“I don’t understand why you wanted me to tell you, but just so you know, you’re the only person I’ve ever told.”
“Then I guess I’m the only one who will ever know.”
Maybe one day I could tell him other details, but I mostly wanted them to just fall out of my brain. I trusted him, I really did, or I really wanted to at least. I imagined his concept of trust exceeded any I ever knew and I wanted to be right about him.
“I do know what real love is.” I wondered if I said it to convince both of us.
He nodded, and I swallowed more water while he patiently listened, even before the words exited my mouth.
“Jason may have been a horrible person in every way imaginable, but when I found out I was pregnant, he unknowingly gave me a gift I always wanted, but never received. I doubted he would want to be a father, and I knew with certainty he shouldn’t be a father, so I didn’t tell him.
“I made the right choice, but when he cornered me at school late one afternoon, he finally pressed me for an explanation for leaving him, as if it happened unexpectedly and I hadn’t just fled for my safety. Ideally I wanted to have another job first before I left him, but now I had to protect my body and my baby. Instead, he accused me, in the worst words possible, of cheating on him and of course, he didn’t believe me when I denied it. The miracle that happened that night was that he didn’t kill me or my baby, despite his best efforts.”
“I started over at another school district, and I rented a room nearby, and thankfully he never tracked me down. I was terrified he would, but I also knew he didn’t care enough about me to make the effort.” I sniffed at the flower, smelling mostly its greenery and being so indebted for this simple kindness, and to be so far away from that place and time when kindness couldn’t exist in the blackness.
I realized I kept turning the flower, twisting it gently between my fingers, like a floral dancer pirouetting by my touch. The ugliest memories of my life, the dramatic scenery out the window, the cacophony of the creek where I learned to fish, the haunting photos of my own body, the aligned rows of organized firewood, the bold colors and hues of the sunset, the hateful writing on my leg, the familiar red Friday shirt all combined like a box of photos dumped across an expansive table and I overwhelmingly sorted through them for a single image to hold me, ground me, and soothe me. I needed to find something beautiful hidden in all of the ugliness that clouded my mind and overtook the tranquil images of the weekend, when the tiny dance of nature, spinning in my fingers, not just for its simplicity, but for its gesture, gave me a focal point as close as my own hand. I stared at it intently and unblinking.