Sunday, November 1, 2009

Survival Mode: Act II

I dip my head in just enough--a modern Ophelia with no agenda. The world around me turns into echoes of twisted apologies. I close my eyes and focus on the stillness, the quiet that wraps around my body. The weight of the water provides asylum from all I don't want to know, from all I long to forget.

* * *

"Shhhh . . . " I found my voice pleading with the three faces before me. They angled their small bodies behind mine as I reached for the door knob, cold and hard in my hand.

Movement in the back room. I am not distracted. It is their fear that calms me.

"Hi!" I greet the man at the front door. My cheery disposition betrays the calm rage working its way up my spine, twining around my shoulders.

My eyes meet his. He looks down at his worn shoes, smoothing his gray pants as he hands me a small slip of paper. A folded reminder that we have no money. Now, no water.

"So, you're turning off our water? Right now?" I ask him. My baby sister works her way in front of me, curiosity beckons her. He looks down at the small girl, barely a child, much more a baby, and nods.

"Can you give me five minutes?" I plead with him in a low voice, masking my words from the ears below. They need baths. We need water. To cook.

"I'll give you 20. I have a few other houses to visit. I'll shut yours off last." He bites his lip, his head shakes with knowing. I suck in my breath. He has no idea what he's given me. Twenty minutes might as well be hours, days. Halfway down the walk, he turns his head to face the tiny faces that follow him. I turn away, refusing all offers of pity.

"Is he gone?" my mother asks, emerging from her hiding place in the back room.

I nod. I am 15 years old.

"We're going to take a bath." I guide them down the hall.

I let the water fall over their tiny frames as I work a soapy rag over their bodies. We stand in a stream of water, washing off the remains of the day. I know there is no water left for me.

There is no quiet, no stillness.

The bodies bounce excitedly past me, dragging their damp towels behind.

This is my asylum.

10 comments:

Kat said...

Oh Laski, I'm crying.
I know you still don't want pity. How about empathy?
What a survivor you are. And such a role model for your kids now. How did you (do you) do that? I have so much respect and admiration for you. You'll just never know how much.

Kami's Khlopchyk said...

Haunting. You, my friend, are inspiring. Really and truely.

And it's also good to know that there are good people in the world who will cut a break to those in need. That gives me hope.

Kami's Khlopchyk said...

I mean truly. Not enough sleep last night and no coffee this morning.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Your memoir will be stunning.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Wow, so much to handle for one small girl.
I echo Kami's sentiment, I love that he was willing to offer a few moments of grace.

Anonymous said...

I'm moved by every entry. This has made you such a stronger person, I can tell.

Kori said...

Can I say that right this minute, I love you?

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

I wish that I didn't understand this post, right now, as I live it...

Kristen said...

Gosh I feel like I am standing right next to you watching this whole thing happen.....my goodness. Truly almost left without words.....

Again what an amazing mother you are. How lucky your kids are to know such a different world.

I'm with Kat...such admiration!

Kelly (conversemomma) said...

you are burning down the fucking house.

Love you.

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