We were in a car, my sister and I both passengers in the front seat. Were either of us wearing a seatbelt? I’m not sure.
He drove in silence as he usually does, or did. We sat beside him close but a world away. On we went, moving forward in forgettable silence. It wasn't until the car began to accelerate rapidly that I remembered where I was.
The increased pressure on the gas pedal was matched by hands gripping the steering wheel with such vengeance that his nails would have pierced the synthetic leather cover were they not so carefully and closely manicured - a Sunday afternoon ritual he never missed.
As is often the case*, I wasn’t sure where we were, or where we were going. We must have been in a developed country because the roads were completely free of potholes, so well maintained were they that if I wanted to, I could have fallen into a peaceful slumber and not be rudely awakened every few seconds by the front car wheel dropping into a crater.
We were going faster now, and the highway that at first seemed to stretch out forever now had a feeling of finality, though unseen. The fields on either side now a green smear.
Without warning, his shoulders jerked right, the left one more so, the way someone does when a piece of sweet music hits them and they can’t help but move as the beat leads. Except there was no music, only the sounds of my increasing heavy panicked breath.
Everything moved quickly after this.
The shoulder was the preemptive move of him taking the car, and us in it, off the road and onto what seemed like soft grass but was in fact rocky gravel. The tires would have spun out of control were it not for the assured grip of those determined hands steering the car towards the concrete building in the distance ahead.
It was as if my sister was not there at all. She sat unmoving, unnoticing, unbothered.
Everything was going haywire and I was the only person who realized.
My voice broke the silence.
No! No, no! No, stop! Father wait, stop!!
I reached left towards him, and across my sister’s body. Though I could have, I didn’t reach far enough to touch him. If I did it would have been to grab his hands, or to shove him and wake him from his crazed trance.
This it what it's like just before it's all over.
I reached a little bit more but stopped.
Why do the most absurd refrains come to us at the most inopportune times?
A scripture from the Bible that I’ve never read myself, not in its entirety at least. Instead I learned by rote those verses that serve the interests of teachers, parents, older siblings. Tools used to keep the littler people in their place. Warnings of consequences, abominations. Rewards and punishments awaiting us.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Obey . Don’t question. Don’t object.
What do do? The building was feet away. This is how It ends?
The sound of a train horn interrupted my indecision and I opened my eyes and hear another horn blow. 6:15am. The train tracks are not far enough away from my Northern California homestay.
I remembered where I was. Where I am. Away. Alone. Alive.
*Every now and then I have an extremely vivid, oftentimes traumatic and very lifelike dream that involves my father attempting to kill me or one of my sisters. Each time I wake up feeling very shaken, and slightly guilty. I had the first such dream when I was about 15 years old and over a decade later they continue. I don't know why I keep dreaming in this way. My father was never abusive towards us, at least not physically. Verbally, maybe, sometimes, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing worth mentioning.