Summer nights in Maine are amazing. The days can get so unbearably hot…the humidity just hangs in the air and can feel so suffocating. But, after the sun sets, that same humidity that made you completely miserable during the daylight, becomes a comfortable, delicious wrap in the evening, a thin layer that shields you against the cold.
My step-father and I would often sit outside, just beside the front door. We sat side by side in our folding lawn chairs, the aluminum kind with the woven plastic mesh seating. The ones that lasted just a handful of summers before the webbing frayed. (I’ll never forget how the hard edges of that plastic webbing cut into my plump adolescent thighs, the way I had to peel my skin from them when I stood.)
We would just sit and, there in the peacefulness of those humid evenings, we would talk. Or we would simply take in the silence. But the distinguishing part was that whether we spoke or not, we were comfortable. There was no tension. It was as though in the relative darkness, we saw each other. He was kind in those moments, which made the horrible ones even more painful.
There were nights when he would ask me if I wanted to go nightcrawling. We would gather up the necessities, a good flashlight with fresh batteries, a bucket, several handfuls of wet dirt. Out on the moist lawn, I was tasked with shining the flashlight beam and holding the white plastic bucket while he grabbed hold of the earthworms before they shimmied back into the warm, dark earth.
There’s a technique to nightcrawling, you have to be so quick…good hand-eye coordination is key. We filled our bucket with the squirming, fleshy worms and placed a snug lid, complete with air holes, on top to keep them for fishing the next day.
I remember many nights of nightcrawling, but so very few days of fishing. Perhaps I didn’t get invited on those fishing trips. I only remember the nights prior, the nights when I was his helper. When I was good enough and he went easy on me. Nights when I hoped that he would come to see that I was a good girl. That I was good enough.
But, those nights didn’t last. In the light of day, I was no longer his helper, his right hand, his companion.
When the sun rose, I was stupid, lazy, and fat. My name was no longer Nichole, Babe, or Hon, it became Idiot, Dumbfuck, Moron and a slew of others.
He never hesitated to lay me bare in the daytime.
In the day, he probably hated his life. In the evenings, when regret kicked in, he was softer, more able to see me, to pull me in.
If he had been consistently mean, I could have disengaged, written him off as a horrible human being, devoid of any redeeming qualities.
But, it wasn’t that simple.
None of it was that simple.
This post is linked up with the memoir prompt over at The Red Dress Club.