“Look at me!”
I shook my head. Raising my face to look at his was not something I planned on doing. Now, or ever.
“Just look at me, damn it.”
That brought a response. Even without thinking, I lifted angry eyes to settle on his youthful expression before lowering my head back to my arms. “Don’t talk to me in that tone.”
“Because you are a child. I am an adult. I deserve respect for my age if nothing else.” I laid my head back against my knees.
“Age deserves respect?”
“So you respected him because he was older?”
I couldn’t answer. I don’t know that I ever ‘respected’ him, unless fear is part of respect.
“Not gonna answer me?”
I remained still. A grown adult, sitting in a corner, knees to my chest, being grilled by a mere boy. My arms were wrapped tightly around me and my head rested against my knees. Like a frightened child. In many ways, I felt it. Though frightened of what? An elementary-age boy?
“You don’t like people very much, do you, Mister?”
Another reflex look. I don’t know how much pain I registered, but the agony reflected in his eyes was palpable. “You don’t know me.”
“I know you. Very well.”
“You don’t know me.”
“I know you as well as you know me.”
What? “I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before.”
“You see me every time you look in the mirror.”
“Ooh. Catchy comeback. So very grown-up.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you to look at me. To see me. Like he never saw us.”
“Sorry, don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Lies. I know how he abused you, you know.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“You forget I was there. Every time. It was us he beat. Us he raped and humiliated. I was there until that last time. When I died.”
This time when I raised my eyes I took a good look at the five year-old standing in front of me. Sneakers, jeans, and a white button-down shirt. Blond hair and the softest, kindest, gentlest eyes. Eyes far too young to hold the pain rooted so deeply in his. “You … died?”
“The day you gave up. The day you decided what he did was right. The day you stopped fighting and accepted the lies.”
I laid my head back down. “I repeat – what do you want from me?”
“You want to be whole.”
“I heard your heart. You want to be whole.”
“What if I do?”
“You have to accept me. You have to take me just like I am.”
When I looked again I shuddered in disbelief. Bruised and battered, torn clothing, cuts and scrapes. Tears streaming down his face. I buried my face in my arms. I couldn’t – wouldn’t go there. Instead I just remained silent.
He sighed as if the weight of the world was on him. “I’m not going to keep trying.”
“What’s that mean?”
“I’ll be around – but you’ll have to come get me.”
“It’s too much.”
I heard a soft whimper, then the slight sound of his shuffling feet as he walked up to me. I shivered at the cool touch of his tiny hand against my cheek.
“It’s ok, Marc. I forgive you.”
When I looked again, he was gone. And now the tears won’t stop.