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Tug o’ War

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The sun shone down on us like a happy, kind grandmother watching her children’s children demonstrating all of the exuberant energy she once had when she was their age. The heavy, thick rope was held taught in my tiny hands. The frayed ends pricked my soft flesh, but I did not mind. I was having the time of my life. My friends surrounded me, each one of them also tugging on the rope, each of them also laughing and loving life at that very moment. On the other end of the rope, another group of friends smiled, tugged, laughed. Between us, a large puddle lay patiently like a hungry alligator eager for someone to miss a step and tumble into its gaping mouth. We tugged. Tugged until our skinny arm muscles were as taught as the rope between our tiny palms; tugged until our little lungs hurt from the strain; tugged until one of us laughed so hard we were forced to let go or fall into that cold, muddy puddle that we each secretly wanted to be swallowed in. Tug o’ war used to be one of my favorite childhood games. It is such a shame that no one ever warned us about the tug-o’-war games adults would sometimes be forced to play …


It has been two days since my mother came to me with a request. Move in with me so that I don’t lose my home (the home owned by my older brother). Then, after a few months, go with your father and I to Texas where we could buy a ranch and start a new life. What could I say? What could I say to a mother who I could never say no to before?


Just this afternoon, my brother called and made another request of me, unknowing that I had already spoken to my mother. Keep your house because mom has put me in debt. She has left a mess that I have to clean up now or I will lose everything I have and my daughter and I will have nowhere to go.


As of late, I have come to loathe tug o’ war.


The bottle of vodka in my refrigerator has never looked so enticing, but I know my answers will not be at the bottom of that bottle. In fact, it will do nothing more than send me into a downward spiral of more unanswered questions and confusion. In the morning my worries will only be masked by a heavy, black velvet hangover still damp with sweat and tears. Over the course of my life, I have been prone to looking back on moments from my childhood and wishing I did not have to face some of the responsibilities I am forced to face today; however, I realize that I also learn from those moments as well. It is best never to forget the past or you are sure to repeat it.


My finances, though sometimes shaky, are somewhat stabilized now so long as I keep to a disciplined diet of frugality and common sense. I so wish I could make my mother’s financial woes go away with the flick of a wand or the swish of a pen across a fat checkbook … but I cannot. Oftentimes, I find myself wanting so desperately to cry, but I can’t due to the fact that I am also feeling anger floating amongst my sadness the way three olives sit in a clear pool of vodka. See, there I go again thinking of having a great big drink. I look toward the dark kitchen.


Come on. One little drink isn’t gonna hurt ya.


It is hard to resist that little voice in my head sometimes, but I turn away and look back at the softly illuminated screen of my laptop and breathe deeply. There are always three sides to every story, they say. Oh how wise they are. Yet, it always seems that in my family there are several more sides; sides that are never quite unearthed, like the deep-sea species in the darkest depths of the ocean that humans have not yet been able to reach. It is a wonder, that I always seem to be thrust in the middle of these squabbles. I always make promises that are almost impossible to keep. Quite often, I feel like a soldier telling his comrade that everything will be okay, even as the blood gushes from his wounds and his hands begins to turn icy cold; even as the life slowly fades from his eyes.


Everything will be okay.


My shoulders ache terribly. The four ibuprofen I have ingested are having absolutely no effect on the pain. I know why. My pain isn’t stemming from sore muscles or injury; no, the pain is internal and external at the same time. Stress is one of the most unpleasant diseases we experience on a daily basis.


The rope is getting more and more taught. I can feel the splintered frays around my wrists that have become bloody and calloused with so many wars. The sun has hidden behind the clouds. The game is no longer fun to witness. This time I am not tugging the rope. I am the rope. And the puddle below me is not the cool, slick mud we used to play in as children; it has been replaced by a black hole of unanswered questions and too many sleepless nights; a stygian abyss of our worst nightmares.


There is another voice that accompanies me. It is my own. I chant a mantra over and over like a devoted monk at prayer. But I’m a big girl now and I know the mantra will probably not save me.


Everything will be okay.


Everything will be okay.


Everything will be okay.

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