Stopping or Going
Start, play, go.
My earliest memory is of my parents fighting, screaming in the next room, and me, with my arms wrapped around my legs crying, thinking, and knowing, "They're going to get a divorce." Stop.
Fast forward to me at five, my father coming home at night from plowing the fields, smelling like gasoline and sweat. Go. I run to him, my hero, and jump onto him like a spider monkey, climbing up his strong body and yelling, "Tree frog! Tree frog!," until I'm at his chest and he hugs me close. We listen to Buddy Holly on the way to church every Sunday, just me and him, we stop at Dairy queen afterwards and eat chicken fingers and greasy fries. "I love you, Kyleigh Lark," he says...
Fast forward, stop, he gets a job as a truck driver and is gone alot. I wrap myself in his jackets and cry on the floor. Fast forward, stop, he is sick. His muscles are deteriorating and he isn't strong anymore. He is limp on the hospital bed and my parents talk in hushed whispers while my brother and I blow up the hospital gloves like balloons. They are happy balloon people and we draw smiley faces on them. We are all happy because we are together and Daddy is going to be okay.
Stop. We are moving again. Daddy is coming home from the hospital. We move into the double-wide trailer home and unpack. The next day, my father leaves. His parents come pick him up and I don't understand why. Why is he gone? Going, going, gone. Why didn't he stay? Stop.
Go. "We are getting a divorce," she says. "You're going to live with me," she says. " We move again and I love my Momma and she is my sweetheart and I don't want to go but the court says, "Shared custody." And we're crying, my brother and I, because we don't want to leave her they way he left. I don't go to sleep overs at my friend's house because I don't want her to be alone, she needs me, and I don't want to go now for two weeks.
"NO! I don't want to go!"
"You have to."
And I get there and I beg him, let me go, let me go, I miss Momma. And he cries. Stop. But then we have fun and I forget my pleas and Momma seems so far away and we can do whatever we want. We go to rodeos and midnight movies every day. I eat strawberry ice cream in a cone and peppered turkey sandwiches with olives. And we sing along with Buddy Holly in his old truck. And we're so happy.
Fast forward. Stop. Go. It's time to go back. And I miss him. Stop. Go. I miss her. Go. She's getting remarried, and I hate him. Go. He's alone. Stop. I don't know where I belong. Go, why can't I go with him? I'm feeling pulled apart by two separate worlds where i'm always going, going away.
Stop. I don't go anymore. I stay. I stay with my mom. And there are no more midnight movies. No more afternoons of strawberry ice cream or the smell of gasoline that stirs my heart. I hate you. You can't make me go. You're weak. I hate you and your tears, your softness, your sentimentality.
Fast forward, stop. He's sick again but I don't care. His kidneys are failing. He needs insulin and dialysis. Stop. I don't stop hating him. I don't stop myself from pulling away. I hope he dies.
Stop. He does. On the side of the road his heart gives out in his old truck. He drives into a ditch and blood pours out of his nose. Stop. Alone, in a ditch for 24 hours, until a stranger spots him.
Stop. My mom breaks the news. I laugh. LOUD, maniacally. Stop. Stop. Stop. And then I cry.
Fast forward, I'm driving. I turn on the radio. A piano begins to play. Stop. I don't hate him anymore. Go. I sing to him, "Just you know why. Why you and I, will by and by, know true love ways. Sometimes we'll sigh, sometimes we'll cry. And we'll know why... Just you and I, know true love ways." Rewind it all back. To his arms. To his fingers strumming a guitar. To being his. To love. Play.