TW: This story alludes to sexual abuse, and contains some violence.
It has been ten years since you told me to leave and never come back. I think about that night sometimes. I replay it in my mind. It was mostly my fault. I took my anger out on you, because I couldn’t take it out on him. I think I blamed you, for not noticing, for not stopping it. Eventually, you kicked him to the curb, but that didn’t quiet my anger. It continued to explode. That was the night I shattered plate after plate against the side of your house. You screamed at me then. For a long time you simply put up with my outbursts, but that was the end of it. You’d reached the end of your tether I suppose. I’d finally done something to make you reject me. You should have. I was tainted, dirty, gross. You should have discarded me long before that. Or perhaps you should have protected me. I can never decide which.
I think about that night sometimes. How I shattered those plates so that they resembled what was left of my soul. How pieces of them jumped out and bit me as I smashed them against the wall. How you grabbed my arm and I yanked it away. You hollered for me to stop, but I threw you off and kept going. I didn’t clean up my mess when I left. I suppose you cleaned it up. Either that, or the pieces of broken glass still lay in your flowerbeds, grown over now. If I could repair those plates today, if that would heal what’s broken between us, I would.
It has been ten years since I left this house and I sit in my car in front of it. I wonder what you would say if I walked up to the front door and knocked. Would you bring me into a hug and ask how I’ve been? Would you scold me for coming back when you told me I was no longer welcome? Would you call the police? So many scenarios run through my mind. I have not spoken to you since that night. My therapist tells me I need to mend the rift that has opened between us. I don’t know how.
The best I can do right now is to sit in my car across the street from that house. The house that holds some of my worst memories. Did you hear that he was finally caught? Did you wonder about his time with you and what he might have been doing to me? Did it even cross your mind? I know that you were innocent. You couldn’t have known what he was doing because he was so careful. He made sure to never get caught. My chest tightens when I think of him. My eyes sting. I want to move past being his victim. I want to let go of the anger and the hurt and betrayal I felt towards you for so very long. I really want to.
Why do you still live here? I see you come outside to check the mail. You are wearing your favorite pink ruffled bathrobe. It has faded. Those pajamas cannot be the same ones you used to wear. They’d have worn out by this time. The robe almost has. Your hair is twisted up away from your face in a clip. I duck down so that you don’t notice me. Now would be the time to approach, but I haven’t the nerve. You stand there for a moment as you sort through your mail. Are you hoping for a letter from me? I suppose not. Perhaps you have forgotten about me. Maybe you never wanted me to begin with.
That isn’t fair. My anger abates into melancholy as I remember you wiping tears off my face as I awoke from a nightmare. I had so many of them after he came to live with us. You never understood what was causing it. You took me to doctors, who talked about domestic violence and other forms of abuse. I did not tell them what was happening. I should have. I worried that you would choose him over me. And then, I blamed you. Every time he came to my room while you were at work, I blamed you for not being there. You didn’t notice that I started wanting to spend the night at my friend’s house as often as possible. Maybe you thought that’s just what teenagers do. You felt me pulling away, you recognized my defiance, but you never asked yourself why I was doing it. Even on that night ten years ago. I wanted to tell you. He was gone, you couldn’t choose him over me anymore, but I felt dirty. I felt wrong. I thought you’d tell me I deserved it.
You are walking back into the house. Your posture has gotten worse. Your shoulders slump in a way they never used to. I wonder if you’ve looked for me these past ten years. The day that I left, when I became a runaway, you could have called the police. I expected to see my picture at the post office or on the news. I wanted to, because it meant that you were sorry for what you said. It would have meant that you wanted me to come home. Every day I would look for my picture, telling myself that it was just to make sure I was aware.
It wasn’t hard to find work. All I had to do was let other men do the things he used to do to me. At least they paid me. I even got good at acting like it didn't make me sick. Once I came of age, I was able to get my own documents without your help. Now I have a real job, I don't have to let the men touch me anymore. Dropping out of high school hurt me the most, but I’ve recovered. I got my GED and went to community college. If I’d stayed at home, I suppose I would have graduated high school and gone right off to college. I suppose. I don’t think I could have. I was too full of anger then. Life on the street helped me work through things. I am afraid to tell you what my life has been. I know you wouldn't approve of the things I've done. Even if you wouldn't blame me for what happened while I was living here.
I have been coming here for a week now. Each day I get a little closer to approaching you. Today isn’t the first time I’ve seen you, but you haven’t noticed me. At least, I don’t think you have. I sometimes wonder if you’ve seen my car and thought I was here to visit your neighbor across the street. I haven’t seen a man. I wonder if you’ve spent all this time alone. I wonder if you’re lonely. If you are, would you welcome me home? I think I will be able to reach out. Someday. Maybe even some day soon. Just not now. Not yet.