THE DARK, that is what Annie and I used to call you. You never knew. You came out at night, in the dark when Annie and I would be sleeping. There was no light in you, not in the dark, in the stillness of obscurity. My beautiful Annie, how could I have survived you without her, born just one year after me and the only light in my life during those hard years? What would we have done without each other to hold tight, to fear you, together.
Those steel gray eyes, those sometimes dark, sometimes black eyes like cesspools, they churned and followed me everywhere. How dare they…following me to my book signing for my second national best seller. Didn’t they know people wanted me for who I was, because of ME, because of what I wrote. Interviews, talk shows, radio, critical acclaim and a possible movie deal all proved my life was a success. Look, look hard at what I became in spite of you. What did those dark steel gray-black eyes think of that!
I thought all families had to deal with THE DARK until I was older. I didn’t know that the piddling few fun memories we had were what others had so often. Once, we went on a picnic. I still remember the sun shining light through the trees and the warm feeling of being together. Your eyes were silvery gray that day, a beautiful gray. Annie and I giggled and ran in the field singing and dancing. Mom spread the picnic feast on a plaid Hudson Bay blanket. We all ate together and we laughed. Our family, the four of us, together, enjoyed the day.
Family, the only real family Annie and I knew didn’t often jump and skip, giggle and laugh, hug and kiss. Mom was tired from working all day and wanted you to leave her alone, choosing to always look the other way, our own personal betrayer. And you, you and your dark eyes were there continually looking for an opportunity to take advantage, the ultimate father figure façade. Annie and I did our best growing up despite both of you.
When those black eyes would come for one of us, me or my Annie, I would pray that it wasn’t me and when you would take her with you, guilt would rip through me and I would cry in the dark while she was with you and would whisper over and over again that I was so sorry it was not my turn. Even though she couldn’t hear me because she was with you, THE DARK, I whimpered again and again rocking back and forth until you brought her back to our bed. Then I would wipe her wet eyes with my kisses and hug her tight as we would fall asleep together. Another night, she would do the same for me.
We learned young how to cope. When anguish was sometimes too much I would go to a corner, lie on my side and curl up with my knees almost touching my chin and rock back and forth, back and forth, sometimes for hours at a time. It helped. Even when I was forty seven, it helped, like days when you wouldn‟t leave me alone, when your dark eyes followed me everywhere. And that phone call…I still have the excruciating memory of when they called me to say that my Annie couldn’t stand the pain in her life anymore and had slipped away from us. I ran to my bed, embraced myself and rocked on my side curled up for days and weeks and months.
“Once, out of guilt and grief, I had given my will away, but ever after, I kept my soul for myself.” My mind has repeated over and over those words of Una, the main character in Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel Ahab’s Wife. They resonated with me. You stole my soul and I was not able to take it back, to demand it back and keep it for myself. I often asked myself why I didn’t. Was it the social taboo? Was it because my wounds were too deep to move on? Even though you have been gone for years now, you were always there, those eyes, THE DARK, following me. I remember picking up my pen, me, the writer, and when I looked down at the paper all I saw were jumbled words, black and menacing scribbled in dark ink hiding the white of the page: sorrow, pain, torment, despair, dejection, sadness, gloom, suffering…on and on. Was that all that was left in my heart? NO, I refused to let it be so. NO, NO, NO!
I am now so thankful. My words flow again, a waterfall of words pouring out pollution-free and no longer dark. Time has passed but it is not time alone that has changed me. It is hard work, introspection and acceptance of what once was and cannot be changed. I am no longer afraid of your eyes, those steel gray-black eyes that used to follow me. I moved them and your darkness from my heart to the written word, committed them to paper. Now they stay where they belong, in my memory, not in my heart where they had the power to hurt and destroy me.
A new package has arrived from my publisher. It has been over three years since my second book was a best seller. How ironic for it to arrive today, the day of my birth, the day I was given life. I am grateful for that life even knowing it began with you and came from you. My heart no longer cries out to you bleeding with hurt. My hands shake with anticipation as I slide the book from its sleeve, this, the third published and dearest to my heart of all my writings. This book is my gift, a gift that has let me move on without your dark black eyes following me. It has allowed me to take back my very own soul.
My hands caress this lovely book. I open the stiff hard cover and quickly turn a few pages and read “This book is dedicated to my inner child, and to you, my Annie, sister and dearest friend, you who knew pain so well and would have understood every word and every emotion written here. This is my gift to you along with the gift of your beautiful soul back.” A tear of remembrance for Annie slips down the crisp page as it caresses word after word, stopping at “soul”. Fresh wetness absorbs and hugs that beautiful word. My heart smiles knowing Annie would be so proud.
Soon, THE DARK will be afraid of me. Not you, THE DARK I knew too well and grew up with, you are gone, committed to memory only, no longer following me with your black eyes, but THE DARK of others, so many others. Their DARK will be afraid because light will stream forth.
Hopefully, those who read this book I hold here in my hand will one day be able to say they, too, have found their soul, beautiful and free.
Submitted by Char Bisson via email.