Being 12 years old gave me the gift of coming home to an empty house. Gone were the days of sitters, and, as a newly minted seventh grader whose school was released earlier than my brothers’ were, I had the house to myself for I dunno – an hour? Two hours?
That time was mine, and I owned it. I made drippy oozy cheese quesadillas in the oven and ate them over homework. I had taboo after school mini-hangouts with questionable eighth graders, and long, rambling walks home with friends. We talked about periods, bras, classes, teachers, boys, and everything between.
On one of those days, our house phone rang, and I answered, anticipating a friend, a something. The telephone back then held more possibility than it does now – we never knew who might be on the other end. It could be a boy! Or a friend inviting me for a swim. It could be the school calling to say that my latest report card hadn’t yet been signed and sent, and if that were the case, I was there to intercept the call, saying “yes, this is Kristi’s mother.”
“I’m watching you.”
Three simple words from the voice on the other end. Terrifying.
“Who is this?” I asked, still not sure whether it was a joke from a friend and already worried that it wasn’t because his voice sounded grownup.
“I know your father,” he said.
“Look out the window,” he said. I placed the phone on the desk near the kitchen because back then, phones were screwed into walls, their receivers tethered to their bases with coils. I ran around the house to check that the doors were locked and stole a brief glance out the window from my dad’s office.
Our house sat on top of a hill, the private driveway long and lonely. I was sure his car was parked at the end of it, hidden by the neighbor’s house.
I came back to the phone. “I don’t see anything,” I said.
I no longer remember how much of the rest of the conversation volleyed audibly between us and which parts my imagination filled in, but there were words. Threats. Me, telling him that my dad would never forgive him. Something like that, anyway. I don’t remember the words between his middle and his last, when he again said “I’m watching you,” and hung up.
I hid under the desk, counting, for what may have been a minute or an hour. I got up and called my dad at work. At the sound of his voice, I started bawling and asked him if somebody was out to get him. That a man he knew (worked with? that seemed reasonable.) was watching me.
My dad came home. Two police officers came.
There was no car at the end of the driveway. Nobody was there. I was alone.
I was 23 and house sitting in Laguna Beach. I’d recently lost my job and wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I may have been with the one I loved but also thinking about being ½ between boys, or back with the one I loved, or disappointed with the one that I loved who didn’t love me the way that I loved him.
I was at the beach, at a house only steps away from the water. One day, I parked my fanny pack and my towel in the sand and waded out to the waves. I stood alone. I asked God and the universe to help me. To help me to know what to do. A wave that didn’t look any different from the rest – she was no larger or choppier than her sisters – came and knocked me on my ass. It flipped me, and pushed my face into the sand on the ocean floor. It hurdled me over again, and, as I tried to gain my footing, I wondered briefly whether I would drown.
Wondering whether I would drown felt strangely calm, while also like NO.
Eventually, I stood, adjusted my suit, and looked around to see whether anybody was running to help.
Nobody saw. I was alone. I went back to my towel and my fanny pack, sat down, and laughed. Big, awesome, cool tears down the cheeks kind of laugh. I shouted “Thank you!” to everybody and nobody. I stopped at the burger place up the road while walking back to the house. I accidentally ordered the burger with egg on top. Nobody saw me eat it. It was less nasty than I thought it would be. I was alone.
I was a mom, when age becomes less important, the day that my son and I were driving in the car and he told me that he needs to see a doctor because his mouth is broken. After all, a boy on the bus had told him so and that’s what kindergartners care about. I was with my son the second time the same boy told Tucker that he needs speech therapy (more of the story can be found on Finding Ninee’s Facebook page) because he sounds like a baby. After tucking him into bed and saying goodnight to my husband, I was alone as I sat on our stoop outside, wondering how to change this world. Wondering about the nature of the nugget inside each of us that laughs and picks on the people in this world who need our love the most. When they feel broken. When they’re alone.
I am sitting at my computer, wondering again how to find time to finish these sentences before the final hour, while thinking about all of you – spread over the planet also thinking about today’s sentence, and feeling ready to publish or not ready or ready but unsure or excited and as I sit here in my office, my son hopefully snoring upstairs, I am alone. Except that I’m not. Ever. Because of you. Thank you.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers gather together to share words related to a sentence prompt. This week’s was”No one was around when it happened…”
Hosts: Me, Kristi from Finding Ninee
Co-hosts: Lisa of Flingo and this week’s sentence thinker upper, and Jessica of Ramblings of an ADD Mommy.