Waiting had always been the hardest part. I guess that was why she wondered at their trip home to The Waiting Room every year. It was always a trip of many miles but more than that it was a trip across the passage of time. The Waiting Room was a place where youth prevailed and if they had all been blind, their ages would have been unremarkable. In her real home, time marched on, she felt her age and no one was blind to it, least of all her.
On the beach that day she sat in the sun. Stopping near the shore had become a tradition with them. Her ocean was fierce and unforgiving. The tide came in with determination, progressing toward her without hesitation. That was what she liked about it. It was one of the things she could always count on. But the day was long and the progress was slow. Her impatience had never allowed her to see the full cycle. The tide came and went but not in her presence.
On this day she began to think about how the rolling tide told the story of their lives. The ebb and flow. The endless waiting. Success and failure. Despair and blissful joy. That time when the tide did not go either way, when the moon could not decide which way the water should flow, seemed to be the place where they spent the most difficult times of their lives.
Yes, she decided, she disliked the waiting the most.
ACROSS THE ROAD
The little house stood on the highway. It was gray like everything else nearby. Cement had settled on every rock, plant and building. Where there had been grass under the clothes line there was the appearance of a sidewalk left by the dust. The ground crunched when she walked across it.
In the picture she stood with her hands on her hips. She was only four and she wore corduroy pant and her white shoes shone in the sun. The hills were green, the fence was white, the irises bloomed and the grass was green. When the envelop with the picture came in the mail from the photo shop had been opened, she stood staring at herself and the place she stood. Somehow she did not know the place. Where was that blue sky and green hill? Her mother stood close and gave her a hug. Even the photo shop had thought that a little girl should stand in the sunshine near a green hill and a white fence. They had created a little world on the paper that did not exist.
Late at night she and her mother waited for him to come home. His job was hard and dangerous. The huge kiln burnt the rock into cinder and turned endlessly with the heat blasting through. The conveyor belt brought the rock from the quarry high on the hill or in buckets strung on a cable across the canyon. The rock was loaded into the buckets by an ancient shovel kept running by her father. He often rode the bucket down because the walk up the hill was very long, especially late at night. The electricity he worked with had always fascinated her but she at seen the burns and the broken bones that came with the job. Her father had lain in bed with injuries when she was very small. So when he did not come home she felt ill.
They became front window watchers and waiters. In the little house by the road they would listen to the grinding of the mill and the furnace for sounds that were not right. The dreaded explosion would bring bad news for one family or another. Endless pots of coffee were brewed in the hope that the aroma would bring him home. He was the essential father. Without him they would have a struggled to live. Without him….
As the years went by she became tired of the waiting. The anxiety and disappointment of missed parties and family gathering made her tired and sad. Her father’s “overtime” dangerous union regulated work left its mark. But mostly the fear never went away. And she was very young. If she had been tougher or stronger or had had less of an imagination, she would have endured better. But she was impatient, fearful, and her imagination, while a blessing and a talent, became her enemy. She knew that she would have to leave. She knew she could not stay and watch it play out. She knew that when she was old enough she would leave one way or another. It was the waiting and she loved them too too much.
Note: This for those of you that asked for more. Thank you so much. I will try to continue to tell the story until it is over…one way or another.
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