|picture credit: http://chousadinisquie.deviantart.com/art/Tracks-148592452|
With a sigh I drop down on the soft grass alongside the gravel road, tired from the midday sun and the long walk down the mountainside. I close my eyes, lifting my face so the breeze can catch my hair, and then lean back to rest against the trunk of a tree. A faint smile plays on my lips, a smile of happiness, no, contentment, intermingled with the pure enjoyment of being where I was right now. I'd walked away from the darkness that clung to me on the other side of the mountain, down in the valley, in the house with the peeling paint.
There, an oppressing atmosphere of control, desperation and hopelessness prevails the air, the taps shed tears rather than water, and no amount of light and false laughter could lift the cloud that seemed to permanently hover overhead. I had my share of troubles, as my aunt used to say, be it a mix of teenage rebellion, and the need to escape the bleak surroundings of a house filled with neglect. I tried it all, being a dutiful daughter, having the right friends, doing what was expected of me. And when that didn’t work, I’d bounded to the other side, where dubious friendships and illicit activities again did nothing to fill the gaping need in my soul. I blamed myself, but was too young to know any different at the time, and the roads I travelled were full of diversions and distractions. Yet something kept bringing me back to the same point. To the same decision I hadn’t been ready to make. Until this very morning…
I woke up to the smell of nicotine wafting from the kitchen down the passage into my room, and heard two voices in familiar disagreement with one another, as they have been for as long as I can remember. How I’d dreamed of waking to the warm rays of the sun, to the smell of coffee or frying bacon, and the gentle murmur of conversation of two parents who were the heart of the family. But no amount of dreaming could change that which was. So instead of quietly going about my morning routine, I packed my backpack with clothes instead of books, and rushed out the front door with a hurried “I’m off to school”, probably completely unnoticed, since the voices of disagreement had intensified to a level that did not leave place for anything or anyone else.
Once safely around the corner, I made the call: “Aunt Sabrina, I’m on my way…” which was greeted with a delightful laugh and a “It’s about time”. Aunt Sabrina, what can I say about her… other than that her world was filled with silver linings, and she has a hug and reassuring smile for even the smallest woe. She has 2 dogs, she has a cat, she tends her garden that rewards her every year with colourful blooms, fragrant herbs and fruit that bursts with juice when you bite into them. She runs a guesthouse, where the guests invariably became her friends, and the small town in which she lives resounds with her laughter and never-ending creativity and energy. The only time I ever see a cloud cross her eyes, is when she talks about my uncle, her husband, dead for many years, taken too early in a freak car accident. But this too, she lightens by recalling one or other anecdote from their wonderful life together.
She and my mother, even though they are sisters, are as different as day and night. She often spoke to my mother, asking her to consider me living with her. After all, she lived in a small, yet beautiful town, wholesome comes to mind, where fresh air and green meadows would surely cleanse out any troubled teenager. She was far to diplomatic to insinuate that any “trouble” could be a result of their lack of rules and routine, stemming from their love of alcohol, drugs and wild parties in their younger days, which just escalated to two human beings tolerating each other out of necessity and the unwillingness to change. My mother was not fazed by this questioning, although she said that the decision would have to be mine. My father’s reaction, on the other hand, depended on the time of day and the number of substances in his system, although the general outcome was “over my dead body”. I think he liked to believe the lies he told himself, that we were a happy family living life in difficult times, and that no matter what, we would stick together… And I too had hope. I hoped for a happy family, a family who shared their sadness and their joy, who supported and depended on one another, who would have holidays at the seaside, share wonderful Christmases and Easter’s together, but that was a lie I no longer could make myself believe.
I awoke with a start to the whistle of a train… just as a butterfly gently brushed my cheek, and I watched it happily dancing its way from wildflower to wildflower. I had dozed off sitting there, midway to the station, alongside the tracks. The tracks I’d been meant to be on all my life, and not all those side roads I was always so eager to explore. And even though I knew that staying on this line will not always be easy, I also knew it was the only right way forward.