At the Stroke of Guilt
Maybe this will be a series of fiction. Maybe it won’t. But, this story begins with the fictional post, Expecting the Unexpected. Click here to begin at the beginning. And, thank you. Of all the hundreds of thousands of existing options for entertaining blog reading, I am honored you stopped here and chose me.
She didn’t buy the red stilts, after all. An unexpected call chirps from her mobile phone, arresting her click-happy finger as it arches over her centered mouse. Her mother. She had her mother to thank for the unbroken future of her two ankles, the extra dollars not glued to a credit card.
Impatience tinges the edges of her voice as she attempts a smooth hello. Why is it that the torn ends never quite lie flat in the timbre of her voice when she tries to seem unruffled? They always glare in the foreground of whatever harmony of words and sound she forces upon them. A faker, she is not, especially with her mother, leaving her hello bookended by two staccato sighs, pulses of air she means and immediately regrets.
News weighs her mother’s words like granite, giving her the facade to match. She had a stroke. Her mother relays the sanitized medical jargon with the hard sheen of falling rock, racing toward its date with gravity. I know she’s old. She’s still family. She used to be your favorite. What are you going to do?
The direct approach. The unsung path of throwing battered, dog-eared cards on the table. No time for subtlety, not where mysterious blights to the brain are involved. Why does direct confrontation with this news stab her conscience so? She can read some of those cards, after all. Distance and airwaves and time and absence don’t change the pictures, the words, the numbers they convey.
Can you stop being so obnoxious? one blares from the back of her mind.
You’re not worthy of anything another gleefully opines.
How dare you refuse to let me blackmail you screams the siren of a third.
For a while, she convinced herself this negative litany was merely her aunt’s regret speaking. Regret for choices made and paths not taken. Regret for love desired and squandered. Crossing a wispy imaginary line, what’s done can seldom be redone or undone. Regret lives on the other side of that divide.
She counted the cards, piled up the proclamations and knew better. Her aunt had been hurling them at her for years. Decades. Rising and falling in intensity of pitch, they always underscored the base: her lack of worth. When she was younger, she believed her aunt’s refrain, that she was worthless. Hearing it reiterated added feathers to her bed.
Age and maturity changed her, though. However she gritted her teeth and sent her mind elsewhere, she couldn’t stop herself from disagreeing with the elderly, droning refrain. Deciding she didn’t have to subject herself to it at all felt weightless. Light. Peaceful.
Except for the nagging guilt she feels.
Do we ever stop loving people, once we’ve truly loved them? It it ever okay to finally write someone off when they gave up on us decades ago?