The hardest and maybe the most difficult thing of my past was the lack of a family to call my own. I have for what feels like forever traversed life’s challenges alone. But with age and my abilities to affect the past the hole in my chest has increased in size, becoming a noticeable and painful reminder of how alone I am. At varying times I have let some get close, but I cannot say within grasping distance of myself, which is further odd as the people that truly know me for who and what I am is you, the reader. It has maybe over the course of too long taken me to be prepared to face this lion of mine.
My hands shake as I pour the gin into the glass, it taps against my teeth as I bring the cool liquid to my lips. It would just be a simple call, to rouse them from the bed, then everything will be better, be perfect. I clutch the piece of paper that has their number scrawled across. As many variables that I could imagine, it was due time to be reckless beyond fathom and go forth. I set the glass down hard on the counter making an almost chime, I pick-up my device and go.
The pay phone sits in the corner, the gas station’s white lights spread over the pavement and the road. I take the quarter from my pocket and put it into the phone. There’s a beep, then a tone, I dial the number with haste using the abundance of light from the gas station to read the numbers. It doesn’t ring, there are two clicks from the phone than a busy signal, I stand there listening for two or three seconds, then panic. Dropping the phone I begin to run down the street toward their house, toward my hope. Jumping the fence I barrel to the thick front door. I slam on the door with my fist causing it to ache, I smell smoke, or I think I do, I panic some more, taking my device I just jump a minute or two back. I circle to the side of the house, I try one window but it doesn’t budge, I run to the next. Placing my hand flat on the glass I lift up, the window raises. As I lift it the rest of the way I hear the pounding on the front door. I step through the open window, the soft glow from opening shows off the ocean blue walls. My eyes adjust and the crib comes into focus. There’s noise just outside the door and baby me begins to cry. I reach for the door but the knob is hot. I shake off the pain as the cries turn to howls. My head goes blank, a voice yells in the back of my skull, it gets louder and louder till it breaks free with my own voice. “No!” I yell. I put all my will into the knob and pull. It scalds my hand but the flash of flame and smoke hurt more. Ii knocks me back onto the floor. The howls turn into little coughs. The heat is unbelievable, but it’s clear what I have to do. I run to the crib and scoop the baby into my arms. I just make it through the open window as the fire begins to lick the blue paint of the room.
The house is glowing as I make it to the street, In the distance I hear the sirens and the neighbors begin to flood outside to watch the fire, to watch my dreams die. The hair on my arms is burned into little beads. I stare at my baby self, his tears as real as mine, our tears. I set him on the lawn of house across the street. The grass is riddled with dandelions but soft. The large engines come with their lights and hoses as it begins to rain embers and ash. I want to cry, but it feels as if there is no moisture left in my body, just sucked dry from the fire and heat. “I have to make this work, maybe if I come a little earlier I can save them, maybe they’re hidden in the crowd somewhere…” I think. I walk behind a large elm tree, obscuring myself from anyone’s view. I pull out my device and go back once more.
To be more direct I’m in the hall, maybe I can wake them, stir them from slumber, get them out. The change of brightness makes everything hard to see for a moment. I shut my eye so tight that spots appear. I hear an ever so slight sound, I open my eyes to find a tiny ember burning. I focus on it and it grows bright, casting a dull light on the face behind it. His features I have seen for my entire life, his features, my features, but aged. He smirks anger flashes in me like a bomb. It bursts into momentum, I’m running at him before I realize what I am doing. I kick at his kneeling frame, but he shifts away from it like water. My head spins drunk with confusion. I twist to kick at him. My foot sinks deep into the drywall, he jabs me once, twice, I slide down on the other side of the wall. He rears up to kick at me, I bolt forward and up, I have him around the waist, the hall is narrow and his back hits the other side. Again and again, his elbows crash down into my kidneys, shorter and shorter my breath becomes. My fingers and arm slip, my hold gives and he pushes me to the floor. The door handle to the right of me wiggles but the bar he set holds it closed. I hear my parent’s quick whispers. Tears swell in my eyes as I try hard to stand but the tank was completely empty, I lay there unmoving wanting to die. Sparks come from the outlet and I smell sulfur. I shut my eyes hard again till I see spots. I open them as I feel his presence above me. The doorknob to the bedroom shakes even harder. “You’ll figure it out soon enough.” He says as he stuffs a piece of paper into my pocket. Smoke begins to dance its way across the ceiling. My eyes are like lakes as I stare up at him. I hear the front door pound with panic. His fist raises above me then there’s a flash of light.
I find myself laying on the couch in my house. A collection of dried blood sits under my nose as I get up fast. My head throbs then the pain dissipates. I quickly move my hand towards my pocket, to retrieve my device, to fix it all hopefully, when there’s something in the way. I pull the paper out, unfolding it reveals a photocopied newspaper clipping with my handwriting at the top “It had to be this way.” the scribbles read. My eyes trace the bold font over and over not wanting to believe when finally I read the headline out loud “Family of 3 dies in rainy day car wreck.” hearing my own voice say it makes it feel true. Three faces in black and white stare back. My Father, my Mother, and myself at age 10. All of it comes to me, as much, oh fuck’en god, as much as I didn’t want it to. My head throbs again and I vomit. Falling to the floor I cry and I cry.
Several hours later I clean the mess from the floor. Getting the lock box from my closet that holds all the tiny yellow flowers of hope, I carry it to the backyard. Picking up a shovel I walk to the middle of the yard. I toss the box on the ground I begin to dig. I dig the hole deep into the moist ground. Picking up the box I peel back the lid, I place the device inside, then the box into the hole. I know one day I might dig it up, but for now, I couldn’t stand the sight of it. The moist ground covers the box till it disappears. I walk back into the house and spin the cap off the bottle of gin, it rolls off the counter, and out of sight. As I tip the bottle back, I catch sight of that face I’ve seen my entire life, but this time, it was just mine. I am alone.