Authors: Kim Corum
“What sort of questions do you have?”
“Questions that are between me and my wife.”
“I can’t help you.”
“You can’t help?” I hissed, getting more and more pissed off. “You can’t help and the cops can’t help and her mother won’t help. What am I supposed to do?”
“And how can I do that? This is driving me crazy! Every day I am consumed with guilt and worry over her! She could be dead for all I know.”
She stared at me. I almost broke down. I wouldn’t allow myself to, but I almost did. Almost wanted to. I said calmly, “I just want to see if she’s okay. That’s all. I don’t want to hurt her. I just want to hear her say she’s okay and then I can move on. I can’t until I know.”
“You still love her?”
I didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
“Do you think she’s in danger?”
“She could be.”
She sighed. “I vaguely remember her coming here a couple of years ago. She had, at the most, one or two appointments, then she stopped coming.”
“Why was she here?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Of course you don’t.”
“I tell all my patients the same thing I told her. Start a journal and write everything down. She might have done that.”
I stared at her. She might have. Where would she keep something like that? She could have taken them with her for all I knew.
“That’s all I know, Mr. Anderson,” she said. “I’m sorry about your situation, I really am. If you want to talk about it, you still have time.”
I shook my head. “No thanks.”
Journals, my ass. Sandy hated to write, hated school. She probably stopped seeing her therapist when she told her she’d have to do homework.
I went home and sat on the couch. I should do it. I had to do it. I groaned and got up and went upstairs and started going through her stuff. I went into her little office first. It was a nice room with a big desk and a laptop. Laptop. Journals. Laptop. Yes!
I turned it on and went through all her files. No journal. Recipes. Workout routines. Appointments. Addresses of people she never wrote. No journal.
I’d keep the laptop. It was a good one. I deleted all of her files and closed it. Then I went through the desk, pulling the drawers out and emptying them into the garbage can. All kinds of shit fell out—pens, small notepads, bubble gum? Bubble gum. She still chewed bubble gum, always popped it in her mouth, which drove me crazy. “Stop that!” I’d yell. She’d give me an “eat shit” look and pop it again.
I opened a few of the little notebooks but there was nothing significant in them. Grocery lists mostly.
After I finished with the desk, I went to the closet, opened the door and shook my head. Good God at the stuff in there! All her old shit from high school. I’d give that to her mother. No, I wouldn’t. I’d throw it out. Her high school diploma. Okay, maybe
I’d give to her mother. I wasn’t that much of a bastard.
I finally had a big pile of stuff. Now what to do with it? Throw it away. Throw it away. Maybe I should burn it. I smiled to myself. Yeah, torch it. Burn, baby, burn. Wait a minute. I couldn’t do that. I might start a fire or something and get thrown in jail. I’d just let the garbage men take it off.
I started to take it outside but decided to wait and go through all the other rooms first, and then I’d do it all at once. Fewer trips.
I went into the guest bedroom and looked around. She didn’t keep anything in here. I started out of the room, but remembered she sometimes used the guest bathroom if we were both getting ready to go out at the same time.
I opened the vanity. Tons of hair styling products. She always liked to look her best, after all. Make-up. How much shit did she need?! I pulled it all out, threw it on the floor, went for a garbage bag and began to throw it out.
I went to the linen closet just in case she had some shit in there and lo and behold, she did. It was stacked full of gels and lotions and all kinds of shit. She wasted so much money.
Not that I cared. Or even knew.
I emptied it. I wanted it all gone. Goodbye. I was about to shut the door when I noticed that all the towels were all lined up neatly. They were white and fluffy. Oh, so neat. She liked everything
I threw a bunch on the floor, stomped on them and then threw them back in. As I was shoving them back in, I noticed something in the back of the closet.
A box. A black hat box, octagonal in shape. Where the hell did that thing come from? It was old and frayed around the corners. I’d never seen it before.
I pulled it out and took the lid off. Inside were four plain notebooks. One white, one black, one red and one blue. About a hundred and twenty pages each. Jackpot!
I couldn’t believe she’d actually written in a journal, though. Well, she could surprise you every once in a while
I went into the bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed and started to open it up.
Wait a minute. This was her private stuff. But she wasn’t here. She’d never know. But… But if she ever found out, she’d—
What the fuck did I care if I pissed her off? I shook my head and opened the damn thing.
Is that how you’re supposed to do it? Dear Diary? I
. It sounds so stupid. I guess I should get started, if I could only figure out how.
I don’t even know why I went to see Dr. Sweeney in the first place. It just seemed like a good idea. After the first visit, I didn’t feel any better. No one could really help me with my problem. I know it’s something I have to do on my own. I have to deal with it. One day, I hope to wake up and it will be gone. It’ll just disappear.”
What the hell was she talking about? What problem?
“One of my earliest memories? Dr. Sweeny told me to start with something like that. That’s easy. I remember my daddy leaving and me running out after him, thinking he was just going to the store. Me wanting to go with him. I was about seven? Eight? Really young, nonetheless. And he wasn’t just going to the store. He was going for good.
My mother. Damn her anyway. I know she tried and all that, but, hell, she was so miserable, especially over my father. She later told me, ‘Your daddy was no good. A drunk and a womanizer. The only good thing about him is you.’
Like that’s supposed to make me feel better or something? Whatever. I’ve always felt she ran him off. I know they fought a lot and he was pretty much a bum, but he was so good to us. He was so funny and he always gave me anything I wanted and it didn’t matter what, he’d find a way to get it for me. And she tore him away from me. That’s what she did.
Not that I really hold grudges over it. Maybe I do. It just hurts and once he was gone, she was bound and determined to make him stay gone. And I looked for him everywhere. I tried to find him. I never gave up. The last time I saw him was in his casket. Cirrhosis of the liver.
Maybe I shouldn’t start with all the bad stuff, though that’s the shit that drives me crazy.
I didn’t have it that bad growing up. Mom worked her ass off to make sure we had a place to stay and food. She wasn’t like Daddy, though. She never gave me extra shit. We had to save the money ‘just in case something happens.’ She was always worried about something happening. Whatever that meant. I’ve always been of the opinion that she’s a little paranoid.
My best friend’s name was Kelsey and she was really cool. I remember her being so interested in boys, even from a very young age. She couldn’t wait to get her period, either. Then after she got it, she wished it away. That’s Kelsey in a nutshell.
My childhood was as normal as it could be being raised by a single parent. The days just seemed
into one another. One day, another day, gone. Next day same. Our small town in Tennessee was just a boring little place. Nothing much happened. Ever.
There was one day I’ll never forget. It was May 1
. I was twelve years old then. Kelsey and I were standing around the playground at school with some other girls discussing babies. We were dying to figure it all out. None of us really knew anything about it and how it actually worked stumped us. Well, we had to find out about it somehow, didn’t we? We sure didn’t have any sex education and most of our mothers ran from the room if we even mentioned sex. It was a deep, dark secret. When I asked Mom about it one day, you know, just making conversation she said, ‘Where did you get that idea? No one does that anymore!’
Anymore? Alright then, Mother. Of course, I never tried to talk to her about it again. But, then again, because she was being so hush-hush about it by denying its very existence, it actually made it all the more enticing.
I remember the boys kept kicking a soccer ball in our general direction and one of us would bend down and throw it back or kick it back to them, most times without even looking at them. A few times they’d run over and ask for it. This makes me smile. Those boys wanted our attention so bad! And we just couldn’t be bothered. I don’t think I even liked boys at that point.
The teacher—Ms. O’Connor—came up and asked us what we were doing ‘congregated’ over there. And that’s what she had said, too. ‘Congregated.’ Like we were in church or something. If she only knew what we’d been talking about, she would have prayed for our souls.
We shrugged and she told us we could go inside and do some cut-outs for her. I didn’t want to go in but the other girls did, so I started to follow them but my shoe was untied. I bent down to tie it and glanced over at the fence that surrounded the school. My heart did a flip-flop. My daddy was standing there smiling at me! It had been at least five years since I’d seen him last, but I knew it was him. I could tell because he always wore a cowboy hat. I think he wore that same hat every day until the day he died. It was white straw and bent into shape. Standing there, he looked so handsome. Mom says he and I are just alike. I think that’s one reason she and I don’t get along for the most part.
He gave me a little wave. I started to wave back but Kelsey pulled me up and told me we had to go.
Like an idiot, I told my mom about seeing him.
She said, ‘You can’t go thinking every bum on the street is your daddy!’
‘But he was! I know it was him!’
She got really perturbed. ‘Cassandra, how can you think that? I told you not to talk to strangers!’
I got really pissed off. She was so cruel when it came to my dad. I said, ‘He’s not a stranger, he’s my daddy and you won’t let me see him!’
‘The way I see it, young miss, he didn’t want you when you was a baby and he don’t want you now.’
‘You ran him off!’ I screamed.
‘You’re damn right I did! I can barely raise one kid, let alone two, one of which is a grown man!’
‘Maybe he wants to say he’s sorry.’
She lit a cigarette. ‘What the hell does that mean?’
‘Maybe he wants to be my daddy now.’
‘Now?! Now he wants to be your daddy! What about five years ago!?’
I burst into tears. I wanted him in my life more than anything. I had to have him. She must have realized she was upsetting me because she calmed down and her tone changed.
She said, ‘Baby, you don’t know him like I do.’
‘Because you won’t let me!’
‘He is a drunk, Cassandra! A drunken horrible excuse for a man!’
‘Don’t you talk about him like that!’
I ran out of the room and she sat there puffing on her damn cigarette.
The next day, he was waiting for me after school. Kelsey and I had walked out together to get on the bus and there he was.
‘Cassandra?’ he called to me.
I stopped in my tracks. It was him. It was really him! When I saw him, I just lit up inside. I always had this feeling he would try to find me and once he did, everything in my life would be right again. I wanted him home with me and Mom. I wanted us to be a family. All the other kids had a family and I wanted one, too.
He grinned and nodded. ‘How have you been, Dragon?’
He always called me Dragon because when I was a baby, I would roar when I was hungry or upset. My roaring never bothered him, he said. He thought it was cute. ‘This big old sound coming from this little bitty baby.’
We stayed there and talked to him for the longest time. The bus left us but we didn’t care. My daddy was such charming man that he made everything seem less important. And I hated riding the damn bus. All the boys would stick their hands between the seats so they could touch my ass. I once slapped the shit out of one of them for doing that and the little bastard never tried it again. It was almost funny. He looked so shocked and was like, How could you do that! And I was like, How could you do that!
Back to Daddy. I’ll never forget this.
He said, ‘And then I asked that man how much it was worth to him and he says to me, How about twenty dollars?’
Using sleight of hand, he pulled a twenty out of my ear and handed it to me. I was so impressed.
He continued, ‘So, I told him if it was worth one, it was worth two.’
He then pulled a twenty out of Kelsey’s ear. We giggled. I just absolutely beamed at him. Then I heard her. I’d forgotten about her. I guess she got worried when I didn’t get off the bus and of course, the school was the first logical place to look for me.
Our old, junky car pulled up and Mom got out and stomped over to us. My eyes were big as saucers. I just knew she was going to beat the shit out of me. She did that sometimes, especially when she was mad. And today, she was mad as a hornet. Or a wet hen. Where the hell do these sayings come from?
She screeched, ‘What did I tell you, Cassandra!’
She grabbed for me, but I side-stepped her, which pissed her off even more.
‘Come here!’ she yelled as she grabbed for me.
Daddy said, ‘Nice to see you again, Lizzie.’
Boy that pissed her off even more. To have him speak to her after all the shit he put her through! How dare he?
She got right in his face and yelled, ‘You bastard! I told you to stay away from her! How could you do this?’