It’s my usual post behind this desk, in front of my window. I like my official workspace because I’m at home and can see what’s coming and going. There is a white truck in the driveway, running, and I can’t see inside it. Curious. I don’t recognize it. A man walks towards the truck from the door that opens into our living room. I don’t recognize him either and was unaware that he was inside the house. Who is this person? I see Heather, at least her back, but can’t tell what she’s doing. Then I hear the girls and even though I can’t tell what the words are, I know the tone and temper and understand that trouble going on. I bolt for the door.
In the driveway it becomes clear. This man, this Mexican man in white with a long black ponytail, is taking my children from me. And he’s a bad man with bad intentions. In less than a second, an entire reel of slides plays itself on the back of my eyes and I realize that one ending to what is unfolding right now is me losing my girls forever. Breathing accelerates, I rewind and replay the slides, this time adding a different ending. I know that there hasn’t been, nor will there ever be, any more critical time in my life. I spring in to action.
The man has shut Lily and Ava into the back seat of his enormous dual cab truck. I hear them screaming…Daddy! Daddy! But I can’t see them because the windows are tinted black. Heather has disappeared. The man races to get in the driver’s seat and escape with my children. I jump on him and am immediately thrust off balance and thrown to the ground. His ankle is in my hand. I’ve never gripped anything so tightly. Daddy! Daddy! The man has a black 45 semi-automatic that he brandishes and uses to hit me in the face, stunning me and I fall backwards again. Then he shoots me in the leg and I am no longer able to stand. Within seconds he is in the truck and backing out of the driveway. I crawl towards him. The truck enters traffic. Daddy! Daddy! I struggle to stand, feel the jutting pain in my leg and then I collapse. The top of the truck is visible but distant and growing smaller. Daddy! Daddy! The truck is gone. I am alone and suffocating.
It’s as if I’ve been alone for years and am remembering how that came to be. I stand and look out the window, remembering the struggle in the driveway that resulted in my termination as a parent. Every morning and every night I wonder if the fight I had in me on that day was everything I had to give. It couldn’t have been, I always think. Because the only acceptable outcome that includes my babies being permanently pried from my hands and life is me dead, collapsed in a struggle, killed in battle. I have failed them, I think. The familiar wonderings of what that mother fucker wanted and what that mother fucker did with them after he left the driveway begins to creep upward from my stomach, reaching the back of my throat before I beat it back down into my brain’s iron security box, twist the lock and slam it shut. I look at the driveway again, blink, then rub my leg. Things are coming back to me. I turn around to see my bed full of sleeping life. Lily and Ava are intertwined, Lily is snoring. Rhonda is on her back with her mouth open.