Originally published May, 2001

It is officially Summer at Magnolia Manse.  I know it is May, and the Season begins in June, but my children are out of school for two months and three weeks and that makes it summer.

This week I traveled to Chattanooga with my eleven year son, Matthew, on his class trip.  We wandered the aquarium examining the fishes, telling each other everything we knew about every fish we saw.

This child is mine

This child of mine who I love so much it makes me ache, bounces up occasionally to kiss me, “I lazhu” he says, without embarrassment in our own ‘I love you’ language.

This child whose hair I would not cut until he was five because I loved the curls, and then cried over his falling locks while his father took pictures.

This child who can shinny up a rope effortlessly, fly on a skateboard and make the most profound remarks, is mine.

When he was 2 and his brother 4, I was convinced I’d birthed aliens. They are such boys. I didn’t realize how soft and dainty I’d had things until they disrupted my world and brought me their magic.

Their father was a young, street smart tough guy from Boston who hid his tenderness well, protected it from examination because he couldn’t stand to reveal it.


e·’piph·a·ny, fiction, from the main Hauntings




(1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

What is that moment, that second, when you realize you have altered your life path so badly there is no escape?


Is that epiphany?

Oddly contented with her new (five years younger, hot, street-smart) husband, her life felt for the first time in a long time like a vine covered cottage, with an artsy little fence around it. His street smart toughness was oddly satisfying to her in that she’d left a loveless first marriage to a not tough guy and the change was welcome. (And perhaps exciting in a not too dangerous way.)

The sex had (happily) moved from the urgent rooting of his inexperience to a more equal give and take without losing its passion. Days were shot through with those golden moments like shafts of sunlight that cut through the trees to the earth’s floor, happier than she’d thought they’d be. Most nights there was sex, though oddly not as much as she’d expected, or at 35 (her sexual prime?) as much as she’d prefer.

In her 35 years she’d learned that people reveal themselves slowly, haltingly, sometimes unknowingly; sometimes, not at all. A person’s self: their heart, their soul certainly wasn’t revealed the way a body is when clothes are peeled away in a rush of breathlessness and lust.

Souls are revealed in an unthought about comment, an aside relevant to the moment and revealing of itself. And most people have no inkling they’ve given away a secret in that moment.

In the case of our newlyweds, he had no idea that when he revealed himself, a fatal crack developed between. And she experienced epiphany.

Lying in her bed, at the end of a good day, an old movie playing on his black and white TV, she looked around the room at his things in her room. He’d moved in when they married and being younger, didn’t have much to move in. And what he did have wasn’t much. The television was a portable with a coat hanger for an antenna. They didn’t need it, there was a huge color one in the living room. He wanted it in the bedroom, so there it was, as out of place in her room of lace canopy and silk roses as he was in her life, if she let herself apprise her reality. But she didn’t take a hard look often. She was mostly content with the day-to-day rhythm and when she let herself think of the differences she’d smile and remember, somewhat smugly, that she considered him young enough to train.

With her epiphany, the vine covered cottage in her mind turned dark and a little foreboding, as things begin to sour à la Stephen King. The fence sagged, the gate hung open and the forest beyond was suddenly scary. Not somewhat ominous, downright scary. Because while it was just an image in her mind, it was the reflection of her life.

The movie was an old western and she glanced at it occasionally because he had it on. She paid more attention when he began to chuckle and then she focused on the screen when she heard him say (happily, it seemed, though that couldn’t be). “They’re going to rape her.”

In miniature black and white and gray were six or eight men, dirty from riding horses all day in the Baja. Mexicans, if she had to guess, though it was of no import. The woman on the screen was dressed in finery from the 1800’s, frazzled, and dusty. And her dress was fast becoming rags as the men attacked her.

Her husband looked at her, his wife, with excitement as a gang rape flickered across the screen in black and white.

Sadly, the image of her life went to the same shades of gray.

The first rape wasn’t violent or even messy. She was asleep, sick with the flu when he woke her.

“How ya feeling? Better?”

“No,” she groaned. “Awful. Can’t stand up.”

“Oh, all you need is a good lay.” And that chuckle. Again. “That’ll fix you right up.”

“I don’t think so,” she said attempting something akin to an attitude, but she was too weak to speak forcefully, and too ill to care.

She closed her eyes to go back to sleep and woke with a start when seconds later he was on top of her, pushing away the covers, pulling at her clothes.

“Get off me!” she whispered, no strength to actually speak. She twisted underneath him, trying to get away. “Leave me alone.”

She was too weak to fend him off and as he pushed her legs apart and entered her she recognized that sick excitement in his eyes.

Later her horror was encased in the fog of her illness and as she got better she was able to let that memory disappear because that is what she wanted it to do. If it faded she wouldn’t have to deal with it. Now or later.

But, try as she would, she didn’t forget the movie.



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