by T.M. Frazier
Fear and love are very much the same.
They both make your heart race and your body shake.
They make you tremble and anticipate.
They make you frantic with thoughts that consume.
Embracing fear is the same as embracing love.
All is lost.
All can be found again
You can tell a lot about your life by the sounds around you. It’s damn frightening how quickly they can change without warning.
One day it’s the roaring and cheering of a crowd at the local game. The clinking of beer bottles. Flirty feminine laughter.
The next day it’s the sound of a radio being hastily shut off.
The dull thud you’ll never be able to rid from your nightmares.
The screams are followed by the worst of it all.
If you listen very closely you’ll be able to hear something else. Something more. A sound so distinctive it can’t be mistaken for anything other than what it is.
The sound of your own heart breaking
I didn’t cry.
Not one single tear.
What kind of person doesn’t cry at their own mother’s funeral?
I don’t know why I was asking myself the question when the answer was a relatively obvious one.
I was all out of tears.
Just like my mother had been.
What I did do was fixate on how much Mother would’ve hated the entire service. Men sat in front while the women stood in the back, as was our church’s custom.
All were dressed in black.
Mother detested black.
“Family is why God put us here on this earth. Family can build us up and family can tear us down. It’s a sad day when we lose a member of our own community, a mother. A wife. One of God’s devoted children,” Reverend Desmond proclaimed.
As many times as he’d met my mother over the years, he didn’t know a thing about her. Which made sense because he’d never actually spoken to her. Father always did the speaking on behalf of our ‘family’, while Mother and I stood behind him obediently, with our heads bowed and our hands folded. Eyes to the ground.
Eyes always to the ground.
And it was because he didn’t know my Mother that the Reverend’s sermon was generic at best.
No personal details of any sort.
What the Reverend did say was that my mother, Caroline Dixon, was where she was always destined to be. Happy and safe in the arms of our Lord and Savior.
A burst of uncontainable laughter flew out of my mouth and when heads turned in my direction I played it off as a sob of grief. Which, although better than laughter, was also unacceptable.
Without even looking up I could feel my father’s fury from the front row, but my outburst couldn’t have been helped. The hypocrisy was hilarious.
Safe in the arms of our Lord and Savior?
The Church of God’s Light believed that suicide buys you a one-way ticket to hell. Sure, they all played it off like it was an accident, but I knew the truth.
Mother wasn’t accidentally hit by that car.
She knowingly, and with purpose, walked in front of traffic that day.
My father either didn’t know, didn’t care, or just didn’t acknowledge the possibility that it wasn’t an accident. But I wasn’t surprised. He had a way of believing what he wanted and expecting others to believe the same. Even if it was all lies.
Even if those lies were about himself.
Like the one about him being an upstanding citizen.
A leader in the church.
A devoted and loving husband and father.
A man of God.
Father played the part well. He looked just like a widower in the throes of grief with his head bowed. When in reality, he was probably trying not to nod off after downing a large portion of a new bottle of whiskey that morning.
“She was an obedient woman,” the Reverend continued.
Obedient? That was the best he could come up with?
My head spun.
The whole truth was that my mother, Caroline Dixon, was someone who rarely smiled. She lived under a roof ruled by constant fear. She rarely left the house. She apologized a lot and often. If anyone was keeping a running tab, ‘I’m sorry’ was the sentence she spoke most often during her life, and even then it was only said in a barely audible whisper to the floor.
A realization hit me so hard I felt like I’d been kneed in the stomach. I doubled over and stumbled backward, muttering apologies to the women I’d knocked into.
Father glanced back and to anyone else, he appeared sympathetic when he flashed me a sad smile.
I knew better.
I could see the fury forming behind his cold eyes. There was no way my outbursts were going to go unpunished.
They never did.
I kept walking backward until I was clear of the tent and the crowd. I dropped to the ground and slid all the way down until my back was flat on the grass and the top of my head was pressed against a shiny granite gravestone.
The revelation I was having would turn out to be the thought that launched a thousand ships. That day my life was changed forever. I made a decision to start down a path there would be no coming back from.
But if I kept on living the way I was. The same way Mother had lived. Subservient. Submissive. Abused. Battered. Then that sermon, those very same generic words and lies about a life Mother never lived, would be spoken at another funeral someday.
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