I sit in my puddle.
The puddle isn’t deep, barely an inch. Underneath it is the concrete of my driveway. My puddle is not even very big.
Yet, it still is able to completely soak through my purple ruffled skirt. I’ve had a terrible day and now my best skirt is wet. But I’m happy.
I’m sitting in my puddle by choice. I’m being rained on by choice. I got my skirt wet by choice. My choice. Mine.
I’m tired of not being able to make choices. I am told what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep. I never choose anything for myself and I hate it.
And now, my parents are tired of fighting, and I don’t even get to choose who I’m going to live with. Maybe I want to live with my grandparents. Maybe I don’t want to be tugged back and forth and pulled into the middle of every fight. Maybe I want everyone to just calm down and try to be happy for a few seconds and see how that feels.
But does anyone care about what I want? Of course not. I’m just a kid. It’s just common sense that I need my choices made for me.
But today I made a choice. It’s my choice to sit in this puddle and slowly freeze to death. I’m also wearing my best skirt. I’m going out in style.
The rain drops are plopping down on my head and I’ve been out here for so long that I swear it’s slowly driving me insane. Cars drive by and a few speed over puddles, splashing me. But I keep my chin up and sit in my puddle. I am not moving. This is my puddle. And there’s also the fact that being splashed is better than listening to the yelling that’s probably going on inside.
It’s chilly out, but deep down I know that it’s not cold enough to freeze to death, wet or not. But I am not one to give up on a mission. I will sit out here ’till it kills me.
I hear the front door open and close, and I silently pray that whoever it is, they don’t notice me in my puddle. I have no time for a lecture right now. First silence, then a few footsteps. The footsteps are coming in my direction, and I know that there’s no lecture coming because it would have started already. Someone sits down next to me. Close enough to let me know they’re there, far enough away to give me my space.
And then we simply sit. We admire the park across the street where a few children are taking advantage of the rain that our town doesn’t often experience. They build mud castles, they jump in mud puddles, and it will probably take days to actually clean off all the mud they’re caked in. But they’re still making memories they’ll remember with joy when they’re older. That’s why I feel a pinch of jealousy. I have no joyful memories.
I come back to reality and I realize that I still haven’t looked up to see who’s next to me. But because this person is giving me space and silence (two things I defiantly need right now), I already know who it is.
“I’m not going back in,” I tell him without looking up. “I’m going to freeze to death in my puddle. I’ll miss you, but personal feelings can not compromise my mission.”
I hear a chuckle as confirmation, and it takes all my strength to not smile up at him. It’s not just me that he has that affect on, it’s everyone. He has this natural happiness about him that makes you want to smile. Everyone tells me that he’s always been this way, even before I was born. He can brighten up a room, settle bad fights and make everyone come out of it happy, and destroy any awkward silence. And if you ever feel like giving up and just crying, you go to him. Everyone does. He seems to be the only person that knows silence is better than words. He doesn’t try to give you advice you don’t want, he doesn’t give you a lecture when you’re being stupid, he doesn’t give you a hug and expect that to fix everything, he doesn’t even say ‘everything’s going to be alright, unless you really need it. He simply let’s you bask in the glow of his happiness and heal. Heal from whatever has wounded you. His very presence is a gift from God.
He’s like the sun. His glow is something that can irritate you when it’s overbearing. There are times when you just don’t want to heal. But you stay in his light anyway and he showers you with all the happiness he can give. And suddenly, everything’s okay again.
But lately, it’s hard for his glow to make me happy. It’s because I’ve seen the boy behind the bright sun. I’ve seen that he’s just as sad as everyone else. He glows for everyone but himself and it breaks my heart.
When our parents scream and yell, he uses as much of his light as he can to try and make everything okay again, but this is a war he can’t fix, and deep down, he knows it too. But he keeps trying. He keeps trying to stop the fights, even though he knows its a lost cause. Because if he finally admits that he can’t fix this, can’t fix them, he’ll feel like a failure.
A week ago, our dad even screamed at him during dinner. He was tired of his glow. He blamed him for all of their problems. He said that marrying our mother and having us had been a mistake that he would give anything to take back.
He had been drunk, maybe he didn’t even mean it. But all of us knew that the words were meant to sting as much as they did.
After Dad had finished his rant, our mother started screaming back at him, and my bright sun dimmed. He was still keeping up his glow for me, but I could feel the sadness, and I knew he was torn apart on the inside. He didn’t cry, not at first. He stayed for a while, but eventually excused himself, mumbling something about being tired.
When he left, I saw something in my father’s eyes. Pride. He was proud that he had just wounded the only thing left that could make us happy again. I had never wanted to hurt someone as much as I did then. But honestly, underneath the pride in his eyes, I saw a small bit of regret.
I excused myself as well and followed my brother. He had shut himself in his room, and when I leaned against the door, I heard him crying. Not sobbing, but more of a small whimper. I knew he cried sometimes. In the middle of all this, you’d have to be a robot not to. But this had been the first time I’d heard it, and I started crying along with him. Our parents said they loved us. Then they proceeded to hurt us and each other. They are killing me. They are killing my sun.
I’m angry about not being able to make my own choices, I’m angry that I don’t have a happy family, I’m angry about almost everything right now. But when I feel like whining about all of this, I snap out of it and realize how selfish I’m being. If I am wounded or broken, I can go to my sun. He welcomes me with open arms and makes me feel full of hope. When I cry, I have him.
But he has no one. He gives his light and happiness to everyone else, leaving none for himself. When my sun cries, he cries alone. There is no one who even tries to help. That’s what hurts most of all. My beautiful sun is dying, and I’m the only one who cares. I’m the only one who even notices. I am probably the only one who prays for him.
I finally decide to look up at him.
He’s looking at the sky, letting raindrops hit his face. He’s smiling. He has his glow back. And today, it feels genuine. Not just for me, but because he’s actually happy.
Now that I’m listening, I notice that the house is quiet today. Maybe they’re asleep. It’s rare, but not impossible.
I look back at the park and see that the children have gone home. A small toy airplane was left in one of the mud puddles. A few doves land in one of the trees, taking shelter from the rain.
“I don’t think it’s cold enough out here to freeze to death. Just so you know.”
I look back up at him and frown. He’s looking at me now and his smile turns into a ridiculous grin when he sees my grimace.
“Add some whiskers and you’d look just like Whisky,” he says, trying his best not to laugh.
I just frown harder and cross my arms, but on the inside, I smile.
Whisky is our grandparents’ tomcat. He’s probably the nicest cat you’ll ever meet, but he always has a frown on his face. No matter what you do, he just won’t stop frowning. Our grandfather is proud of it, he says it means Whisky has character. I think Whisky just got his face stuck that way somehow.
My smile spreads to the outside accidentally, and he sees it before I can go back to frowning. He puts his hand on mine and squeezes. He doesn’t bother to give it a gentle squeeze. He knows I like it when he squeezes it hard enough to make it numb.
There’s a few minutes of silence before he says anything. He turns back to me and gives me a soft smile. “Do you know where Mom and Dad are?” he asks.
He knows. I can hear it in his voice.
“No,” I reply. “And before you say it, I don’t wanna guess.” I’m curious and a little excited. There’s no reason for him to tell me that they’re sleeping.
He nods and I can tell how happy he really is. His joy is pouring out of his entire body and I can feel it soaking into mine too. His glow is brighter.
His answer is quick and enthusiastic. “Counseling. Real counseling. They’re actually doing it.”
And now I understand.
I had heard them fighting again last night, while I was trying to sleep. It was like any other fight, except there was one part that caught my interest.
Ever since Dad had blown up at dinner, Mom had been surprisingly quiet. Even when he purposely tried to get a fight out of her, she wouldn’t respond.
But last night, she had decided that she’d had enough. She gave him an ultimatum. They could go to counseling and try to actually work on fixing their relationship, or she would leave him and take us with her.
There was a lot of silence after that. I couldn’t hear Dad’s answer, which was surprisingly quiet, but Mom left and went to her room afterward.
I heard the fight, I heard the ultimatum. I hadn’t heard Dad’s answer, but I thought that even if he said yes, it would never actually happen.
Dad’s been deeply depressed ever since his sister died. At first, he continually buried himself in his work. But when that wasn’t successful, he turned to drinking. And after the drinking just wasn’t working, he started lashing out at the people who tried to help him. He was pointlessly cruel because he didn’t know what else to do. He was still grieving over his sister. He didn’t cry, he didn’t talk about it. The only way he thought he could get out his grief is through anger.
Now, it’s not just about the grief. He destroys everything he has because he thinks no one wants him to try and fix it. He thinks no one cares about him. It’s truly the opposite, and I think Mom’s ultimatum was what made him realize that. She’s wanted to fix their marriage even before his sister died and he must have not believed that until now.
My body is shaking with excitement and I feel him smiling at me. It might not work. They might come home angrier than before. But it’s such a big step that I can’t help but be excited. Things might be okay. Maybe we’ll be happy someday. Maybe it’s not impossible to fix this war.
I look back at him and I notice his eyes are watery. Mine are too.
And we cry.
We cry out of sadness, because we’re being so stupidly naive and optimistic. And we cry out of joy, because maybe we’re not. We might have stopped the war. God might have answered my prayers.
I look up at the sky and I now realize the rain has stopped. The clouds are almost white again. A little boy comes back to reclaim his toy airplane from the mud. The doves are now cooing happily, and some of them fly away. Fly away to bigger and better trees.
I am still in my puddle.
“I think I’m okay with not freezing,” I whisper. “Just for today.”
He smiles and squeezes my hand again.
What about getting out of that puddle? Your skirt looks much nicer when it’s not wet.”
I bite my lip and think about it. I look over at the park and notice two little girls from the house behind us setting up a lemonade stand, doing the best they can to avoid any mud puddles. They have pink lemonade, oatmeal cookies, and muffins. Chocolate chip muffins, and they look fresh.
I nod and point to the newly set-up stand. “Only if you buy me a glass of lemonade. And maybe a muffin.”
He stands up and his grin is back. “Okay. But fifty cents isn’t pocket change. I want a bite.”
I smile, genuinely smile, and it feels like I haven’t done it in years.
As he helps me up, I notice the sun has come out, it’s bright rays shining beyond the clouds.
We walk across the street to the park.
We are happy, truly happy, and we glow. For once, we glow together.
And together, our light is brighter than the sun.
© Rebecca Johnson (pen name) at BibleCommentator.com. All rights reserved.