Split cardboard boxes and hurtling down grassy hills. On the godforsaken backroad, the clouds roll by, while their ignorance wields and sings, and the distant hum of cars abide.
And when the day is almost done, he speaks of getting to the dinner table on time. But at the sight of the painted sky, he stops to listen to the sparrows cry.
I bet your brother got into another fight, they laugh. What will your father say? Mathew, if your brother’s late, you’re eating last!
Sunburnt and tanned. At the collar of his shirt and folds of his sleeves. Stains and dirt. At the hems of his pale jeans. Sticky fingers and sharp taking teeth. Unafraid of the cherry icicles’ sting. The smell of ‘what’s for dinner?’ treats his mind. And so, he pictures the disapproving glare, his mother shares, when he acts a little too nice.
At the tug of his ear, violent words pierce the rhythm of the others’ bikes, screeching against the concrete and through the untouched weeds. He cannot seem to find his mind.
Something’s not right.
At a bad place and at the wrong time. A twenty-two and a hollow point. Their territory, and little bitches, who don’t understand their place on the lineal line. His friends yell—Run!—but he’s on the ground wondering: Am I going to die?
Eyes blinking like his mother’s thin kitchen blinds, when the wind hits, and they can’t seem to stay quiet. And as if panic could startle time into shorter fractals, or prevent the act of submergence when drowning in the world’s hateful scandals, his eyes search around for anything familiar, landing on the popsicle stick he failed to get rid of earlier.
They’re just kids. They don’t know what’s right. So, they got him on the back of one of their bikes. Just a bunch of growing boys, who don’t know what to do but run to his house, rather than make a beeline for the nearest hospital in sight.
This is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me. Inevitably she speaks: Why are you screaming? Peaking at the sister he forgot was in town. Seeing her face doesn’t make the pain go away, so he can’t help but say something he doesn’t need to say—Mother fucker, it hurts!—as the sedation begins to save the pain, before his mother reaches to slap his face.
And now, what is precious—the sight of his daughter, peaking through his own kitchen blinds, when he leaves and then comes home at night. On the tips of her toes and standing on a dining room chair, for she cannot wait to see his car coming down the street and his matching dark hair.
He looks over her shoulder, questioning the excitement in her eyes, for he is tired and cannot be bothered because of work all the time.
Her hands are more like her mother’s than mine. While she makes mud pies in the garden and stains her dress, walking away unharmed and singing, she is unaware of the flowers’ distress. Or running around the yard with a shard of glass, from a broken picture frame, and he is to blame.
Even so, he cannot help but notice she likes the dog’s name. Shouting it as if to say I love you all the same. And refilling the water bowl every time she walks away. And giving her too many treats like she understands there is trust to gain.
Or how she plays with her mother’s earlobes in order to fall asleep. Or how she gets up early and changes out of her pajamas before morning cartoons with Max and Ruby. Or how she cried on her first day of preschool, but he stayed out in the hall, afraid to leave her if anything went wrong.
I hope she makes some friends even while missing her mom. Even so, her eyes light up at the sight of his face, and she is saying—Dad!—like he is a God in a way.
At some point he realizes, she is a reflection of him.
For her laugh is made out every laugh she heard of his.
And she plays with her mother’s ears before bed, because she watched him kiss both while she was crying from stress.
And she always takes care of the dog, because she notices how he pets her head lightly, even if she did something wrong.
And the broken glass of the frame she carried, belonged to a photograph of him in the military.
And she made mud pies in garden, because she watched the seeds he planted grow into flowers, hoping she could do the same.
And she gets dressed early, because he gets ready for work in the morning. When he leaves, she waits for her mother to wake, and she speaks of his—See you later—and smiling face.
He begins to understand the significance of his choices. For it would not be the same, if he did not survive being shot that day.
He could not have met the daughter he has today.
You may read more of my future publications at lavendermind.home.blog. Fourteen is dedicated to my dad, for no man will ever love me more than him. Though we are the same, we are different at the rims.