Where would I be if we hadn’t moved? Who would I have been if we had stayed? I’m not sure I would’ve been alive for long.
Moving bought me time. Time to live a life removed from the places and people of childhood. Away from bullies and abusers. Away from those who still haunt my dreams and waking moments.
But then, no escape. Nowhere to run.
Bullied at school. Bullied on the street. Those ever grasping, groping hands in back lots and clubhouses. Insanity at home. Everywhere I turned, I saw only myself and my screaming face of desperation—like being trapped inside a dead-end House of Mirrors.
Let me out! Let me out! But no one hears. No rescue comes.
Help me? Please?
No. Hush, child.
A child left in the care of mental illness. They were blind. Deaf. Dumb. Numb to normal feelings.
The recurring, on-going dream of my childhood was about being buried alive. By my family. Every night. Every night beginning where it left off the night before. The nightmare that perhaps told the story of my childhood.
It went like this:
For far too many nights, tied down in a cart full of hay. Pulled by an old horse. Up and up and up and up the winding unpaved cart path.
Past the homes of friends, homes of family. Past the school, the shops, the weathered farms. To a field of grass and flowers. And a gaping grave.
They took me down from the cart, setting me quietly into the hole in the ground. Throwing clods onto my tiny child body. No! Stop! Please? Please don’t! Was I unable to make a sound? Or were they unable to hear? Or did they choose to continue despite the pleas and cries.
They were silent. Ever serious.
One handful. Another. Covering my legs. My tiny torso. My arms and hands. My face. The dirt collected in my ears, my mouth, my eyes, my nose.
The earth is cold and smells of damp. Smells of earthworms. Beetles. Clover. Grass tufts. The silence covers, envelopes, crushes me.
The lens of my dream retreats from inside my earthen grave. New scene: My family all walking away back down the hill. Silently.
The shot pans through the grim parade. The parents. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Single file. Returning from the hill.
The shot pans once more. See the empty field? A freshly dug space, no larger than a child. A view of the mountains. The soft touch of gentle breezes on wisps of grass and weeds.
The dreams ended then. The burial was complete, haunting my waking and dreaming moments.
For the rest of my life.
Who would I have been if we hadn’t moved? Still buried. Still silent. Still watching.
Without leaving, there would have been no future. No me. There is nothing to see or imagine in that alternative timeline.
It would have been