Thursday, October 19, 2006

can I stay?

If I don't go home now, where to go? I can drift through the mall til nine or, hanging out by the theater, til maybe eleven or even midnight. It is too cold for the park, too cold for the dugouts at the Little League field, too cold even for the elevator lobby in the parking garage. But even midnight is not late enough. Sometimes, but sometimes not. He might be there now, and very angry. He might be out at McKiernan's but if he is he will come home and then. Yeah. Then he'll still be angry and he'll be very drunk, much more than he is right now. Now, if he's there, he'll pull his punches, more or less. A six-pack later he won't. It's a gamble.

But to be gone all night requires conspirators in this season. And that is hard. Much harder than it should be. Why can't I just sleep on your floor and have you not say anything? No lectures, no calls to school, no calls to home. Why can't you just let me sleep on your floor? I won't cost you anything except maybe the water in the flush of a toilet. My body produces heat, I will not up your oil bill. I do not need to eat, there's breakfast at school in the morning or I'll take a coffee cake or two from the grocery. I do that lots of mornings. Pay when I can. If not, not. They don't chase me.

No, well, yeah, I understand. I'm on my way. Yeah, I'll be fine. No sweat.

copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol


Brenda said...

How often do we need help, help for basic things - sometimes we haven't eaten for awhile and we're hungry, sometimes we're sad in ways we can't say to anyone and yet we could do with a hug that we can't ask for, sometimes we're nearly homeless and just need a place to rest for a bit. Sometimes, as you so beautifully express in this vignette, we need basic safety and shelter because it's dangerous to go home and we can't ask outright, explain the true situation because we may not have words to describe it, because telling may cause more problems than the ones we already have, for a multitude of reasons we can't say and our wishing doesn't get the message for help across.

Hopefully it's easier for children now to ask for help, society itself is more open to listening to what the silences are trying to say, teachers, guidance councillors, telephone hot lines, even perhaps neighbours care more now, perhaps. Though there are still strong injunctions not to tell, threats, fears, fury, danger.

I wonder how that can happen - where silences can be broken; where speaking can occur.

Safely, without danger.

As ever, your story is perfectly composed, from an angle that reveals the entire spectrum of emotion, and enables us to imagine a whole life behind this one scene, what it's like, these crucial moments, where perhaps safety for tonight, but, ah, no.

And so as readers we want to shake the host who wasn't listening into awareness and to protect the character, the child, the survivor. Can we put ourselves in the place of the host(ess)? What would we do?

narrator said...

Thank you Brenda

When I wrote this I just wanted parents in this situation to think about exactly what was happening and how to deal with. It is so hard, especially in an increasingly intrusive and authoritarian society where - who knows what people/police/etc might do/say - but I just want the first instinct to be to protect kids in ways that don't make them beg for safety...

Anonymous said...

This is the other side of the church-window-left-open story. You might splice them together somehow.