For D. I know. I really, really know.
I call Brooke down for dinner. She answers. I can’t make out the words but the tension in her voice is unmistakable.
“Honey,” I call up the steps again, “It’s time to come down. Dinner’s ready.”
“NOOOOOOOO!” she yells in response. There is no rebellion in the word. Instead, there is urgency, anxiety, fear, pain.
“I’m looking for my ballet tights!” she yells. “I’m doing ballet.”
“OK, baby,” I say. My voice is trembling. “It’s OK.”
I’ve been here before. Right on this very spot. At the bottom of these stairs. Helpless. The ballet tights were slippers that day, but the steps were these steps, the wall against my back was that very wall right there.
This moment has just become that one.
I want to scream. I want to run. I can do neither. I sit on the bottom step, not because I want to stay here, but because I can’t go anywhere else.
The air is devoid of oxygen.
I can’t breathe.
Brooke comes down the stairs, now fully dressed for the ballet. She is a vision in pink – leotard, tights, tutu and shoes. I try to hide the tears that roll down my cheeks unbidden.
I steal a hug as she makes her way to the kitchen. She lets me hold her for the briefest moment, but I have her body only. Before I can say anything to her, she’s already gone.
I try to gather the pieces of myself from the steps. I wipe my face and take a deep breath before I follow her into the kitchen for dinner.
Luau is standing at the counter. He looks up. He looks at me, then at Brooke in her ballerina outfit, then back to me. He heard the whole exchange.
“PTSD moment?” he asks. The question is casual. It sounds no different than, “Something to drink with dinner?” It simply is.
I nod. I lean into him and duck my head into his chest. But not too close. I prop myself up on my elbows, keeping us just far enough apart to keep me whole. The distance between us is the duct tape that holds me together; if I surrender – if I get too close, I risk melting into a puddle in the middle of my kitchen. I have to stay whole.
Brooke is circling the table, alternately humming and squealing. She’s OK.
This moment was not the same as the first.
I know now.
It’s all different now.
As I dry the last of the tears, I am reminded.
It simply is.
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