memories and loose ends into cardboard boxes, when he waved goodbye, his love turned into a kiss that faded too soon. The cards and the presents disappeared from the mail, and the calls between widened from once a year to three.
Did we break them apart or did their parting break us? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Nothing was the same after the separation. Each piece of our family was jagged and deformed and we were never able to come together again.Was it our fault that everything fractured? Mom retreated into herself, and her smile became brittle and frosty, didn’t it? I suppose we looked too much like Dad for her.
I think of you as I wait for the bus to bring you home, bring you back to a place you’ve never been to. Somedays, when I wait, rain slips through my fingers as our family did. We had been the sky and earth and train tracks, meeting together perfectly, without question, without doubt. But the earth pulled away, and the sky wept as the train tracks rust to nothingness.