When I was a young boy, I used to stare into the blue sky, and wonder if it went on forever. Near my small dirty white house, there was a great big green and brown field and I would run there every chance I got. I loved staring into the sky. Once, my mother told me that the dead people we loved looked down on us from their clouds in heaven and if we watched real close we could see them. Every day I watched to see if they were watching me, but no one was ever there. I think God was hiding them from me.
Years later, when I was a young man, I went to the sea on the east coast of America and I saw the sky meet the deep blue of the water and I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. Clouds rose out of the sea and returned as I watched. The sea gave birth to the sky or was it the sky giving birth to us. I sat there for so long and watched as the sun slowly went down behind me and the sky became an immaculate orange and the color washed over me and through me. I think that is where god was born.
I fell asleep there on the beach and when I woke up I was alone in the darkness of night. The moon was rising slowly above the water and I watched the stars spin around me. The purple swirled with clouds of gray dust. It took me back to that green field near my house. It took me back to my childhood home. It took me to the harsh realities of my childhood. It took me to my father’s drunken face smiling and laughing as his arms rose and fell and rose and fell. After a few blurred reflections of past, I was back on the beach staring at the moon. I had escaped a long time before but you never leave that behind.
I have my own family now. I am much older than I was. My brown hair is turning gray and my children are growing up so fast now. Sometimes, I slip away from reality and they ask me where I have been. I never know what to say but that I am tired. I have been tired for so long now. I wish I could finally sleep. At night, when I am alone with my wife, I curl into a little ball and I begin to cry. I love my wife. She lays with me and strokes my hair and tells me things I need to hear. She says the “It’ll be ok” and the “It's all over now” and the “You left that so long ago.” I love her so much in that moment. I love her so much.
When I was on that beach so long ago, she was there with me, though I don’t think she knows it. I had been staring into the darkness for so long and then light came to me. She was walking on the edge of the water far away from me. There under the moon spotlight, with her golden hair sparkling like the stars above, she walked slowly and confidently as if nothing could touch her. It was as if some unseen force was carrying her along and all I could do was stare. I didn’t make a sound but watched her walk the line between the sky and the sea. In that moment I could do nothing but watch her and try not to corrupt the beauty of her strides.
When I was a little boy, I ran out to that green field and I saw a dead dog lying surrounded by flies. I don’t remember crying or whimpering or even making a sound. It was as if I was dead with the dog and I just didn’t know it yet. I looked into the sky and I wondered if the dog was watching me from his gray cloud but I couldn’t see him if he was. I sat there for a long time with the dog, staring into the infinitum of the blue sky. I thought that I would like to fly away into that deep blue and go see those people staring down on me. I thought that I would fly away and never come back. One day, when I was older, I did.
When I was in my late teens, I grabbed my things and I ran from my family, from my mother and father, from the place where I buried the dog, from that green field. It wasn’t the glamorous flight I had envisioned but I was free. I thought that my flight would cleanse my mind and make me happy. I thought that I would be happy like those days as a child in the green field. I was wrong. I was running from something that never left me.
When I wake up in my house with my family, I have to remind myself sometimes that this is my life. My wife loves me and I love her and the kids. Once a few years after we met, my wife went back with me to visit the green field. We went there a year before we were married. The green field is gone. The house is gone. My parents are dead and my brothers are scattered and alone. The field is a parking lot for a small grocery store, and as I looked up, a clerk asked me if something was the matter. How could I tell him anything more than “no, I am fine.”
We went to the cemetery. I visited my parents and looked at the gravestones. Beloved Mother. Beloved Father. It is hard to look at their graves. Memory haunts me and the rising and falling of my father’s arms and the yelping yelping yelping of my mother. I looked around and this field is like mine but covered with little stones of the people who are watching me from their clouds. I looked up and they aren’t there. I always wonder if god is still there. I think he is. Back in the cemetery, I looked into my wife’s eyes and I proposed to her in front of my parent’s gravestones.
I love my family and I love my wife, but I am always drawn to the past. It will never end for me. The pain. The fear. The waking at midnight screaming. For twenty years, my wife has loved me and held me and made it all better. Our children are almost ready to leave our house and go on to their own lives. More than anything I hope they understand their father. I hope they don’t think me a monster. I hope, well, that they can finally understand that their father is ready to sleep.