Never To Leave
Certain things I remember so clearly.
Moments, smells, sounds, emotions, images and touches are burnt into my memory.
Seared into my brain, never to leave.
Never to leave.
Millie snaps her fingers.
"If you could snap your fingers right now and he would drop dead in his tracks, would you do it?"
I didn't say anything, but the bruise on my face was hot, swollen and tender. I blinked and a current of pain helped my mind to supply an answer to Millie's question. But I didn't say it out loud.
Clearer still is the feel of Millie's soft, warm tongue climbing awkwardly up the wall of one of my cheeks, and then falling against my own tongue, rubbing it. Marty's hand is firm against my head, and then becoming slack as I willingly explore Millie's mouth for ten seconds.
Mixed with this memory is one of Rocky, explaining to me the mechanics of kissing, having just had his first French one with Susan Johnson, after several weeks of her only allowing him closed mouth pecks on the lips. "It's sort of like a washing machine" his voice is liquid calm, his lids half closed, lips curved, "you just go round and round".
Millie's hand is warm and wet, I give it a firm squeeze but her white little hand remains limp in my own as she cries. "I don't wanna be here". In that small moment of quiet, Millie sniffling, the body lying on the bank with Clyde, my brother walking with Marty, Millie and I standing waist-high in the cold creek, I have a thought. The same day as my first kiss I am entangled in a murder. A stupid thing to think of in such a moment, but I thought it, and the fact that such a notion ran through my mind in that moment has stayed with me. But when I think back on it now, waist-high in the cold creek, Millie's hand…. That memory triggers again Millie's tongue in my mouth…. I can't help it.
I squeeze the trigger and close my eyes as the loud pop breaks the silence, my arm jerks slightly and powder lingers in the air. "Woo-hoo!", Marty hollers and I open my eyes, smiling. All 10 cans still stand, but I just fired my first round and it feels good. Rocky slaps my back and it feels good, I keep on smiling, reluctant to hand Kile's shot-gun over to my brother for his turn. I keep smiling. I was 10 at the time, and I'd never even so much as wounded a can. I keep smiling, it feels good.
The front-porch light comes on, covering me in yellow light. I step back, afraid that she might break down and hit me, kick me, slap me… or maybe hold onto me as she wails. The thought forces me to take giant steps back, and stand beside Rocky. I wish I could keep stepping back, but the door opens and she's looking at us and her face instantly drops when she looks at our faces, when she sees Millie already crying… I still feel the need to keep taking steps back….
"Would you say you're brother was in control or out of control?"
"I've never seen him so out of control in my whole life"
The camera blinks back at me. Blinking red.
When I hear George's mum crying and remember the smell of that dirt as it's shifted to reveal his body, my stomach aches. I want to throw up, and usually when I remember that moment, I do…. Whether I am asleep and dream of it or my memory lapses for a moment while I am sitting at a desk…. Wherever I am, I usually vomit when I remember.
"Marty's dead". I blink. "Shot himself shortly after robbing a gas station". My chest is tight. "Police found his car pulled over close by…." I am holding my breath. The police officer looks awkward, maybe realizing how young I am and what he's saying. He looks away, then back at me, and then away again. The room smells like coffee.
My brother and Clyde stand before the judge. Dressed in the suit my mother makes him wear for sermon on Christmas Day, Rocky looks scared and young. "I'm you're older brother". I hear those words as the judge speaks and I can't hear or understand what he's saying to Clyde and Rocky, I can only remember those words Rocky said to me that night… "I'm you're older brother". The gavel falls and Rocky is white, his eyes moist as he turns around to look at us; me, my mom and dad, who have stood up. My mother is crying, my father holds her but doesn't take his eyes off Rocky as he and Clyde are escorted out… handcuffed and escorted out. "I'm you're older brother".
The night Rocky came back from juvenile prison after spending a year there, I heard him crying in his room…. His words came to me again, "I'm you're older brother". A few nights later Clyde's father's came over to our house, Rocky was out but I listened from upstairs. "Has Rocky spoken about it with you?" John asked. I guessed there was a head-shake. "Clyde wont talk about it… he doesn't say a word about what it was like in there…".
It was bad. I knew that.
I listened to my brother cry practically every night after he came back. And he never called himself my 'older brother' ever again. Ever.
Then there's Millie.
She left the next year. I don't know where. Some place where they had better medical facilities, I guess. Some place where she could get help. The last time I saw her was a couple of weeks after our hearing, our age gave us leniency. But all you had to do was look at Millie to know that she was older now, despite her age. Her eyes were gray and pathetic; her face was drawn and sallow and she didn't look like a child… she looked tired. A few weeks after the hearing I wanted to say goodbye. Removal vans were outside her house, I saw her from a distance, it was 40 degrees out but she wore a long-sleeved top, I knew why. It was another reason that she was leaving… I wanted to go and say goodbye, properly. I wanted, if truth be told, to have her tongue in my mouth again, to feel it run along my own, hot and slick. But I didn't. I looked from a distance and then she walked back inside and I rode away. I never saw her again. I don't think I really want to see her again. Memories are triggered easily enough without having people do it for you… maybe that's why Clyde eventually moved as well. And why my brother and I both went interstate for College.
Memories are triggered easily enough….Never to leave.