This mound of dirt used to be the kitchen in my father’s house, when it was a house, before workers came to strip it to the foundation to remake history. The walls were saffron when my mother was alive and the floor, which once was clean, was vinyl with a swirling geometric pattern, dizzying if you stared too long. Now it is all covered with dirt.
Dirt covers the acrid smell of fear, the nauseating fear of my father, by my father, for my father.
Dirt from the grave now covers his hands. Big hands, hairy and strong.
Not the hands of the erudite professor he was; the hands of the brute he became.
If you sift through the dirt, maybe you’ll see those hands pulling on my twelve-year-old arm. Maybe you’ll hear the shriek as I make for the back door, as my shoulder pulls from its socket, my right shoulder which would never be right again even when I was older and tried to transform into a mermaid and swim away from that life. Maybe if you dug, you’d see me redouble my struggle, observe muscles bunching in my thighs, notice fear and surprise cross my father’s face as he realizes something’s wrong, something’s gone sick and slack in my arm. Watch as he lets go in horror; he didn’t mean to hurt me. Watch as I slip out the door and into the Children’s Forest, where the dirt is as pristine as a house swept clean.
Montclair, New Jersey, United States of America