What happened in Gallup, New Mexico
Warning: This post contains content related to child sexual abuse.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”― Rumi
The images arrive in my mind unbidden. Snapshots of the shadowy laundry room. Not just visuals. Other senses offer up memories too. The warmth of the dryers and the desert heat of a New Mexico summer gnawing at the building. The dull roar of the dryers harmonizing like a machine choir. I can even smell the fresh scent of detergent and clean clothing lingering in the air. Or maybe that’s my brain filling in the gaps.
Brains are tricky motherfuckers. Who’s to say what’s a memory, what’s a memory of a memory, and what artistic license my brain has taken in the four decades of life that have intervened since a 6-year-old me wandered around those rows of rusty washers and dryers in the laundry room of a dusty apartment complex in New Mexico?
After my parents separated when I was 5, Dad loaded up his Bronco and left our home in Orem, Utah for a job strip mining for coal in Gallup, New Mexico. Much later, as an adult trying to explain to him how much it hurt that he left the state, how little he was involved in our lives, and how bad it felt to grow up without a dad, he began to cry and, as usual, talked and talked and talked and talked and talked about how much harder it was for him which was an obvious segue into what a cunt Mom was for wrecking the family.
I suspect that, at nearly seventy, he’s still polishing that particular monologue, an old favorite of his. Divorced since the early eighties, reliably blaming Mom for the entire thing, fingers pointed outward at everyone else, never once questioning his role in the demise of his marriage and family. A popular divorce dynamic with which I am, unfortunately, intimately familiar.
Good talk, Dad. Cool cool cool. Thanks for listening.
Among other things, he told me the day he drove his beloved 1979 blue & white Bronco away from our house for good my older brother and I chased it down the street screaming for him to come back.
I have no memory of this. I have very few childhood memories of Dad in Utah. I seem to have forgotten so much of what happened during my childhood. It was during our first trip to New Mexico that I cut off as much of my long hair as I could see in the mirror, my mom tells me. Because I couldn’t reach the back of my head with the scissors, I returned to her rocking a mullet rivaling Billy Ray Cyrus’ circa Achy Breaky Heart. Zero memory of this but the proof is in the pictures.
It was a chaotic, scary time. I wet the bed until I was 8 and felt unsafe, helpless, and lonely. There wasn’t a reliable adult in my life. They all screamed, they all cried, they were always gone. Talking or writing about it at all causes my body to tense up as dread blooms in my chest and stomach.
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