Sunday Morning

As a child, you imagined that clouds were solid and that tomorrows would always come. On Sunday mornings, you’d watch planes drag lazily across the sky. You couldn’t understand how pilots could be so skilled. How do they dodge the clouds, mommy? Shut up and stop asking questions. You’d nod but you’d still wonder about those amazing pilots. Skulls and crossbones mean pirates and poison, but it seemed that mommy forgot which bottles were which because her pirate juice, the one that made her words sound funny and her snores loud like thunder, it was full but the poison left a dried ring of froth around her mouth. Tomorrow didn’t come for mommy, but she must be living on a cloud now. On the top, you know, so you can’t see her, but she’s still there. 

A lawyer now, you lost the magic of solid clouds and pirate juice. You know our mother left you. She couldn’t help it, they say. She was ill, they say. You know, they say, pointing to their heads and turning their fingers around imaginary locks of hair. You nod, pennies filling the back of your throat and dwindling from your bank account. 

Sunday mornings are quiet as death now. You imagine death is actually quiet. No more screaming babies on the subway, no more overheard arguments through thinning, half-eaten drywall. Just quiet. And dark. Like those sensory deprivation tanks, only you can’t be deprived of senses if you don’t have them. Just like your mother believed she couldn’t have her life stolen out from under her, ruined by a child she never wanted, if she didn’t have a life.

Somehow

I thought that this time would be different
That you would at least pretend to care
And you’d see what you were doing was terrible
But I guess I was wrong
I remember it like it was yesterday
That day that CPS came to get us
You were crying
Saying how much you were afraid
Afraid to lose us, your children
We left with the lady that came for us
I looked out the back window
As we drove away
I saw you standing there, alone
I felt sorry for you
We arrived at the little blue house
With the white picket fence
My phone vibrated in my pocket: my mother
“Lie” she said on the other line
“Please just lie”, pleading now
I agreed, remembering your tears
I passed on the message to my brothers
“Just lie, okay?”
They agreed as Mom knew they would
As you knew they would
The room where I was questioned was cold
Two chairs, a table, a whiteboard, a clock
“Do you know the difference
Between the truth and a lie?”
The questioner looked at me with penetrating eyes
I nodded, and the questioning began
They came hard and fast
Like hail on a dark night
“Has he ever abused you?”
“Has he ever abused your brothers?”
“Does he drink?”
“Does he yell at you?”
I shook my head, over and over
It almost seemed too easy to lie
I didn’t think I’d ever regret it
I guess I thought that you’d change
Somehow, you made me believe
That you would be the father I’d wished for
Every night before I fell asleep