Despondency had an address. Ours.
Our house was one of a series of identical houses on the fringes of this forest. The ever present dankness and semi shadow was meant to humble and educate.
From an early age blind obedience and outright denial of any desire or ambition for ‘things’ outside the designated square meters of one’s life was inculcated into us.
As I got older, my need to escape had become tangible, thereby noticeable.
Judgement and disappointment was being doled out to me, in generous portions and on a daily basis, by the community and by my family.
At age fifteen I was being disgraced and marginalized for questioning, wanting and dreaming.
The rainy season brought with it months of humid chill. A chill that penetrated into the marrow intensifying my angst and their anger.
That day, the fire was blazing in the fireplace. Someone walking past the house, noticing the plume of smoke exiting the chimney stack might have thought it a charming painterly scene set against the dark moody forest and stormy skies.
But, indoors, it was bedlam.
The little ones were clinging to each other under their bed, crying, while the adults wailed.
I was thrashing about so violently that my skeleton felt like it was separating from its outer shell; spit and venom flying in all directions.
When my father’s powerful bear like paw of a hand came down on me, it forced my head to snap sideways. On pure reflex, I barreled into him, knocking him backwards, with such force that the satisfyingly clean cracking sound of skull meeting stone reverberated in the air.
Afterwards, he lay there crumpled and motionless on the ground, dark blood pooling about his head and a surprised look on his face.
The stunned silence was broken by a baleful howl as my mother came at me like a wild beast; scratching and clawing; face bruised purple and contorted beyond recognition.
After what seemed a very long time, she became limp in my arms and passed out.
I let her drop into a heap next to him.
Then, I added a few more logs to the fire and made sure the little ones each had a blanket and a toy. I left them there entwined under the bed. They were only three and four the day that I kissed them goodbye forever.
Crossing for the last time, what had been my daily threshold to shame and suffering I shut the door firmly behind me and made my way down the sodden path racing sloppily and excitedly across the muddy fields. It was absolutely necessary to put as much distance as possible between me and those shadows.
I ran towards the sun.
I never looked back.
They never found me.