Hiding in the Coat Closet


I REMEMBER STANDING in the CLOSET, sandwiched between coats, holding my school books, waiting.

I get one foot in the door after school
and smell booze rather than dinner cooking.
My heart sinks.

“One little drink,”
she says, when I ask.
“One little drink won’t hurt me.”

Second-grader only, but at age 7,
already I know
one little drink is all it takes.
Surely she knows this, too.

“Worry-wart,” she calls me.

* * *

Before age 10,
I work out a better response.

I softly close the door
and slip into the closet.

At 10, already,
I have honed the art of avoidance,
sliding the closet door shut,
except for a slim crack through which to spy.

I stand between a crush of coats, holding
books until my arms could break off
and my breath until I’m about to burst.

I wait for my chance to make a break.

Hearing her footsteps descend the stairs
and turn into the kitchen,
I slide the door open slowly,
round the corner,
tiptoe up the stairs,
skip the third step – the third one squeaks –
arrive in my room,
shut the door gently,
breathe again.

Funny. I can still hear the squeak of that 3rd step.

* * *

DADDY CAME HOME at 7:20. Every night. Like clockwork.
I hear their conversation downstairs,
him asking where each of us is.

“And where’s Marilyn?”
“I haven’t seen her since she left for school this morning.”

Thirty years later it strikes, me that if 4 hours had passed since school ended and I hadn’t seen the face of my child, I’d have had the cops on the phone. But you can’t compare apples with oranges.

Daddy knew right where I was.

Whatever made Ma say she knew I’d do a good job telling the story?

* * *

Next post: Daddy Tells Me What I Do Not Want to Hear

Questions, thoughts….EMAIL ME. Comments are disabled at the moment because a public discussion could get me off my game here and heaven knows I’ve been off it long enough. Am enjoying feedback on recent posts, though. Appreciate the encouragement and am honored by the stories you are sharing as well. Thanks!

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
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