Flash Fiction: Lesson Learned
(from July 2008)
The cool October breeze ruffles my hair. I stare past the line of naked trees, to the buildings beyon,d and wonder for the hundredth time, “What am I doing here?” But I know the answer. I’m waiting.
I close my eyes and picture memories of days long past. A childhood spent cowering in fear. Mother certainly believed in corporal punishment unless, of course, she was the one in the wrong. She’d beat the shit out of us and dare us to cry, so mad she didn’t make any sense. I used to think, “Isn’t a person suppose to cry when they’re in pain”, but that didn’t matter to Mother. It was the first lesson that I learned: when you hurt, no one wants to know. They want you to pretend that you’re fine, even as they beat you with their fists.
“This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” That’s what she muttered with each blow, but of course it hadn’t. It had never really hurt mother, in fact she rarely remembered it the next morning when she’d wake from her drunken stupor and demand breakfast. If the eggs were burned I’d be sent back again with a black eye for my trouble. I quickly learned to please people on the first try.
In my teen years, Daddy was always in and out of jail. At 16 I quit school and got a job at the bar. I was only supposed to wait tables but soon I was on the stage whirling around the pole for money – and good money too. That’s when I learned that money couldn’t fix everything and I moved out on my own by the year’s end. Then I met him.
He was everything I’d longed for: brains, brawn and beauty wrapped up under a shock of dark hair. He’d smiled and winked and told me how pretty I was. I believed him, never thinking that it could have been the whiskey talking. From there things went from bad to worse. I had to fight almost every day just to survive. He’d lay on the couch and demanded that I wait on him while he watched TV and told me what a whore I was. I’d heard it all before and learned to keep my mouth shut long ago. A valuable lesson taught by my parents.
But some days it was hard. When I was out of pills, I felt like I could scream, like all the world was closing in on me. It didn’t help that people were constantly causing trouble, like little whinny ass bitches, and they were suppose to be my friends. And then my sister was just as bad, making up lies and belittling me. It got so bad that I’d hide in the bathroom at work and dig my fingernails into my arm until it bled, just to release the tension. And then the day came.
It began like any other, but then there was a change in the wind. Dark clouds gathered in the distance, heavy and hateful. I hurried home, ahead of the storm. With every step I took towards the apartment, I got madder and madder. I hadn’t had my medicine in two weeks, which might have contributed to the anger, or maybe it was just the oppressive weather. As I walked in the front door something hit me wrong. It might have been his sneering face, or the years of anger built up like a boiling pot. Whatever it was, I finally snapped.
He was lying on the couch with a beer in his hand, and I pulled it away and threw it across the room. He sat bolt upright and shouted at me to “take a chill pill” but, there wasn’t enough medicine in the world to calm me down. As my anger raged, I knew I was changing into the creature I’d always feared, but there was nothing I could do about it. I screamed and shouted and beat at his face with my fists. When he fought back I used my shoe, pounding him again and again with the stiletto heal while he screamed. I’d finally learned an important lesson: you gotta take the bull by the horns sometimes, because the shit just keeps getting deeper.
The shoe fell to the floor and he lay still. His beautiful face was ruined but he wasn’t dead, not like he deserved. Regardless, I didn’t have time to waste. I packed my bags as fast as I could and ran from the apartment to the bus station, but the police got there before the bus. The handcuffs were cold on my wrists, still I didn’t struggle. From there life became a blur. A judge yelled at me, a courtroom of onlookers sneered and then I found the days growing longer and longer as the jail sentence passed. I would have been out sooner, but I took my last lesson seriously. Everything had made me tough as nails and I was tired of being knocked down. It was my turn to hit back.
Finally, they let me out and I found myself falling right back into the niche I’d left. A job at the bar, an apartment in the rundown section, another man with dark hair and sly eyes. It was like a never ending circle and that’s when I decided to really learn something and break the cycle. The only way to do that was to let go; let go of all the misery, and go forward into a world of hope. So, I decided to leave this town of pain.
The bus pulls up and I slowly look back as I stepped on it, relief in my eyes. I want to live, to experience how real love feels, to see what it’s like not to be belittled and used. My new life is going to be different and full of promise. I’ve chosen a new path and I need to follow it, no matter how scary it seems, and it does seem scary. The fear of the unknown silently haunts me as I looked out the bus window, getting comfortable for the journey ahead. I can’t help but wonder, will I finally have my freedom, or will the same old life find me no matter how far I run? That life is something I’m tired of, a prickly bush of fear and sorrow, the beauty of life’s rose lost among the pain of the thorns. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at last, it’s that there is no change unless you make the changes in yourself first, otherwise you just drag the past with you. At last, a lesson worth learning.
Hey, it has a happy ending 🙂
song playing at the moment – Control – The Birthday Massacre