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Click | Morgan Stone

My palm screams as I bash my right hand against the steering wheel, over and over. Heavy bass hammers through my car, rattling the empty plastic water bottle in the side door I keep forgetting to throw away and now cannot reach. I futilely try anyway. Screw it. Boom, boom, rattle.


Sounds that alarmingly remind me of coyotes making a kill in the night pour from my mouth and with every slam of my hand I question what this is; something I have never felt or maybe just never allowed myself to feel to this extent. As if I’ve been microdosing my whole life and then suddenly doused myself in the gasoline of whatever this is. It’s fucking awful. Slam, slam, boom. The acknowledgement hits me harder than I could ever hit the steering wheel–a match scrape against red phosphorus.  


I am angry.


I gave up wiping away the tears days ago. Hope for respite faded with my appetite and care to put on clean clothes, brush my teeth or hair, or do much of anything. Because everything took energy I no longer had. That morning I sat on the stiff, plaid couch with my feet on the coffee table, mismatched socks, a bowl of off-season blueberries I forced myself to swallow, and a cup of black tea, milk, no sugar, salted with my tears that hadn’t stopped beating down my face. Creak, clock-tick, gulp.


Thank god the sun was stifled by clouds; a small mercy for my burning, bloodshot eyes. I looked out on the ocean and the empty December beach. Any other time this would have been a dream getaway. The Atlantic, a nostalgic place of childhood virgin pina coladas, summer lusts, and calming peace. Instead, I saw a cold barrenness that felt like an uppercut to my gut. Something else taken from me.


Mustering every speck of willpower, I somehow staggered into my car and drove from the cedar shingled rental on the bluff to my father’s house. But the anger fueled adrenaline that had propelled me on the road had now left me barren and cold like the sands this time of year.


I step out of my car and place one foot on the pavement. The exhaustion of the eighteen minute drive and needing to stand on my feet is too much and as I place my other foot on the ground, back hunched, a sobbed drains from my throat and I fall to my knees.


“That’s not good,” I hear from the driveway. My father stands by the open garage with a rag in his hand, brow furrowed, and then turns his back and walks away from where I have crumpled. I hang my head, tears and snot and drool pour from my face. I let them. I just don’t care anymore.


“Here,” he says, all of a sudden next to me. He looks the same as he always has, sturdy and rugged with an upturned nose and full lips, the top one shaped with points like the letter M, both that we share. He’s the same, albeit a few more grays on his head. But then again, I have grown those as well.


“Put this on.”


A helmet hovers above my head. Black and slightly oblong, the face mask clear against the shine of the rest. I take the helmet; its weight falling into my lap. I remember as a teenager holding a black, shiny helmet, walking through Blockbuster. It was summer and I sauntered the aisles, helmet tucked easily in the crook of my arm, laughing at whatever joke my father was telling as we picked out a movie that night. I’d bet anything it was an old horror movie; Invasion of the Body Snatchers, perhaps. We’d watch that night, belly-laughing through the carnage, spoons clicking against white glass bowls filled with vanilla Haagen Daz ice cream. Scream, giggle, clink.


But today, it is winter, the thought of eating anything draws the sting of bile and bitter blueberries into my throat and the helmet feels as if it is made of cement. My father is back in the garage and I blink slowly through swollen lids to see him wheel out the bike; a black 1966 BMW, quite different from the oxblood Triumph I rode as a kid. I rise, unsteady, willing myself to get a fucking grip and at least stand. I wonder how long he’s had the BMW. When was the last time I visited him here? Guilt mixes with anger and the match burns deeper.


“How could he have done this to me?” I say aloud. “So many years…” falls from my throat in some sort of gasping plead. I made the decision to leave my husband. After he assured me I was too weak and too dumb and I would lose everything and I could never do it. That I couldn’t do anything. I wonder if it wasn’t for the need to protect my children, I never would have had the will to tell him I’m finally done–but then again, I wouldn’t have been married to him had I not gotten pregnant and didn’t have health insurance. A hell of a chicken and the egg scenario.


My father doesn’t respond. How could he? He doesn’t know why I’m crying, doesn’t know how close I was to not surviving this, if that’s what I’m doing. He only saw the smile during the yearly visits, the “I’m doing great,” with a quick switch to updating on the kids or work or whatever else. He didn’t see me hiding, holes in drywall from fists much larger than mine, phone lines unplugged and internet disconnected and care keys taken, trapped. He didn’t see me, sobbing naked in a bathtub, 9 months pregnant, with complications and scar tissue tearing, the locked door being banged down. Pound, pound, splinter. Another broken door frame. He didn’t see me slowly but surely being cut off from friends and family. Alone but never alone. No one saw me.


I gather some strength and pull the helmet over my head. It takes some force on a good day to maneuver a motorcycle helmet into place and my drenched, bloated face does not help. I lift the clear mask before it becomes fogged from tears and hot, heavy breaths. I take my phone from my pocket. I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror in days but I flip the camera to my face and take a picture. This—this is my lowest point. Click.


I hear the rumble of the bike, smell the exhaust. A fleeting image of riding amusement park cars around the winding guided path, in-and-out, under bridges, high octave horn, beep, beep, beep, me cheering and waving at fellow summer night riders flits through my mind. The memory is warm but is quickly snuffed out like a match flame in a gale. Another girl, another life.


My father is on the bike. He doesn’t look back at me, doesn’t say anything. I move to him, one step at a time, letting the vibration from engine to grass guide me. I take great care to avoid the muffler as I swing one leg over the bike. I still have a scar on my calf when I was not as careful, many, many summers ago. Sizzle, melt, crackle.


The second I settle onto the black leather seat, my body jolts. A tremor, deep and warm shudders through me; skin to blood to bone. I have just enough time to wrap my arms around my father’s waist before he accelerates down the manicured driveway onto the quiet, family-friendly neighborhood street. We are not quiet.


He places one large, gloved hand over both of mine, clasped tightly in front of him.


“Do you want gloves?” he calls loudly into the air.


“No,” I yell back. The air is frigid and my circulation is shit but I can feel something. I can feel the cold and I cling desperately to it. He pauses and then places his hand back on the handlebars and returns to slowly and carefully navigating the winding side streets.


There is no seat back behind me; just air to wheel to road. How easy it would be let go. My mind is too exhausted to fight the thought. What would happen if I just… fell. Stopped holding, stopped crying, stopped fighting. I feel a pat of my father’s hand on mine. As if beyond our shared nose and lips and M’s he also knows I could let go. Tears fight with the wind on my face. They win. But I hold on.


A stop sign. The end of the neighborhood. Cars whiz by, my father places one foot on the ground to steady us as he waits for an opening. The engine rumbles, more thunder than cat purr. It’s a sharp turn onto a fast road. I rest my heavy, helmeted head against his back. I’m so tired. My hands slightly pull apart.


Go. Roar, revv, growl. The shock of the thrust forward throws me backward and I fist onto my father’s coat as my body pulls away from him. I quickly shift against him, my racing heart against his back, my face jarred by a blast of December air. I never closed my face mask. My father slightly turns his head, burgundy helmet reflecting whirring trees along the road. I know that tilt of his head; he’s telling me to get my shit together.


Something forms in my throat. A bark of laughter. A smile pulls my lips apart and I allow my head to fall back. I let the sound leave my mouth. Whoop, holler, call. The bike propels faster, harder along the road. I feel every bump, curve, rock, pothole. The match that has been burning anger turns to something else. I don’t know what it is yet but it feels something akin to when I used to swim competitively and someone pulled ahead of me. I didn’t always want to win but when I did, my body would lurch forward, like every muscle, electrified, would work in unison. And I would not lose.


I take one hand and close the face mask; the tears have dried. I see the yellow lines beside us, steady and constant. Sparkle of the ocean peeks through a blur of leaves and houses I could never afford but it doesn’t matter. All I care about is the rumble of the asphalt below me, the pounding of my heart, the cold on my fingers, and the vibration of the bike as it races forward. All fixed, rooted, unceasing.


A moment. A moment of respite. But it’s all I need. I know one moment can turn to another, and another–in time. For now though, I embrace this as tightly as my hands around my father’s waist. He sees me. The world sees me, free. I do not let go. 


Morgan Stone earned an MA from New York University in applied psychology and counseling, a BA from Tulane University in psychology, and she is a certified integrated trauma coach. After spending her days counseling and caring for her three children, Morgan spends her nights writing. She won first prize in SPS Studios Inc., Blue Mountain Arts poetry contest, and has published poetry and essays in “P.S. I Love You,” “The Coil,” “Chalkboard Magazine,” and “Lit Up.”


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