I’m testing out a story that has haunted me since my father died. So here is the start. It might come into a long book, or I might forget it and return to it someday. I have yet to completely map out what it will be, but it is in the vein of every book, where the protagonist has to go back home and face their past. It will have either magical realism elements or full-blown magic in the sense that I see dead people. It is about family trauma, sisterhood, and facing who you actually are.
The events reflect on some level of my family history, but for a significant part, they are made up. Unlike the start, I have an excellent relationship with my sister. It hasn’t been five years since I have been back home. Yes, I have a complicated history with my mother, and yes, my father had a drinking problem, but I will take the liberty to flesh out my past, the circumstances, and the details as I see best for the story, as this is not my history. This is a fictional account where I have lent elements of my past, feelings, and thoughts.
Story: Where the Crows Won’t Fly
I had been sitting all day on the train. I had tried to read a book, but my mind kept going back to the past, so I let my eyes wander at the ever-changing landscape. The fields turned into lakes, the lakes into cities, and then again, solitude buildings in the middle of nowhere. It had been five years since I had gone back home. I shifted uncomfortably on my seat, changing the weight from left to right, glancing at the other passengers. They were deep, watching their phones. My sister rang yesterday, telling me that our father had been found dead. I booked tickets straight away. I could have flown, but the train ride gave me more time before facing everything that would follow next.
The mere thought made my chest feel heavy. I tried not to cry. Not that I was sure if I could. I hadn’t cried yesterday. I had silently listened to my sister sobbing at the other end of the line. Both of us had known this day would eventually come. It was just she had carried with her hope, and I hadn’t. I had buried my past into a neat little box, never to be opened. Now I had to go back, and merely having to face my deteriorated past was too much. I hadn’t wanted to witness it for years already, and I didn’t want to see it now, either. I knew and didn’t know what waited for me once I stepped inside my childhood home.
I took the book out of my backpack again and began reading it. The words kept jumping, and the letters got all mixed. I watched again out of the window. The trees were getting less luscious. The hardwood was changing into pines, and the ground was getting frosty from the cold air. I remember the first day I moved to the big city away from the small town with its sea where I grew up. I remember wondering about the leafy trees, the warm sunlight that made everything feel light, and the smiles people had as they chatted. The children. The ice creams. People everywhere. It was different from where I had grown up. Back home, people kept their heads low and whispered in the darkened corners how they had been robbed of a good life.
Of course, they had been. They had let them be dragged to the factories, worked hard. They had never thought to think twice if to follow in their father’s footsteps or not. They had let their work consume them. Some being brave enough to play sports to find their freedom on the ice or in the gravel pits. And the women, they either nursed the sick to live or sat behind the counters, serving for others’ pleasure. My sister had been like that. She’d followed our mother. She resented me for getting out, becoming something, living in the big city, dining out, and flying to other countries. She had never said as much, but I could sense it in our monthly phone calls. She talked about her family, her days, our father and mother.
There was another twinge of pain in my chest.
I had to face my mother. And my father wouldn’t be there to stand between her and me.
I could feel the tears swelling up. I kept pushing whatever wanted to come out deeper. Not to think how my father, god bless his soul, had been the only parent who knew what it meant to love someone unconditionally. But that hadn’t saved him. No, it hadn’t. Instead, he had let my mother, the factory, the cruel world of ours rob him away, making him into this pitiful creature who had drunk himself to death.
I woke up from my thoughts as a middle-aged woman coughed next to me. She looked at the seat next to me, where my old navy backpack was. I hurried to take it out of her way. She sat next to me, letting her expressions and posture say that I was a piece of garbage. That no good person would ever keep their bag on an empty seat.
Yeah, I was garbage. That much I knew. I was told as much when I had gotten a mind of my own and stopped obeying all that my mother wanted me to do. Something even my father couldn’t prevent from happening. He watched as my mother made it known that I was all wrong and nothing if I didn’t do and be as she told me. No wonder he drank himself senseless, having to deal with her.
I once again tried with the book, but it was impossible. My mind was on overdrive. The breathing techniques I had picked up in therapy didn’t work. Not when the woman’s, sitting next to me, repugnant flowery scent floated in the air, making even the boy, who had been there all the way through, draw his scarf higher over his face. He pretended to do it for other reasons, but it was apparent why he hid.
“So what are you reading?” the woman asked and turned to face me.
Oh, good god, she was one of those people who needed the world to entertain her. I didn’t want to answer, but I was brought up to be respectful and if I was being honest, timid.
I showed her the book with a leafs and flowers on the cover. She glanced at me from head to toe. Not sure if my smart jacket, black jeans, and combat boots fit her criteria of what I was supposed to read.
“So what’s it all about?” she continued chatting.
“About prehistoric nature and how our landscapes have changed for millions of years.” Honestly, I was struggling with the book. While on some level, it was fascinating, I had a hard time following all the specific terminology on others. The prehistoric world and biology weren’t my forte, even when I loved reading books about bees, spiders, octopuses, and nature.
“Ah,” the woman let out.
“Are you a student then?” she asked bluntly.
I shook my head. I had waited for that question. It was one thing people always wanted to know so they could put you in a neat little box and know your place compared to them.
“Then what?” she persisted as I took my time. Whatever I answered wouldn’t make her my friend. Not that I wanted a friend out of her. She was wearing an outfit that was more than my month’s rent. Her designer trousers were already half what it cost to live in the city. Maybe I should ask her what she was doing on the train, but again the timid nature I was taught prevented me. I thought I had shaken off that girl, who was afraid to keep her shoulders back and chest high. The one who knew her worth and didn’t state every night before bed how she was a piece of shit.
“I’m a writer,” I said instead.
“Oh.” The woman took a long look at me. “A blog?”
“No, I write in a newspaper.”
“Anything I would have seen?”
To my luck, the conversation ended there. The middle-aged woman eyed me now and then in disbelief, but she didn’t engage with me. Finally, she got up after two stops, and I lifted my backpack back to the empty seat. I even read twenty pages before the boy in front of me got up and left. I still had two hours to go all the way to the north.
My phone peeped. It was my sister, messaging me. She wanted to know the exact time my train was there. I put the phone back on my lap and watched the lake
we were passing. There was a small cottage in the middle of the frozen lake. The trees were frosty. And everything was covered with light snow.
I could lie to her and give her the wrong time. I could go to eat and stall the inevitable for just one moment. But that would be a dick move. I returned the phone to my hand and answered: 16:42, and nothing else. She wrote back to me, telling me how she had been crying all night, how she couldn’t breathe, and how she was sure her heart would give in and she would leave her children motherless.
Fuck her, I wanted to scream aloud. I didn’t need her pain in me. I already had my own to carry.
Thank you for reading ❤ Have a great day!
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