Scalded Fingers (Part 3)Posted: December 29, 2011
My mom, still in the chair across the living room, finally asked the question that damn near begged itself.
“Why did you wait so long?”
This, I’ve learned, is one of the more difficult ones to answer.
Sitting quietly for a moment, I eventually offered what I thought to be the most honest, telling response:
“I was afraid, mom.”
For too long, Fear stood over me, and with his wily, incalculable hands pressed against my chest and laughed. In high school, I always slept with the television on; the infomercials and Cosby Show re-runs of late-night lore muffled the kart-wheeling voices in my head that were otherwise deafening.
The ones that said I wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas anymore.
The ones that said my youth pastor was right.
The ones that said the inevitable stares, snickers, and gasps would crush me.
The ones that said my picture wouldn’t hang next to my sisters’ in the hallway.
The ones that said I’d lose my place at the table of bread and wine.
The ones that said I’d be alone.
We looked at each other, my mother and me, and I felt my eyes warm and my throat tense.
The scalded fingers, it turns out, aren’t worth it—the years of denying and forgetting and trepidation—because in the process of sending your memories down the drain, you maim your fingerprints and make the identification of your person nearly impossible. It’s only in turning off the water that your wounds begin to heal.
I walked to her chair. She stood up, hugged me, and into my ear whispered the words that resolutely bound Fear’s limbs:
“I love you so much, son, and I always will.”