My eyes inadvertently squeezed tighter as the morning light peeked through the window. Distaste for mornings and my lack of sleep did not blend well together. Placing my right hand over my eyes and forehead had no effect on the throbbing. I gripped the outsides of my face as I slid my hand downwards, a feeble attempt to wipe off my headache. It was unsuccessful.
I sat up in the slim, twin mattress set in the middle of the small upstairs bedroom. My eyes lost focus in the light breaking through the window slats as my mind wandered to last night’s events. No, it wasn’t a nightmare; it had all been real. The love of my life had told me that he didn’t think we could make this relationship work – that it was too hard. And in a simultaneous split second and an eternity, I felt my heart rip in two. I couldn’t breathe. I was paralyzed in agony and unsure how to cope. Yet somehow, a beacon of hope propelled me forward to respond in love rather than pain. The epitome of an out of body experience because in that moment I was not lucid enough to respond in that nature.
I know…I know. Do you really want to be with someone you had to convince to stay with you? No response to this question seems justifiable enough to be true. But these circumstances were different. And I wasn’t convincing Kendrae to keep fighting for our love. I was sending his fear on its way. Banishing it from ever returning in the space between us. Because even a 240-pound man of pure muscles can be overpowered by fear.
We had talked into the night, much longer than our usual thirty-minute window. But again, these were extenuating circumstances. Our relationship’s pulse had flat lined and I wasn’t going to let it die without a fight. For once, my brain had relaxed and let my heart do the talking. I acknowledged Kendrae’s fears and reassured him that I too had endured some crippling bouts of it. Fear attaches itself to powerfully exhilarating things. So if our relationship lacked any fear on either side, then I would be concerned. The unknown is frightening. Opening up your heart and allowing another person to hold it, is petrifying. Working through distance and family drama was no different. But I took all this as a good sign. It meant we had truly tapped into magic. If my life experiences had assured me of anything, it was that nothing of great value came with ease.
Running through our conversations from the night before my brain was processing on overdrive. Creating an entirely separate sub conversation occurring between the lines of what was really said. Unsure if it was my desperation or the depth of my love, but I was relieved my brain handed over the reins last night. Otherwise…
I shuddered at the thought. Unable to continue thinking it.
Kendrae and I had come to the agreement that we would wait this whole situation out. Emotionally taxing was an understatement. Neither of us wanted to split up and given a less toxic environment, these doubts wouldn’t be quite as palpable. We both believed that once I got a job and could stand on my own two feet, most of the tension would resolve itself. I wouldn’t be so stressed about getting out, and we could be open about our love. The conversation ended with a comment that we should just, “go with the flow,” and see how things played out. This, was perhaps my least favorite phrase in regards to relationships. It very much went against my nature and left me more anxious and insecure as ever. One half of me was attempting to take the phase to heart and relax. And the other half of me was in a complete panic. Alarms were sounded, barricades were in place and my mind was running rampant in a thousand different directions, none of which were helpful.
I let out a deep breath and thought it best that I conquer these inner demons in the light of day, outside. They never seemed so big and scary in the sunlight. So I walked down the stairs, through the kitchen and onto the patio deck. Spotting my sister out in the yard at the outdoor table, I decided to join her. I pulled up the metal chair and sat down, facing my sister and the deck behind her. The yard was at my back, and the sun warmed my skin.
My sister and I had an interesting relationship. We didn’t get along as kids, grew closer in our teen years and since I had been in college, gotten even closer. But now, I felt like I couldn’t be myself around her. I didn’t think she felt the same as my parents, but I also understood that she still had a few more years of living at home. I didn’t want to put her in a situation where she would have to choose sides. No. It was just better if I kept some things to myself.
We did talk about my relationship with my parents though-especially my mother. This was a common topic, because well who better to understand your twisted mother-daughter relationship than your own sister? I expressed my frustration with never being able to please my mother. How nothing was ever good enough for her unachievably high expectations. How we were always at odds with one another, yet my quest for her approval remained unrelenting. It was a vicious cycle that left us both upset.
The conversation started out fine, but as usual, I can’t keep my personal opinions, personal. I made a remark asking my sister how I could compete with her, the “golden child who could do no wrong.” I admit, I didn’t intend it as a compliment, but it was more of a jab about my mother’s vantage of me than my sister. But it wasn’t untrue. In fact, it was pretty spot on.
But my sister didn’t take too kindly to my observation, because she quickly spat back, “Don’t make me feel bad for listening to Mom and Dad. The Bible tells you to obey your mother and father, Sarah.”
I paused for a moment before posing a question. “Even if you don’t agree with them? I’m not like you. I can’t just go along with something that I don’t agree with.”
That only fanned the flames in my sister’s eyes. Visibly upset, she stood up from her seat, and walked back in the house. This was exactly why I couldn’t be myself around anyone in my family. I hadn’t intended to hurt her feelings. I was just so frustrated. With this mess. With my parents. With my relationship. With my life. How had everything spun so viciously out of control? And how could it continue to get worse by the day?
Ahhhhhh! I screamed inside my head.
Deep breath Sarah. You’re losing focus on the end goal here: freedom. All your thoughts need to be framed around getting out. But I couldn’t shake my sister’s words. They bounced around in my head all afternoon.
Later that evening after dinner, I used my sister’s cell phone to call my mother. Sure, we definitely didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I wanted to find some common ground. I wasn’t sorry for being with Kendrae, but I was sorry that our relationship was so strained. I hoped the physical distance between us these past two weeks would take some stress off our frayed relationship. I was sorry that I had been so terse with her. I could sincerely apologize for that.
Sister’s phone in hand, I walked out to my grandparent’s backyard for the second time that day. Physically incapable of sitting and talking on the phone, I began walking in a square pattern in the grass behind the garage as I dialed up my mother. Something about walking and talking was soothing to me. Especially when having a difficult conversation. I began my walking and the phone started to ring.
“Hey, it’s Sarah…I…wanted to call you and say that I’m sorry. I know things have been crazy lately, and I haven’t been the nicest to you. Actually, I’ve been really mad at you, and I don’t want to be. So, I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry.”
A long pause.
“Mad at me? I don’t understand why you would be mad at me?”
“Just from this whole situation. It’s been a lot, for everyone. And we don’t have to agree on everything…”
A little louder and more succinct, “So you still don’t agree with this, do you?”
I made the fatal mistake of pausing. My pause to search for the right words to diffuse my previous remark signaled to my mother that she now had the floor.
Thirty minutes later and my ears were still burning from her heat. I heard every word, but they slid in my right ear, curved around my brain, and oozed out of my left. Tears hung on the edge of my eyelids, so full it was all I could do to keep them from rushing over. This was impossible. We spoke two entirely different languages, and it was apparent no common ground was anywhere to be found.
The buzzing on the other end of the phone continued, but my frustration was too much. My tears tipped the balance and poured down my face. I looked up, towards the blackness above me in hopes of finding solace among the light of the stars. Just as soon as I had succumbed to the heavens, a splash met my forehead, right between my eyes. Then another found my cheek. And then my shoulder. And then the splashes fell closer, almost simultaneously and the splashes turned into a steady rainfall. I aborted my square pattern and darted to the backside of the garage, seeking cover. Pushing my shoes against the wood that outlined the dirt between the garage and the grass, I leaned up against the paneling. My legs locked and my back fleshed up to the white siding. If I was going to be stuck out here, I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of this diatribe too.
“Look,” I interrupted, “I didn’t call you to get a lecture. I called you because I wanted to apologize and try and start over. This wasn’t supposed to turn into an argument…” Deep sigh. “I can’t even apologize to you right.”
Those pesky tears started welling up again.
This time much softer, “I’m sorry Mom. I love you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
“Alright, love you too. Good night.”
I pressed the end button, and slipped the phone into the back pocket of my jeans.
My fingers brushed my wet hair away from my face, tucking it gently behind my ears, and I stared out at the falling rain. When I was upset, nothing eased my pain, like a steady rainfall. Partly, because I garnered joy from the weather matching my disposition. And also, because rainfall is temporary. Another reminder that my storm wouldn’t last forever.
The thunder rolled in, and I knew that lightning wasn’t far behind. I braced myself and darted into my grandparents’ house.
This storm was far from over.