Where does the darkness go when it leaves you? Sometimes I wonder if it follows just behind your shadow waiting for you to stumble so it can catch up and pull you back down. Then you have to fight, you have to fight for your life all over again. I don’t know a lot of people that win that fight, some people are always fighting. You think they win then the next thing you know the darkness has them again.
I picked up another pebble from the shoreline. It was small, white and smooth. I thought of my Grandma and how we would pick rocks on our walks since I was a little girl. Her brown fingers studied the faces of the rocks, her aged eyes squinting to see the beauty in whatever she picked up.
“You see that,” she said once, holding a rock out to me.
“It looks like a bear,” she pointed to the white lines in the black rock.
Sometimes I could make out what she seen but most of the time I couldn’t but I would still nod and say I seen it. Kind of how like nowadays Grandma pretends she has heard me when I know she really hasn’t but Grandma had magic old eyes like that. She could see the possibility of things in rocks, in clouds, and in people, when others couldn’t see anything. Whenever she looked at me, really looked at me, I knew she could see the version of me that was capable of anything.
I wasn’t just her granddaughter, I wasn’t just an Indian girl, wasn’t a high school dropout, or a teenager who struggled with alcoholism. No, I became the earth, I was the the roots all wound up in it, I was the eagle that soared so high you couldn’t see it anymore, I was the stars in the constellations above, I was everything held up in these walls of skin.
When you meet elders who have really come to see the world, that’s what happens, you start to see yourself for the very first time.
I threw the white rock into the lake and watched as it broke the smooth surface. I worried that the darkness still followed my brother and I worried that the darkness followed me. It seemed to have it’s way with almost everyone in my family. Uncle Reg lost his leg last year when he totaled his red pick up truck, drunk behind the wheel. It’s been a few months since my cousin took her life, a year since my brother tried, and a few years since my mom last tried. My Auntie, who was a lot younger than my mom, died two years ago from drinking. I’ll never forget seeing her in that downtown alley way when my mom gave her five bucks and she did a little jig beside the window. She always made me laugh and as we pulled away I turned to watch her out the back window of the car wishing that she would just come home now. My friends, no doubt, have spent their birthday candle wishes and falling star wishes on the same thing. We are all waiting for people to come home. But auntie was stubborn, and she told me she was tough. When I was smaller she would make me feel her muscles and she told me that she ate all her spinach like Popeye did. She always had jokes but in between the laughter, in the small moments of silence, you could see the hurt in her eyes. Even when they told her she needed to stop, she couldn’t…. and then she was gone.
Sometimes you can hear the darkness, late at night after the party settles down and the singing stops. You can hear it in the yelling of men and the crying of women. It’s in the stories they only tell after certain hours. I think the darkness that comes from being broken and it follows people around and then starts to follow their kids around…but where did we break?
I picked up another rock, a bigger bumpy rock with no real pretty look to it and I threw it as a hard as I could out into the lake.
There was the darkness….but there was also possibility.
You have captured something here that is so familiar, yet also so longed for. Thank you.