Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cracks at the Heart of the World


The fears and loves of my life are defined by cracks: the ones my father has always made in the air around him, the ones in my own mind. 

When I was fifteen and he was in one of his tirades, I ran to my room, broke a bottle of cologne, and cut myself twice on the arm with one of the shattered pieces. I remember feeling happy at the sight of the blood and the terror in my parents’ faces.

My loves: the museum where I work, its broken pieces of ancient and medieval art. Paul, whose marriage shattered a long time ago but can’t be discarded, whose daughter is broken and needs the glue only both her parents can provide.

When Paul told me he was married, I went home and broke a set of wine glasses. But I stayed with him because he was my best hope for mending myself.

My father is dying, and I don’t know how I feel about it.

I sit by his bed in the hospital with my mother, holding her hand, marveling at how her love for him has never wavered in spite of his difficult ways. I think about Paul’s love for his daughter. And I wonder whether I will ever be able to love that way.

I see the breath trickling from my father’s lips, and suddenly it is as if something is escaping from him and flowing into me. I remember his stories about Vietnam. I feel their underbelly: the horrors he experienced and could never forget. I remember how he hated his job but kept at it to support my mother and me. I feel strength, sacrifice, love. I feel that my father is showing me how to survive.

Will it be enough? Enough to help me survive, too? If this is his legacy to me, I must accept it. I must forgive him, Paul, myself—and learn to love unselfishly. To mend my own cracks.



This was written for the Trifecta Challenge. This week’s challenge was the following definition:




  1. So raw and visceral Elaine. And how the cracks are there, a part of our lives that we feel so physically but aren't visual to the human eye. Beautiful (and painful) piece to read. Nice work.

  2. I agree with Amy--very raw, and intense. Great job.

  3. Very touching ! Loved it :)
    The despair and the strength to overcome it, they are definitely legacies worth inheriting !

  4. Elaine, this is so subtly written so its power sneaks up on the reader. The fears feel sharp-edged, all the more so when compared to the soft-focus of her loves. Really well done (as always).