Oh, Emily, I’m so glad you’re here! I wanted to talk to you and didn’t know if you’d come.
I see you’re mad at me. I can sense it in your silence. Well, you have every right to be. Sigh. I’m sorry Emily. I’m really sorry. But please, hear me out. One last time. Just hear me out. I have something important to tell you.
I just want you to know…all my life has been…tch! You’re probably thinking why I never said anything before today. I didn’t think this is how things would turn out. Not after all you did for me. Maybe things would have been different if I had, eh? Maybe we wouldn’t be here today? Maybe I wou-sigh. Emily, sorry. You’re right. This maybe business is not helping right now. Just…just listen to me, okay?
Just listen. Please.
I remember the day we met very well. I was only nine. Seems ages ago now. The social worker who drove me looked like she perpetually had a bad smell under her nose. I don’t remember much else except her voice. I can still hear it some nights. Telling me…well, telling me all the not nice things about me. How I was running out of chances. How I should be grateful for people like her and you who were saving me from me. I just wanted to jump from the car and run.
You greeted us next to a full trailer, and before I could process anything else, I coughed, gagged, my eyes watering. The onslaught on my nostrils was severe. I heard the social worker struggling to speak. Not wanting to offend, I didn’t look up when you introduced yourself. Remember that, Emily? You even said something about it, remember? How I found the ground very interesting?
I had caught a glimpse of you from the car before we disembarked. Your face looked like it belonged to a kind woman. Kinder than anyone I had known. My heart thudded faster with excitement. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was too scared, Emily.
I remember your dirt-caked gumboots. I couldn’t look up. I didn’t want to look up. So I made myself trace all the shapes the dried mud on your shoes had made as you spoke. At least, I thought it was mud. You told me you were glad I was there. That you were sure we’d have a great time. That the only thing that mattered was the life we’ll have now.
And then I saw your gumboots getting closer. Felt a pair of arms around me and this – oh! how do I describe it? – this sweet, sweet scent enveloped me. It was magical. Intoxicating. I took deep breaths. Trying to savor the fragrance that felt like it belonged to the heavens. To take it all in. To keep it with me forever. My brain freezing, relaxing, letting go.
In that moment, I felt as if everything was right with the world, Em. That everything was right in my world. You were saying something and the social worker was saying something. But the words washed over me. I just remember being hugged. I just remember how you smelled. I had never really experienced the joy of either before.
Oh, Emily. You have no idea how peaceful I felt with you! I was nine, deeply troubled, adrift. But you became my safe space. My anchor. Clichéd but true.
You truly helped me turn my life around. Farm life was difficult to adjust to with its gruelling chores, along with regular schoolwork. My nose had the hardest job, though. I remember gagging at each individual assault as I went about my chores. I never knew how much animals pooped or that I’d be the one hauling wheelbarrow loads of it from one end of the farm to the other. I just tried to remember how happy you were with your flourishing roses and vegetables. You used to laugh at me when I would judiciously close all the windows of the house, but you also always had something in the oven too – a simmering roast, fresh buns, chocolate cake.
That was nothing compared to you, though. Every time you’d hug me, your scent would bewitch me. I would feel the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. And it’s funny that you had no odor despite being busy with farm stuff all day. Even just being near you was enough most days. You kept me grounded. You kept the demons away. I only had to think about coming home, to you, and I was able to keep my head down and my nose clean. Ha-ha! That’s almost a pun.
What you don’t know is that it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy at all.
You see, it was hard to break habits. It was hard to rewire my brain. I read somewhere that early experiences shape our psyche. And what we think, what we do, what we want to do. Every day, I battled with my fears – of messing up, of losing you, of being alone again. Of being abandoned again. Like every other person before, but this time by you.
It was a daily struggle. Dark thoughts would creep up no matter how busy I was. Laying the hay, feeding the hens, hauling animal faeces, doing homework, having dinner with you, reading before bed. Phantoms lurked in the unreachable corners of my brain and I was unable to banish them.
Do you know what that’s like? Do you have any idea? Tch! Stop saying that. Yes, you took me in and raised me like your own. Perhaps better than how you would have raised your own. But I’m telling you that you have absolutely no idea what a troubled kid actually goes through! Of the daily battles we fight and the gambles we take. Of the dread that follows us like a shadow. You don’t know – you can’t know – what it’s like to only be loved when it’s convenient for other people.
Despite all that, I did well. When I moved to town, got a job, a place of my own, you said you were proud of me. And that’s all that mattered. Till you went ahead and…
And now you sit here, angry, disapproval etched into every wrinkle – yeah, you think I don’t see that? – making me feel like I’m back in the dark. Like I’m nine again and the worst kid in the room. The kid who can’t do anything right. The kid no one loves. The kid who’ll always be alone.
Yeah, holding in your protests and I-love-yous, eh? Right. I know where you’re at now. Pfft. Yeah. I know your deal. What, did you think I wouldn’t find out? That it would be as simple as that to brush me off, huh? Done and dusted. That you could just go and get another kid to replace me? That’s how easy it was for you. We’re available a dime a dozen, anyway, right? God!
Tch! I don’t believe you anymore. Do you think I’m blind? Or stupid? You broke me, Em. You made me and then you broke me.
That’s the trouble, Em. The demons never go away. So, of course, I did what I did. You left me no choice. I had to figure something out, to keep you with me. And I have no regrets. I got you back, didn’t I? You’re here, right now, aren’t y-
Hey, Emily! Where are you going? You can’t leave! I’m not done talking. Emily. Emily. You can’t go. You can’t leave me here. Hey, pal, get your hand off of me! Emily! You have to understand. You’re the only person who ever understo- hey, I said leave me alone! Emily? Emily! Come back. Come back, Emily! Emily, come back! Don’t go, please, don’t leave me with them. Emily, get me out of here. Don’t leave me! Get off! Emily, I have more to say. Please! Emily! Emily! Emily!
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