Excerpted from ‘Remembering to Forget’, a journal by Beverly Figueroa
Runaway train and the friendly stranger
The runaway rides the train again…….she’s still in Brooklyn. She is tired, very tired; so she falls asleep only to be suddenly jolted awake to realize that she’s lost. She finds herself on 14th Street in Manhattan. So she gets off the train and hurries over to the other side of the platform to get back to Brooklyn, familiar ground.
She unwittingly boards the wrong train, jumping on the first one approaching the station. She wasn’t sure why she did that, just that she usually felt uneasy about staying still. It was an impulsive and wrong move on her part, but she just felt better being on a moving train. At least it was taking her somewhere far from home, anywhere was better than being home, or near ‘him’.
She was trying to make sense of the wall map when a tall, hispanic looking man approached her and starting talking to her. She felt immediately unnerved by him. He had dark black hair, and a big, black bushy mustache. He looked a little scary. He seemed friendly enough, but she still felt uneasy. But she dispelled these concerns quickly, doubting her inner warning bell as just her intrinsic sense of distrust for people in general. He asks her where she wants to go. She confesses to him that she is lost (big mistake, little girl of 16) and offers to help her. And although she senses that something is amiss, she does not heed the warning of that inner voice and follows the stranger instead……
She realized her terrible mistake and the strangers’ bad intentions when he tried to kiss her. She said “no” very timidly, almost in a whisper, afraid that he would get angry. Her voice was trembling, as she fought the desire to cry and tried to assert herself, telling him that she wanted to leave. But he wasn’t having it. His voice took on a different tone, as he pulled out a very large kitchen knife, seemingly out of thin air. He urged her to keep quiet and do as he said, and gently stroked the tip of the blade across her throat, gesturing what he would do to her if she didn’t comply. He whispered instructions for her to follow into her ear, warning her that he would kill her. She knew at that moment, that her first instincts about him were right. She had to get herself out of there somehow, otherwise, she would not live to see 17.
I write this letter to let you know that I now understand why your eyes always looked so pained. I understand why those beautiful eyes always seemed to be welled-up with tears. I know why you always seemed so sad, and that’s because you were-deep inside you were always hurting. You suffered in silence all those years, and never told a soul. But I understand now, because I have read your story.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommies in the universe. Let us try to cherish our moms in the universe of which we physically exist, for physical existence is but a temporary state. I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Mommy, of whom no longer walks this earth. I am thankful for the time I got to spend with her during the last two years of her life, because those were the moments of clarity and understanding, and also the time I realized that I was wrong about so many things, for many years prior. And I learned just how strong my mom was and how much she sacrificed for me and my brother. I learned of these things very late and lost so many years in the process. My intention was not meant to be deliberately hurtful. I only wanted to escape the dysfunction of our household. I just wanted normalcy-that’s all I ever wanted. But I hurt mom in the process of trying to get that. And I will never get back those lost years. But still, I am so thankful for the last two I got to spend with you, Mommy. Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy and I am so sorry for all that you went through. I am sorry for all the displaced blame, because I know now to whom it rightfully belonged, and I want you to know that I place it appropriately today. I know now that you did your very best with the hand dealt and you had no guidance or help. Now I see all of this, and I am sorry for being so blind. I cherish now and always those, our last moments together, those last two years we got to rekindle our relationship and get to know each other as Mommy and Daughter; and those years are now stored as my special memories of and in the heart.
This day May 8th, Mother’s Day of 2016, must not pass without wishing Happy Birthday to my dear brother, of whom would be 54 years old, if he stIill walked this earth today. If he were here, I would tell him how sorry I was for not being such a good sister to him. I would ask of his forgiveness and understanding, because there were reasons untold for everything. Perhaps I didn’t know why back then but I always had conviction in my heart to follow my instincts. I was not there for you and I punish myself daily with guilt over this. At the same time, I know in my heart that I followed the correct path. For life had plans for me and if I took the path you asked of me back then, I may well have missed my calling in life, as I see it so clearly today. If you were here before me today, dear brother, I would ask forgiveness and understanding that I did the right thing. Your death being within just days of my 41st birthday, has cast a spell of bittersweet melancholy with each passing year, as I am reminded of your untimely departure. I saw you just the night before. I held your hand as we walked the hospital hallways together. I feel your hand in mind and I remember feeling as though everything was going to be ok. I left you that night with the promise of seeing you again the following day, knowing in my heart that everything would be ok. But things weren’t ok. You were gone before I made it back. And I know you tried to wait for me, because you passed just moments before I got there-just moments. My anger resurfaces every time I think of all the suffering you endured in life and in death and I just can’t fathom it; I don’t understand it and it pains me to think on it too much. I have to dispel the thoughts and let it go in order to function in daily life. I didn’t appreciate you enough when you were here, Lou. I am sorry for that. My mind and heart were clouded with pain, anger and frustration of our family life. I couldn’t see past that. And so, as I do every year this time, I reach out to you via the universe to tell you how much I miss you and appreciate you now, albeit too late. I love you dearly and I look forward to when you visit me in my dreams.