Jack woke slowly, as he did every morning, with the light coming through his bare window gradually turning from black through shades of gray to full light. Getting out of bed as quietly as possible he quickly put on his clothes, the same clothes he had worn every day this week. It wasn’t that he didn’t have other clothes; it was because he was too small to reach them where they hung in the closet and no one to help. Carrying his shoes so as not to make a sound on the wooden floor he tried his door. Thankfully, finding it unlocked he opened it silently and moved into the hallway.
Stopping to listen outside her bedroom door, he could tell that she was still asleep. Breathing a sigh of relief he crept to the stairs, being careful to step over the second one that always let out a loud squeak whenever he forgot about it. Moving through the kitchen, he paused just long enough to see that that there was nothing to eat that was in reach of a five year old. Maybe later, he thought, maybe later, as he unlocked the back door and moved silently down the steps to the garden.
At one time, Jack had loved this garden with all its colors and smells and especially its hiding places. He had loved the high stone walls covered in what she had called ivy when he had overheard her talking to someone. Now, even his five year old mind realized that the garden was just another “locked away” place, like his room when she was mad at him. The garden was just another place with only one way out, back into that house he hated and his room with it's locked door.
Moving on through the garden, Jack headed to the one place he still liked about it, the gate. The gate was an old iron barred affair set in the stone wall. It was always locked by a heavy chain and an old padlock. The gate opening gave Billy a good view of the playground across the street. On the summer days she slept late, he would sometimes stand for hours watching the kids playing. Those were the good days; he could forget, for a little while, the emotional hunger that drove him continuously. The hunger that lead him to try everything he could think of to please her, anything to get her attention, to get her to acknowledge his existence. He tried hard and every time he failed he knew that if only he had tried just a little harder or done it differently or something she would have seen him. If only he was better. His failures used to make him cry, but no more. All crying did was make her mad. He never cried now.
What Jack didn’t realize, standing there peeping through the gate at the park, filling with all the mothers and their children, was that the lock on the chain was no longer locked. If only he had looked he would have seen it but he was so used to it being locked that he no longer bothered to look. Locks just were. The lock on his door, the lock on her heart, the lock on the garden gate, his world was defined by locks. All Jack could do was stand there, a single, unfelt tear rolling down his cheek, in the prison of his own making, watching the world pass by and thinking to himself; “If only...”
Note: I wrote this, or rather it wrote itself, after coming across the image above. It's a Zen Tarot card, the 5 of Rainbows. Like looking at a Rorschart image, this write is what I saw.
Copyright Don Smith 2009