Here is the secret Eve’s been keeping from herself, you know, the one that caused her breakdown, the one Lilly (her twin sister) just found in a journal under Eve’s mattress, for all the world to see….
Summer and fall had given way to winter, and winter had evolved towards spring when Eve had stopped writing, and began to truly pay attention to her thoughts, nightmares and the real world she had found herself in.
And in the middle of spring, she found herself searching the alley behind the bookstore for Gloria. Eve could not name a reason for wanting to see Gloria, it was a sudden nagging feeling and she had no choice but to follow it. She had not seen her again after that first time, in the winter.
Was Gloria still alive? Still living in Austin as a homeless woman? Would she still smile at Eve with that same infinite compassion? Eve felt the need to talk to her, just one human being to another, without their places in the world getting in the way as before.
After her shift, Eve walked into the gaping black mouth between the tall buildings that bordered the alley, where the dusky sky was a gray canvas waiting to be filled. She saw the trashcans, the boxes of trash and the black sootiness of everything; the ground was wet and grimy, and the few lights far above on the sides of the buildings cast a dim shadow-like illumination onto the contents of the alley. But there was no Gloria; there were no people at all.
Eve walked deeper into the alley’s space. Here graffiti took over the walls, as high as the lights on the buildings; the graffiti artists had chosen only black, white and red to write with, and the combinations of these three colors danced across the wet brick walls. The alley was dimmer here, and filled with more trash and grime than at its opening. Eve squinted in the semi-darkness, trying to push the envelope of night away to see; but Gloria was not here, no one was.
Eve walked on further. Not once did she consider turning around, she felt no impulse of fear—just uncertainty. This section of the alley was without lighting from the buildings, and the graffiti had almost disappeared. Cardboard boxes were neatly stacked high on each side, and the acrid taste of ash filled Eve’s mouth as she inhaled the scent of things beings burnt, and saw a twisting trail of smoke in the near darkness pressing its way towards the refracted moonlight.
The end of the alley was marked by a sturdy chain link fence, and in front of it stood a trashcan holding a large fire. Two hands held a makeshift pan over it.
“Gloria?” Eve asked softly. The pan contained bits of assorted food Eve couldn’t distinguish, which crackled and rolled about on the uneven surface because of the shakiness of the hands which held it.
The person turned slowly to look at Eve, and she could make out a faded shock of black hair and a tattered green scarf that was unraveling, shaggy. The woman’s eyes were squinting and nearly closed, as she peered at Eve through the darkness.
“Gloria?…It’s me, Eve. Do you remember?”
The woman cleared her throat for what seemed like many seconds, and hoarsely answered,” Eddie…Eddie…where ya been? Rent’s due, and the baby’s hungry.” She seemed almost frantically relieved.
Eve walked closer to Gloria, hoping to help her see that she was not ‘Eddie.’
Gloria went on, “I lost my job because no one would watch the baby this week, Eddie. Do you have the money? Could you find any? Did you just steal some? Rent’s past due…” Gloria looked up at the sky as she heard distant thunder, thinking that was Eddie, too.
The winter had aged Gloria, had made her thin and old, had made her live in the past in the alley. Eve turned to go, wanting to give Gloria nothing but space.
“Wait. Eddie, wait…I’ve got somethin’ for ya…”
And Gloria reached behind the trashcan and pulled up a dark rectangular mass. She handed it to Eve.
It was her book cover. Mountain Interval. All of its pages had been torn out.
“Nature’s first green is gold, Eddie…remember?
“Remember how we had gone into that church in Zilker that day, and sat in the last pew, looking at our baby, and you had thought of that poem?
“Remember all the stained glass, and how the colored sunlight shone down on her soft golden hair?
“Remember how I had cried a little, and you had held me tight?
“Remember how you had said that everything changes? I love you, Eddie.”
Eve wiped at the sooty cover until she could make out its faded flowers, and then walked away. She could see Gloria now. Gloria was real. She also knew that Gloria had just taught her a large life lesson that Eve couldn’t comprehend yet.
“Nature’s first green is gold,
her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
but only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
so Eden sank in grief.
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.”
Eve walked. It had been hours since she saw Gloria and the night was old, black and tired. The streets were practically empty now, and except for an occasional car passing by her, Eve was alone.
She walked to find something, she was searching for something to hold onto, but nothing could quell the need but wind and darkness and a street to walk on. She headed for Zilker Park on foot.
Her mind had raced and was racing, thinking about her life in a chain of events for the first time. She knew that soon she would return home, having gained back her book and maybe nothing more.
There must be someway to find it, this peace, this relief that she longed for; but, maybe this was the reason it eluded her still.
The secret is being content with where you are now, she thought, content because you have made peace with your past and let the pain of it go. But the problem was that she couldn’t believe in the truths about her father and that part of her past, couldn’t accept what had befallen her in high school during the divorce, no matter what she did to seriously examine this problem that was beginning to take over most of her life.
Eve found herself in a park and sat down upon a bench to rest. It had emptied long ago, the mothers had grabbed their children’s hands and pulled them towards home before the sun had set. Now sodium lamps along the sidewalk illuminated the litter that had been strewn by the people throughout the day.
Eve noticed the soft thunder above her as the clouds released their burden of rain. It fell upon her with insistent sharpness, dying the sidewalk a purple color because the puddles reflected the dusky sky and the street lamps’ light.
Eve got up from the park bench then, stood up and tilted her face back to the sky. She opened her mouth to feel the raindrops bounce against her tongue. She walked to stand under a street lamp, and she threw her head back again and raised her arms from her sides.
She began to spin around and around, standing on her tiptoes with her lips parted to catch the rain. She was lost in herself again, but not as much. This time, at least, she was able to use the first real experience she had had with someone else to think about why she might be so lost herself.
She stopped to unbutton her overcoat, pulled her arms out of it and threw it away from her body. Then she began spinning again, feeling lighter with each turn, feeling stronger with each turn. She waved her arms up and down, twirling there beneath the soft lemony glow of the sodium light and the black branches with their leaves that hung across the sidewalk’s space, deep in the park.
The rain kissed her torso; it spilled inside her shirt, drenching her skin. She began to smile as she gazed above the trees, towards the farthest point of sky above her, beyond the stars with their milky shadows. Don’t fault her for being so romantic about life, even though that mindset was strong enough to keep her within an invisible cage of her mind’s own making.
She was so green that she didn’t even understand that her eyes were meant to show her brain how things really were and not vice versa. She was born a writer, who at age three had told the adults who played dolls with her “No, you’re not supposed to say that. Start over. Say this.”
She had to learn the difference between seeing something and ignoring something, the haze created by doing those two things at the same time. She knew in this moment that she had made progress, that she was a better person because of knowing Gloria, but she didn’t know why yet. Isn’t her earnestness both strangely sweet and scary?
No cars glided by on the wet pavement in front of the sidewalk; perhaps Eve was entirely alone. Who knows if anyone noticed this rain-soaked girl, who knows if they thought she might be crazy, who knows if they understood her and smiled to themselves or not?
She could see nothing but the rain’s origin. She could no longer feel her toes upon the cement, or even her arms floating against the air around her. She thought she had become her eyes—focusing on the rain that squeezed itself from the skin of the clouds. Roses and fog, like I told you earlier, huh?
I went to sleep one night when I was seventeen and slept undisturbed for a few hours that school night in the middle of January during my senior year of high school. I woke myself up in the middle of the night during what I thought was a terrible nightmare.
My bedroom door suddenly flew open so forcefully that it slammed closed again. I opened my eyes. I saw my dad throw the door back open and walk into my bedroom, then slam the door shut again. I didn’t know why he closed the door at first because we were the only ones living in the house.
My father was smiling strangely to himself and I closed my eyes before he looked at me—so that he would think I was still asleep. My dad had been coming quietly into my room since middle school—so I thought at first he was just going to stand over my bed and look at me while I pretended to be asleep, like he had been doing since I was eleven.
But I was confused with all of the noise he was making. I waited. There was a huge cold stone in my stomach, waiting while he is breathing in and out, in and out, next to my bed…
He is staring at me while I pretend to sleep, but this time is different because I feel like something really bad is about to happen for some reason. I am afraid he is going to punch me awake or something.
I know somehow that I should not move an inch. I can smell the alcohol on his breath—it is very pungent, and I know that he is quite drunk and probably in the middle of a blackout. I am afraid.
Before I open my eyes, I feel his weight on my mattress and hear his zipper. Now I know what he is about to do and it is the thing I have been afraid of for years; but, especially most recently because during another blackout, he had told me that he wanted to be with a woman who was exactly like me!
I tell myself I’m overreacting and that this is just a nightmare. He is adjusting my body, he is taking off my pants and underwear, he is half-naked and so am I. What a terrifying nightmare I am having, I think. I wonder if I can wake up? But I cannot move.
He is silent. He is having his way with me, even though I haven’t moved a muscle. As he finds his own rhythm, I keep my eyes closed and slack, as if I were still sleeping—after all, he knew what a coma-like sleep I fell into every night from watching me. Now he is staring at me but has a far-away look, and I am barely peeking with my eyes because I want him to think he can’t wake me up.
I don’t want to confront him—he has become a violent man during my parents’ divorce. I don’t want to see what is happening to my body, and what I fear will happen to my soul.
I was so sad when I went to sleep, I thought, but every pore of my skin is hot and sweaty and depressed and shocked and terribly saddened with every flick of his chrissakes and every blink of his eyes and every curl of his lips. I am being raped by my own father! How will I survive something like this, and what if I get pregnant?
When he is finished, he simply gets off me, puts on his pants and goes back to my parents’ room, which is only his room now. He doesn’t say a word, and leaves without making any noise. He just quietly shuts my bedroom door and disappears like he was never there in the first place.
I am so beside myself that I do not move after he leaves the room. I do not put on my pants or underwear. I just fall back asleep like it never happened, telling myself it was just another one of my very vivid nightmares.
So, now Eve has remembered the ugly truth, and so it is true with the writer herself. In this world, so many bad things can befall a young girl, but I know there are worse things than being raped by your father. No one gets through life unscathed, and well, Eve, like your dear author herself, needed to be taken down a notch, I guess.
There’s more to this tale to share on another day! We still have to work our way through to the last line of the novel in Chapter Fifty together, yes?
Word Art will be added to this post TBD when I have the emotional guts!