Hiding: (Excerpt from: "The Empty Swing")©
The house is quiet. That gentle silence of early morning nudges me into my day. Last nights’ dishes faintly clink under my hands in the warm soapy water. Tux and Sasha, the cats, mewing as they curl around my feet. “Let us out”. I pat Tux's butting head before opening the kitchen door. Satisfied, they roll out, kittenish, onto the warming bricks. 7:00am and the morning coolness is already fading fast. The sun flexes into the house, reaching across the room. Time to hustle for breakfast. Kris is awake. I hear him upstairs playing in his room. I smile, visualizing the Legos strewn across the floor. His brow, with a little frown of concentration as he builds his creations. His fever has finally come down after two long days. I am tired, but relieved. The sound of his play lifts my heart. This is precious, stolen time.
Turning off the water, I can hear the slow crunching of a car driving up on the gravel. Our little neighborhood driveway is a dead-end. Mornings are for exits not, entrances. I freeze and, wait. Listening, with my whole body. Will it reverse, a driver's mistaken turn? The kitchen clock ticks into the silence of the kitchen. I don’t move, just, wait.. An animal instinct for invisibility, survival.
The car stops, making a shadow against the window. It is outside our door. My internal animal switch flips from frozen to flight. Up the stairs, I fly past Kris's room to mine. Trembling, to peek from the window. Ever so slowly, without a movement, I crack the curtain and look down. A car is parked right below. No, two cars. Dark, menacing blue, one on each side of the olive tree. Their doors open and I see the dark shadows of men. I turn and fly across the hall, my finger to my mouth –“Shhhhhhhh”. Grabbing his little hand in mine we creep, low, back to my room and hide behind the big bed. Huddled, my breathing blows fast, heart pounding. We are upstairs. I know, in my head, they can’t see us. My fear magnifies my imagined feeling of our visibility. As if, like predators, they can sense our presence.
Below us, they don’t knock on the heavy wooden door. They pound. Beating at it with violent self-importance and the privilege of badges. Each time they hit the door, we shiver and shake. I hold him tighter and beg silently for them to go away. To believe we are not here, not hiding.
They keep pounding, shouting, threatening. Oh, my god! Suddenly, a panicked thought. Did I lock the back door in the kitchen? It’s always left open in the day for the cats to come back in. Will they go around to the back of the house?
They could climb over the shallow wall and come in. My brain is now on fire with fear. I motion Kris to creep across the floor. Silently, without words, I push him further under the bed. Some childhood idea of safety. Leaving him there, I creep out in the hall, then slowly, carefully, down one step, two, three. Until I am close enough to peer between the twirled wood stair banisters to see the back door. It’s open...