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Can’t Go Back

a memoir

I’m seven and like every weekend, I’m at my grandma Roberts’ house. I like my grandma’s house; it is the prettiest on the block! My grandma loves flowers. She has flowers everywhere in her yard— pink ones, purple ones— I don’t know all of their names, but she has a lot of roses too. And they smell so good! My grandpa shapes the bushes in the front of the house to look like spirals. All of the colors are really pretty; everything is always perfect, like in a magazine. Last summer she won a contest for the most beautiful yard. And she’s nice. She’s always smiling and joking with me.

My grandpa is a truck driver for Patrick Cudahy. He brought me my first Cabbage Patch—  that’s a new doll that just came out. He was out driving his truck and when he stopped at the store, he got me the last one. Her name is Cristina. My grandpa gets me whatever I want. I just have to ask.  He is nice too. He smiles at me all of the time. And he always tells me how smart I am, how pretty I am, and what a good girl I am.

Today it’s just one of those summer weekend days. So hot, you can see heat waves in mid-air. We were working in the garden earlier today and now my grandma is  letting me water the flowers out front. All summer it’s been hot and there hasn’t been much rain. That’s why I’m watering her flowers. I love playing with the hose because it’s fun. I like to stick my finger in the hole and watch which way the water goes. Sometimes, it goes out to the sides; sometimes, it looks like a waterfall. Sometimes, I can even see rainbows!

 I’m glad to be playing with the water. I’m spraying my toes. There is a boy is coming by me with a mustard-orange paper news sack. He isn’t much older than me. I wonder how he got a job.

“Hey, Girl!”

“What!”

“Can I get a drink out of that hose?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I said no.”

I don’t know him. This is my grandma’s water! He can go get his own!

*****

I’m twenty-one and just like when I was a kid, I am on my way to my grandma Roberts’ house on Saturday. I like to stop by in the morning before my grandparents leave because they are always on the go, usually rummaging. It looks like I made it on time. My grandma just cooked. She takes Amelia, my daughter, into my uncle Meko’s old room, which is now the second sitting room and my grandpa and I sit in the kitchen eating. He, like always, is reading the paper and eating sausage with a spoon. We’re just talking about normal stuff. He’s telling me not to pinch the baby— whatever that means. He’s from down South; he says a lot of stuff, a lot of expressions I don’t understand. Then he tells me something I never ever thought I’d hear him say…

“Keysh, I was watching you one day out the window and, whew, you were just the meanest little girl! I was watching you cause you was watering the flowers out front by y’self. Some little boy came an’ asked if he could get a little sip of that water and you just said “no”. It had to be the hottest day of the year. An’ it wasn’t any reason why you shouldn’t have given him none. I just shook my head and laughed to myself. You sho’ was a mean little girl.”

“Oh my God, Grandpa! I never knew you saw that. I always feel bad about that- still ‘till this day. But I told him ‘no’ cause my other grandma would have told me not to share. She was funny like that. I’m so embarrassed that you know!”

My throat is tight. It was almost impossible to say what I just said. I almost leapt out of this seat and now I feel warm. I feel like a child does when they have been caught doing something wrong. I am so shocked that my grandpa knows! I am dying! Why didn’t he ever say anything? Why didn’t he yell out of the window to share? This could’ve saved me some guilt! I always thought he thought I was an angel. Now I know he always thought I was horrible and he actually witnessed my most guilty moment. I’m going to pretend that ‘Melia and I have somewhere to go so I can get out of here. I’m so ashamed.

The only thing that has kept me at peace is that I thought the shame was only mine. I have never told a soul. But all these years it wasn’t a secret; my grandpa knew and he probably told everyone.  To think that he thinks me any less than perfect is really harsh. It’s already bad enough that God knows. You know how somewhere in the Bible it says if your neighbor asks you for something give him twice of what he asks cause that it might be Jesus? Well, this boy could’ve been Jesus and I’ve caused him to be dehydrated. I’m going to hell!

******

I am twenty-eight and I realize that little boy may not even remember me. My grandpa still thinks I’m fabulous. I did not hurt Jesus. I’m just a regular mom. I run back and forth from ballet class to basketball class, oh, and back and forth to my own classes. I have a son in addition to Amelia now; we call him Dede. Because of what I’ve done, I teach my kids to be compassionate. That’s all I can do. I can’t go back.