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Compassion - Part Two
© 2008 Patricia McGurk Martin
Her thoughts that evening in the lonely house lead to a sense of melancholy, and she hopes her brother and sister will not eat her peanut butter while she is gone.
Looking out the kitchen window, Kaitlynn notices accumulated dried leaves, bunched up in the corners of the window well. In their place, she visualizes instead many small, gleaming white skulls while she thinks about the danger she faces as a child alone in the dark, foreboding night. Sometimes before leaving for school, Kaitlynn cautiously opens the inner paper of her favorite fruit-flavored cold cereal box. As she peers inside the carton, she sometimes sees a collection of even smaller white skulls that warn her to be careful always! Kaitlynn has never told anyone that she worries she will die before she is grown because of the ongoing abuse at home, and she once even wrote a will.
For the past few weeks Kaitlynn had savored the pleasure of using her new blue pen, often glancing at the unopened package inside her purse. Because she is alone with no real home, she decides it is a fortuitous time to finally open the small package. Picking up the cherished pen, she writes her full name in bold, bright blue ink on the back of the package. Feeling a sense of satisfaction, she renews her commitment to buy all future pens with her own money. Kaitlynn picks the pen up again and begins to write especially beautiful, lyrical words that flow onto a single, blue-lined piece of school notebook paper.
While sitting alone in the deepening twilight, she notices with worry that she has an ink spot on her plaid dress for school the next day. With only unusable rusty tap water in the house to remove the ink, she tries to forget about the stain. Earlier she noticed large moths in the house, so she folded her extra clothes neatly in a brown paper bag she had found. Thinking about movies seen in happier times, Kaitlynn distracts herself by remembering the plots, and further challenges herself to remember scraps of dialogue. She passes the time in this manner, without feeling afraid, while night descends in the now unfamiliar house with its many scary, dark shapes.
Kaitlynn's thoughts drift in the waning light to mounting fears that she usually does not have. Her worst fear is that very large bugs might crawl out of the upstairs bathtub drain, emerging from the filth inside the neglected pipes. As the sinister bugs climb over the grimy bathtub, she feels certain they will find her while she innocently sleeps in the dirty house. The imagined large bugs resemble bizarre, aggressive insect creatures, and ultimately only reflect her frightened state of mind.
The lonely twilight proves infinitely long without electricity, and Kaitlynn dreads the impending fall of darkness with her whole soul. Unable to sleep, she lies on her back on the hard wooden floor, and whispers prayers and poems in the encroaching darkness. She can't stop worrying that she might be lying on dirt and her school dress will be soiled in the morning, or that a frightening rat might emerge from one of the large holes in the walls to bite her. Possible centipedes, scorpions, and bats are concerns, as well as rabid cats or dogs seeking shelter in the dilapidated house - and even large red and black ants worry her! Abandoning her efforts to sleep, Kaitlynn merely sits on an uncomfortable dirty couch with broken springs pushing up through the cover. Her small, tired back is hunched in exhausted resignation to the specter of a dark, soulless house that threatens to swallow her up.
Wrapped in a robe, Kaitlynn writes with her index finger on the fogged bathroom mirror at home after taking her bath. Hesitant at first, she writes her name with a shaky confidence. Quickly erasing the ghostly letters with the palm of her hand, she worries that her parents will punish her for being strong as a girl, an insidious reason she has never understood. With renewed confidence, Kaitlynn writes her name on the clouded mirror one more time anyway, and leaves it for posterity.
She was very young when she stopped crying, as Kaitlynn could not bear to hear the sound of her own small crying voice. Kaitlynn has always preferred to continue in spite of obstacles, and maintain a steadfast determination to succeed with a made-up mind. Rarely dwelling on the feeling of isolation she has within her family, Kaitlynn never gives up her courage or initiative, as well. When she hears small children crying, however, she feels a deep suffering inside her quiet heart. Sometimes she leaves the room because the sound of children's crying voices becomes unbearable, and the wrenching sound of dogs yelping in the night also causes Kaitlynn to grieve.
With increasingly painful bruises and the worry that her asthma will worsen, Kaitlynn ran with a pounding heart down her neighborhood street. Attracting the attention of unaware neighbors calmly watering their lawns, she ran by with all her strength on that spring night, a year ago. Trying to catch her breath, Kaitlynn hurriedly opened the creaking, unlocked front door of a nearby uninhabited house she had noticed while walking to school.
As she struggled to see in the late evening light, several large wild dogs emerged like moving black, supernatural streaks from the dark shadows on the porch. Following Kaitlynn into the eerie, vacant main room of the abandoned house, the six mysterious dogs converged near her heels and relaxed to sit in a loose half circle - while watching her with dark eyes. With nowhere else to go that late in the day, Kaitlynn quietly sat down, joining the frightening dogs for what seemed like long hours. She finally put her head down on the cold, dirt floor and fell asleep, exhausted, by the dusty feet of the nearby dogs. Too tired to continue worrying incessantly that the wild dogs might attack and viciously bite her in the face - Kaitlynn slept, seemingly unprotected, in the heavy gloom of the dark row house.
In the morning, Kaitlynn straightens up the condemned house as if it were her own home. When she was locked out once before at night, Kaitlynn waited over a day before she finally called her parents. Feeling insecure, she didn't know if they would actually come to get her, or if they would leave her in the house to suffer. At the sight of her mother arriving to bring her home, an anguished Kaitlynn ran and clung to her mother, in an unnatural manner. Truly terrorized by her mother's brutal abandonment, she had lost both her self confidence and the comfortable feel of her place in the world. Kaitlynn struggled for weeks to regain her normal sense of self, and to resume speaking confidently at school. Noticing a distinct change in Kaitlynn, her teacher asked her why she wasn't participating in class. Kaitlynn's teacher also pointed out that she was normally an excellent, cheerful student, and what could have gone wrong?
Hunger continues to gnaw with sharp pains in her stomach, as she hasn't eaten in over a day. Kaitlynn dreads calling her parents as she doesn't want to sound desperate on the phone. Practicing what she will say to them, she hopes to avoid a conversation that would rob her of her already diminished dignity. The young girl repeatedly rubs the two coins she is holding in her hand, before putting the coins back inside her black plastic purse. With a decisive snap of the metal clasp on the small purse, Kaitlynn decides to call her parents later when she feels more self-assured.
Wearing an innocuous cotton t-shirt, a pair of shorts and sandals, the eleven year old girl walks thoughtfully down a hot suburban street in the west Texas desert.