The Moments BetweenBy Laura Bogart
August 03, 2010
Violence was always the way we remembered each other.
My father was the sting from a belt-buckle, a sting that feels thick and sharp at the same time. He went with me through my day. In school, I used to press my thumbs along the bruises underneath my clothes. I couldn’t forget the pain, so I made it my vicious little thrill.
Evenings after the evenings he’d come home to find that I’d spilled the milk or laughed too loud or looked at my mother the wrong way he was always sorry. He brought me paper to draw on and the pencils “that skinny kid at the art store said were the best kind”. He brought me books from the adult section of the library because I was too smart for “kiddie shit.” He brought me ice cream and he let me eat it in bed.
Though I was already the biggest girl in my class, I felt small beside the leonine heft of his body. I was always as safe as his regard for me at any given moment. I know this now. As a child, all I felt was the strength in his hands. His blunt fingers settled hesitantly along the back of my head, unsure how to move through a child’s hair.
Sometimes he read to me, his cigarette-leathered voice leading the boy Arthur to the sword in the stone. Sometimes, he insisted I read to him. The musk of his tobacco, dry cherry and damp wood, filled the bedroom. He murmured his approval when I read the hard words correctly.
When my ice cream melted on the sheets, I’d brace myself for the sharp exhale that preceded a slap—he had to supply the very air his hand would cut through—but he just sighed.
Still, annoyance flickered through his affection like a serpent through the grass. His hand fell to the small of my back; he pressed his knuckles through my nightgown. Not hard, but hard enough.
Excellent writing. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
You set such a scene here, Laura. It’s good writing; strong writing. I’d recommend having a look at some of Brin Friesen’s stuff here on TNB, it’s got a similar descriptive heft and colour.
Thank you for your wonderful comments. As always, much appreciated. And thanks for the recommendation, Simon, I always love to explore new work.
I tried to leave comments last night, but my internet kept dropping out, so I apologise for my tardiness.
It’s sometimes difficult to comment on a piece like this, without it sounding trite, or hurried, or impersonal.
But I think writing about pain, especially pain inflicted on you by someone you loved, or still love, is an incredibly hard thing to do. You have done it particularly well. You are able to create sympathy for a man, who has an aptitude for unsympathetic acts, and you have painted his faltering tenderness as well as his brutality in a mesmerising way.
Oh thank you, Zara. My monitor is getting blurry as I read your beautiful remarks.
I’m sorry! It really is a lovely piece. Such lovely phrasing, even through the pain. x
Oh, blurry in a very good way. In a wow, what beautiful comments way. Y’all are so wonderful and generous here.
Laura, this is beautiful, truly. It resonates with me on many levels and is so rich with detail, even in its brevity. “[A]nnoyance flickered through his affection like a serpent through the grass…” made me close my eyes for a moment. I’ll be remembering this piece when I let my daughter read to me tonight….
Thank you for your remarks, Andrew. I have such a soft spot in my heart for the loving, involved dads of the world.
This is beautiful. Thank youl
Laura, this is a hard read and variable in its tone. It rings with the anxiety of the unknown. It rings true.