So far from home

By Christopher Wink | March 1, 2008

She enrolled in St. Joseph’s that summer, her first time away from home.

She didn’t grow up too far away – she went to Merion Mercy – but college is about the time, not necessarily the place, and so, for her, Sourin Hall could have just as well been about a million miles away.

“I was the apple of my father’s eye,” she wrote me once, which either showed her complete lack of personal phrasing or was a better characterization than even a thousand poets working a thousand years could develop.

Her father loved her in the same way he loved her when she was seven and twirled on his feet during the father and daughter dance held by Girl Scout Troop 154 memories ago. Fathers always love their daughters as they loved them when they were seven and twirling.

Her mother only wished she could get as much attention as her daughter got.

By September, she met a boy, which didn’t surprise anyone. She had a big smile and curly hair and lots of friends signed her yearbook from Merion.

She was wonderful at living on the surface with others who have surfaces.

The boy was a senior, headed for medical school and with other plans of agreeable nature.

Her father has conversations with her mother about letting go, which seemed natural and good. How much her mother loved when her father would speak to her, television commercial or not.

And that boy was wonderful. Those four years make such a difference. She lived for him, and, really, how could she not? He was young and sweet and beautiful and too faraway to disappoint her by being practical.

By October they were exclusive.

They would go to basketball games together and the library together.

He would say nice things. From time to time. Sometimes, she would hope they were true.

By December she was pregnant.

It was outside of the Palestra after a game against Drexel when she told him. You always remember the strangest things. Like how she could see her own breath as she told him. That she was already a month in. They were already in a month in. And then how she couldn’t see her breath. Because he wasn’t breathing. Or maybe he had never had to breath until that very moment.

They made the decision that everyone seems to make but no can seem to forget.

She didn’t mind.

She was just waiting to be loved. Begging even. An obtrusive attempt at cajoling someone into affection, casting with baked goods and neon signs. How could he ever be expected to give in to someone asking so politely? Kindness only attracts friends.

He didn’t leave her. It’s important to say that.

But he kept seeing her as what would derail what it was he wanted to be. You can’t call him selfish.

By February she was being abused.

It started innocently enough. She had nowhere to turn. So she turned to him with increasing frequency. It was a different time then. Her friends wouldn’t understand. She couldn’t think of telling her father. Telling her mother would be as good as telling her father, which would be as good as breaking their hearts.

So, instead, she broke her own. And would tell him about it.

It wasn’t that he was suffocating. Something subtler and more painful. And he would say things. To start a fight. To make her cry.

But she wouldn’t. She loved him more now than ever. She needed him more now than ever. She would do anything, but, it seemed then that, all he wanted was her to leave.
Once, he hit her. Then again. And once he knew it was alright, but that she would feel pain, there seemed to be nothing else to do. Midterms were coming, graduation was coming.

And so he started to hit her because he was still too young to be a man.

And she had come to assume that he was just that.

The problem is that it isn’t freedom that we want. We want the freedom to exert freedom but not necessity to defend it. We want the illusion of freedom.

He didn’t stop hitting her. But she didn’t leave him. It’s important to say that. It doesn’t end nearly as sensibly as that.

He graduated with her still in love and him still scared to be anything but her disinterested everything.

So he left, and she cried. And was too hard to decide if it was because he was gone or her child was dead or because both left her alone. And her father still wanted her to twirl on his feet, though through the next few years he became accustomed to choosing his wife as a second best.

She became interested in psychology and other boys, though things sank heavy in her heart.

She, herself, graduated in 1982. He came around for that, and they spoke cordially. The sterile existence of former intimates with secrets buried too deeply to recall even with each other.

More than a decade later, she is a women’s counselor and mother in Narberth, he a respected and well-liked doctor and father in Media.

Still so far away from home.