Being born to dying parents is, I think, a terrible thing to put a child through.
Talon and I grew up not exactly far away from most other people in Nine, but in our little house on the edge of the city, the house where we actually got to have a little lawn to call our own and front steps for our parents to hobble up and a place where our dog could run around a bit—well, it wasn't exactly the life that many people in Nine get. The four of us weren't crammed into a tiny apartment in the center of the city, didn't go to bed at night listening to the ricocheting of bullets against already crumbling walls. The air was still polluted and the soil was still shit for growing anything that mattered, and sometimes in the morning, I could hear the rumble of the factories coming to life. But still, we didn't hear our neighbors through the walls and Talon and I didn't have to share a bedroom and—
I was going to say it was home.
But really, I never much treated it like it was, so I'm not sure that it counts.
I certainly ran away from there faster than anyone probably thought was possible. Talon could be the one to do the upkeep, the things that our parents wanted to be done around the house that they slowly but surely stopped being able to do. I watched on, most of the time in abject horror, as Talon tacked item after item onto the end of her list. She was smart, brilliant and clever and just so, so bright that staring at her for too long started to make my head hurt, but there she was, sinking deeper and deeper into her need to make their lives easier. It got hard for Mom to walk up and down the stairs, so she'd take out the trash most of them time. Working the machine we used to mow the lawn started to hurt Dad's wrists, so Tal figured out how to do it instead, would wake up in the morning to get it done before running off to school. I caught her falling asleep at lunch one time near the end, exhausted from trying to run their house for them, exhausted from running into the woods to collect those dumb bits of the petrified forest for Mom's collection.
It made me sick, watching her drown herself just to make them smile for a few minutes.
They had done this to us, asked too much of us, asked us to be ready for them to die before we'd even gotten a real shot at living. And she just rolled over and took it. That was something I was never fully able to understand, I don't think, not until years later.
"I'm trying to make them proud," she'd spit at me one day, and I'd felt her words all the way down to my bones, felt the way they made me want to shatter.
"What's the point?" I remember responding, feeling something dead choking me. I thought at the time that it might have been—it's going to sound cheesy, probably, but I thought it might have been my heart. "They're dying on you, Tal," I remember feeling every drop of blood in my body turn to ice, remember settling every goosebump across my skin until I was smooth as porcelain. "They may as well already be dead."
It took me years to make it beat again.
That's also about the time Tal and I stopped talking.
Though, truthfully, I think that we started to fall apart long before that, think that we were girls with too little in common besides our blood, and when it was the very source of our blood that was driving a wedge between us, well you can understand how the pair of us turned out the way that we did. You can understand why it's taken decades for us to try and know each other again. Our parents died when we were teenagers, two girls with brains barely developed enough to form together a string of thoughts extending beyond ourselves.
Considering the other was out of the question.
It didn't surprise me when Talon ran for mayor, and hasn't surprised me that she's stayed in that seat for what certainly feels like decades. Even as children, that's what she wanted, was the dream that she spent all that time studying to achieve. In adulthood, I can't deny that I'm proud of her, proud of the things that she's done for this city, though we all know it still has a long way to go.
I think, perhaps, that her achieving her goals, in spite of all the burdens our parents put her through, is part of the reason that as time has gone on, I've gotten less and less angry.
Though, certainly, I ought to credit Elijah with some of that.
I can hear him getting cross with me in the back of my head just at the idea of not giving him some of the credit for softening the heart I'd long thought dead.
I had expected him dying to be more horrible, somehow. I expected myself to be left, perhaps, in more pain at the loss of him. I'd gone through so much to love him, so much pain and heartache and endured the whispers of all of our colleagues for years. It never mattered to them that he was the one who pursued me first, never mattered to them that I tried to resist, that I hadn't wanted to be the intern who fell for the boss, but he was young for the job and I was a sucked for the way he could smile with his eyes and the way he loved me first for my brain and anything else second. I loved him because he wanted to see me powerful, wanted to see me succeed, not because he liked being higher up, not because he liked having power over me. I loved him because he never stopped loving me, no matter how many times our attempts to have a child failed. I loved him because even when he hated me, even when I was being horrible and closed off, even when I was at my worst, he looked at me like I was at my best.
Thinking about him hurts, and how he died hurts even worse; so far before his time, still with so much life left in front of him. But through the pain there's a different kind of ache, too, one that's calling to me, telling me to make a change.
Looking back at my parents age, knowing how old I am, watching years pass me by and wanting nothing more than to have a child, I can't help but wonder why I spent my life with them that way, why I gave up on them before they even had the chance to prove how much they loved me.
I wonder—who would I be if I had let my parents love me as much as I hated them? If I had let their love into my heart instead of doing everything that I could do push it away?
I think, maybe, I'm ready to find out.
And there's no one better than Talon to help.
INSTEAD, IT REMEMBERS.
Robin Roe, from A List of Cages
Last Edit: Jun 23, 2020 15:28:05 GMT -5 by kaitlin