November 15, 2018

the black leather belt

Coiled like a snake.
I want so badly to believe that it only got under my skin because I was tired and worn down yesterday.  I was the zombie who drank a record five cups of coffee during the day.  I was the person who had to answer all the difficult questions at work, covering for others.  I was the woman who longed to spend her lunch hour napping in her car, until she stopped short just before pushing open the back door that goes the parking lot, remembering what happened the last time she lay down in the back seat, the ghost of the suicide attempt, and so went back to her desk and tried to stay awake.

I was the mom who had to attend the first of three dance performances and ducked backstage to apply fake mascara facial hair to my son so he could be Chris Pratt in their Guardians of the Galaxy dance.  I was the mom who sat with his friend and politely looked at dreadful memes on his phone every three seconds and pretended to be interested in them when all she wanted to do was rest her eyes, just for a moment, just for a moment.

I want to think I was exhausted and unprepared, that somehow it would have been a non-event otherwise.  But I don't think I can believe that, because I know it isn't true.  I recognize trauma when it's triggered.

"It was really good," I said afterward.  "Yeah, you nailed it, except for that one awkward part that I'm not going to rub in your face ... oh, wait, yes I am," his friend said, grinning.  "I missed that part where our arms go over our heads in Narnia, our timing was really off," The Kid said, but overall he seemed pleased, or maybe relieved that the first of three nights was over and he could go home.

We drove to Sheetz to pick up a late meal.  The boys engaged in their usual world-of-their-own bonhomie in the back seat.  "Those jeans are really loose now," The Kid told me.  "Can you wear those suspenders under your t-shirt for that one?" I asked.  "Don't I have a belt"?  he replied.

His friend, who is gangly, the epitome of one hundred pounds when soaking wet, started to take off his own belt as a joke and said, "Here, you can use mine."

And I heard the slithering sound of the belt coming out of the belt loops of his jeans, the clink of the buckle, the sound of leather against itself.  Suddenly, ragged breathing, my brain drowning.

"Please put the belt back on.  Please," I said in a robotic voice.  He noted the edge in my words and said, "Yes, ma'am," and put it back on.  We F-bomb all the time.  "Ma'am" was absurd.  But he heard it in my voice.

I don't know how I got through Sheetz, through ordering and paying and waiting forever for the food.  I stared at the coffee machines in a daze, focused solely on keeping my shit together.  The belt ... the folding in half of the belt, pushing it together to puff up in the middle, then pulling it apart abruptly and the snap sound that would make a small child hit the ceiling from fear and what-was-next?

I was shaking and breathing hard and counting on the protective factor of my son's presence and my maternal drive to prove stronger than the reaction that commandeered the rest of me.  It was tenuous, but it was enough and I clung to it as I stared blindly at the word "Sumatra" on the coffee urn.

I dropped off the friend and drove us home, and it was only in P.J.'s waiting arms that I finally began shaking for real, and I could cry and let go.  Then I took meds and dropped off to sleep and woke this morning with the belt-snap-what-next? still weighing on me, taking all my thought.

I can wear a belt, though it's rare that I do.  I can stare at the long-stripes belt displays in stores.  But I cannot bear a belt in the hand of another, taking it off, holding it, snapping it menacingly, what-comes-next?  A black belt, an inch and a half wide, rough leather on the inside, matte on the outside, what-comes-next?

Today I am three years old and there was nowhere at Sheetz to run and hide.

P.J. is frustrated because she doesn't know who it is she needs to go kill, and never will.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with PJ regarding the frustration. But I can't/won't/am incapable of wearing a belt - ever. That sound makes the adult me spin and clench my fists towards it and the child me wants to run and hide.


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