Footsteps On The Heart
It was a chilly evening with the sun setting squarely on my back. I could feel the warmth soaking into my spine and spread its dreadful happiness throughout my veins. I was surrounded by dried up vegetation and large rocks the color of ancient blood. The path was smooth and sandy under my sneakers. The leash was hard and cold resting in the palm of my hand, and Zoe my dog, on the other end was lively and excited, dancing around stirring up dust. We were on the trail behind my house. We had often shared this time with each other.
“Zoe, what are we going to do?” It was a ridiculous question, I already knew she wouldn’t be able to answer, that no matter how human her soul was her mind was very much canine.
We kept walking on the trail that led to nowhere and that, if retraced, wouldn’t lead to any given place. That walk had given me plenty time to think, to find a possible solution to my pressing matter. It gave me space to think about the latest disappointment that, although was completely new, wasn’t an unheard of event with Him. It was like no matter what He did, He could never win. That He would never be what I needed Him to be.
The path was soft and sandy underneath my feet. Each tiny paw Zoe lifted sent little tufts of gritty sand whirling into the air, looking like a little tornado was going through Park City. I found myself smiling despite my sour mood.
“Zoe, sometimes it feels like the world is spinning upside down and I’m free falling through the dark. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have any grasp on reality. That I can’t control my destiny.” There it was. Everything that was jumbled up inside of me, suddenly tore through my throat lying itself beautifully out for display. It all made me sick. Emotions never set well with me and expressing them was always a dreaded topic.
Walking on that trail was comforting. It was consent and familiar. It hadn’t changed since the last time I was there. I glanced back and saw our footprints, side by side and oddly perfect. Tiny almond shapes placed across the desolate plain. A tiny proof that we existed.
I couldn’t help but compare the gentle footprints to the memories or burdens that we all carry. Memories were like footprints because the footprint was forcefully placed, never bothering to ask the sand if it was okay. No matter how many years pass there’s always a soft remainder that it had existed and continues to.
I shook my head. I didn’t go on this walk with Zoe to gain greater understanding, I came on this walk to clear my head and find a solid solution, to mediate.
I became conscious that each footfall became somewhat of a memory being removed from my mind and onto the sand. Like with each footfall another painful memory was lost.
I was standing in the back of His kitchen, my father’s kitchen. The counter tops were white and had small little smudges where food had once been. I was a lot younger, probably twelve or thirteen, but I was still tunely aware of what was going on. This was a fight, and I was caught in the middle.
My step mother, her long blonde hair parted to one side, was leaning over her laptop, rudely tapping it trying to get it to work, but to no avail. It simply wouldn’t start, and perhaps that was what started burning her short fuse.
My father, dark almond eyes were filled with silent fury. He had broad, slender shoulders and straight teeth. His stance told me that he was angry but his face held a passive state. His arms were tightly folded across his chest and the knuckles on his hands were death white.
And then there was my brother, Jaron. His long brown hair covering his thick eyebrows and casting a shadow over his deep brown eyes. His smooth face didn’t bear any lines from the burdens of adult hood. He was cleaning the dishes in a rhythm that suggested that he was having a little too much fun and not producing enough work for his punishment.
“No one wants you, Jaron. I tried to pay your father to take you but he wouldn’t do it. I don’t want you; your dad doesn’t want you, no-one-wants-you.” She enunciated her last sentence word by word. Her face was red and her arms were raised above her head. She was ready for a vicious retort but the only indication that Jaron had heard her was the silent stream of tears rolling down his pale cheeks.
I looked over to find my father’s face passive. No, not passive. Submissive. Like he was the bottom of the pecking order in a furious wolf pack. His ears would have been drawn back and his head would be hanging lower than hers. But this wasn’t a pack and father’s head was still held high. My step mother, Jenny, got up and stalked out of the room with my father following suit behind. And when he left I instantly knew that he would never stand for what he believed in.
If he even believed in anything anymore.
I was back on the trail, the wind whipping itself across my face waking me from my reverie. Zoe looked over her shoulder to see why I had stopped. If she would have had eyebrows I was sure they would have been raised in a silent question.
I looked down at my footprints. The ones directly behind me looked sad and slightly lopsided, like it was struggling to stand on its own. Like I had been with Jaron. That footprint was my memory of him in our last encounter.
My shoes were covered in dirt and Zoe’s paws were caked in sand. She looked too innocent sitting there watching my reaction.
I brought my other foot down.
The memory took my breath away.
“You know why I don’t go to your house.” It was a simple statement, but it felt like knives were sawing at my throat, I could almost feel the sweet coppery blood trickle out of the invisible wounds and make its way down my throat.
“Why?” His response was just as simple.
“Because She’s there. I don’t like her and I know she doesn’t like me. I can’t come over, Dad.” The tears were coursing down my face. Why did he make the bad guy? I had never asked to be the villain.
“Can you please come over? I’ve missed you.” His voice was soft; it made it tempting just to say yes. But I held my ground.
“I won’t come over, Dad, please don’t.” My will was crackling under my feet; I could feel myself starting to slip.
“Kourtney, what will it take to have you come over?” He was becoming desperate and I could tell he hated being vulnerable. I slightly winced on the other side of the telephone.
“I don’t want to be around Jenny, Dad.”
“You know that can’t happen, she’s my wife.” His voice held a restrained anger.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Don’t ask me to choose, Kourtney.”
I clenched the phone tighter. This was what I had been waiting for.
“Because you won’t like the answer.” It was like a punch to the chest. My entire world was uplifted and spun into freefall. My thumb found the red button before I had even realized that I had hung up on him.
I was never a priority in his life, not even now. Everything that had happened was the climax for this moment. Betrayal tasted sour in my mouth.
I was sitting on a rock, the moon was round and pale sneaking through the night sky. The stars clawed their way onto the stage covering the black canvas into something of pure beauty. Zoe, sitting down next to me, lifted her head and let out a soft bark. It was a soft melodic sound, rising then de crescendo, willing me away into sleep. It got to the climax and she stopped. She looked at me, her soft eyes blinking.
Everything that had happened between me and my father seemed so trivial now. If he hadn’t been the way he had been, uncommitted and passive, I wouldn’t have become who I was, independent and self reliant. As we walked off the trail, that leads to nowhere, we were stronger and ready to face anything.
All that was left was footprints.