Innocence

“Time to shut the blinds,” Mother would say. “It’s going on nightfall.” That signalled a time when my brothers and I had special time with Mom or Dad and talk about anything—or nothing at all. So many questions. Surely Mother would know the answers. “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why can’t I fly like I do in my dreams? Are flying saucers real?”

Mother would just smile and put her hand on mine. “It is good to question,” she said, “but some puzzles have no answer. We have to be content with that.”

But I wanted certainty, not mystery– the security of knowing why things happened the way they did. With no solid reason, it became easier to set aside the questions that were too baffling to consider.

When I was six years old and in the first grade, I walked home from school every day carrying my blue denim bookbag. One day I became aware of a car driving slowly along the street, following close behind me. Suddenly the car moved ahead and stopped. It was an old car, a rough brown color. The man inside poked his head out the window. He was an old man wearing a batttered brown hat. I had never seen this man or the car before.

A pale, wrinkled and shadowy face peered out the window. Everything about the man—the sleeve of his jacket, the hat and the car– was a faded, dusty brown.

I kept walking, wanting to run.

The car slowed and came up close to the sidewalk. “I can give you a ride,” said the man, his voice a low rumble.

I froze, then words tumbled out of my mouth. “No. Thank you.” And then I ran. And ran, the denim book bag flapping against my side.

Reaching my house, I turned and saw the car drive on. Making sure it was out of sight, I ran to the back of the house and onto the porch. I closed my eyes and waited till the huffing and puffing died down. Finally, I opened the screen door and tiptoed inside to the laundry room. Mother was in the kitchen, washing dishes.

“Hi, Mama,” I squeaked, escaping to the privacy of the bathroom. There, crouching in silence, I wondered what that man wanted, and why did he call to me? There was no answer. But a strange fear gripped me. I decided then that no good would come from my talking about what happened. It was up to me to consider what it meant. Why it happened. Why I ran, full of fear. It would be my secret.

Now in my own home decades later, the fading light spills through the window. I pull the blinds and turn on the lamp in the corner just like my mother used to do. In the quiet of living room, the evening closes in around me. Mother was right. For some things, there is no easy answer, and even with the passing of years, the mystery remains.

By Gail Field

Select all writings of  Gail Ann Field

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