#8...The Beating of My Heart! Congratulations to the author of the chosen work...Dorothy Jacoba.
#8...The Beating of My Heart
Not sure if it signifies the beginning or the end. But I’m glad to see it. It’s been too many years. The grain is worn, the paint beginning to peel. I draw a reluctant comparison to my own life. I reach for the round handle and turn.
I don’t know if my father will be home. I don’t know if he’ll smile or scowl when he sees me.
There’s nothing but silence as I take my first step over the threshold to my new life, or back to my old life, whichever way you look at it.
I’m not sure where it all went wrong. Not sure if I want to keep analysing or rehashing the details.
All I know—it did go wrong.
I twist a long strand of my hair around my finger and I take one more step closing the door behind me. Now I’m really here. I look around the room. Nothing has changed. Nothing at all. Not one detail differs from my memory of this place.
The same muted coloured cushions randomly spread and squashed into the corners of that old beaten couch. The walls painted in the same grey, the same gaudy framed pictures, motel room replicas—saying nothing, meaning nothing.
The table I spent my life eating at. The orange vinyl chairs pulled out.
The kitchen I cooked in. Dishes, abandoned in the sink. The ancient coffee machine on the bench, the grinds of coffee beans scattered underneath. Dregs in a mug, leaving the aroma of coffee in the air, the only sign of recent life.
I sink heavily onto the couch and squash another cushion. I close my eyes.
I think about Chris. I wonder where he is. I wonder what he’ll say. I wonder if he’ll say anything at all…
It’s been too long. I’ve told myself that repeatedly since it all went to crap and I landed back here.
To this place.
The place of my youth.
Of my beginning.
A beginning we should have had together, but stubbornness built the wall.
What if? The biggest question in my life.
What if I hadn’t walked out?
What if I’d said yes?
My eyes flutter open. I sit up groggy from unexpected sleep. My vision blurred. I have no idea what time it is or how long I’ve been sleeping. Then I hear another breath. And it’s not mine.
I blink, and turn my head.
He’s sitting opposite on the only other seat in the tiny lounge. His chair. There’s no smile. But there’s no scowl either.
‘You’re back,’ he says.
It’s been two long years, since I’ve seen him. He hasn’t changed. Stuck in time, just like this house. I expected a bit of grey, a few more wrinkles, perhaps some weight round the middle. But he still has those alert eyes, cropped black hair, tanned skin, the large physique of a man ten years younger than he should. All that hard labour keeping him fit.
‘How long?’ he says bluntly. No reactions. Just questions.
He keeps looking at me. Taking inventory. I guess that never changes with parents. From the time you exit the womb, they are constantly checking you still have all your limbs, you don’t look too tired or hungry or sick. That’s what my father’s doing now, even though there’s little, to no expression.
‘You look good,’ I say.
He nods his head slightly. But doesn’t reciprocate. His inventory has obviously taken in my loss of weight, my tired eyes, my pale skin.
‘Want something to eat?’ He gets up and moves to the kitchen.
I don’t want to eat. But I know it would make him feel like a parent again. I wonder for a minute if he’s missed that feeling.
‘Sure,’ I say.
I close my eyes once more, and hear the familiar sounds of the cupboards opening and closing. The fridge buzzing, the pans connecting with the stove. The switch of the gas being lit. The chopping, the sizzling, the smell of onions, bacon, spices. He’s remembered. He’s being a parent again. My favourite as a kid was always pasta with a bacon cream sauce. The familiar smell awakens my stomach. It rumbles. That surprises me, it hasn’t rumbled like that since I left.
Plates clatter on the bench, the pans scraped, and a plate full of my childhood favourite appears before my eyes. I take it and smell the memory. The first mouthful is warm and delicious. The second, followed by the third and the fourth, each in turn warming me from the inside out. I haven’t felt this warm in a long time.
‘Good,’ I say.
My father watches me as I suck the last string of pasta up through my lips and scrape the last of the sauce.
His mind is ticking again. I wait. I know the question’s coming. He puts his plate down on the table next to his chair. He folds his arms. I try and scrape more sauce. To make noise. Any noise, to distract him from asking that question.
It makes no difference, he asks anyway.
‘Are you back, for him?’
I can’t answer. Because I don’t know the answer. I bite my lip. ‘I don’t know.’
My father shakes his head. He gets up and takes my plate from my lap and puts it on top of his. He lingers, then strokes my cheek. I lean into his touch. I need this. I need this familiar. I reach up and clasp his hand in mine and hold it to my cheek. So warm, just like the food in my stomach.
My father lets go, sighs, and moves to the kitchen.
The running water, the slosh of dishes in the sink. The everyday, the familiar. I’m back. I know now, it’s the right place for me to be. The place I need to get my heart beating again.
Congratulations, Dorothy. Readers can look forward to reading a guest blog from Dorothy in September as well as a promotion on a work of her choice as part of her prize. Dorothy ...your $25 Amazon gift card is on its way.
Submissions for September Paragraphs of Power will open in a few days.