January 1996

It’s late at night when I leave. She is in her room, sound asleep. She
didn’t wake up when her mother hurled the coffee table at me and told me to get out, now.

She is not even two years old.

September 1996

She is in the back, buckled into her car seat. We smile at each other in
the rearview mirror. I have just picked her up from preschooL. I start the car, but when I try to back out, her mother’s red SUV pulls up behind me. Before I can think to lock the doors, her mother is leaning into my car, unbuckling her and tugging her out, aLL the while cursing me-for what, I’m not sure. For leaving the marriage, still? For telling her I no longer loved her? For hiring a lawyer to draw up a separation agreement?

She is crying now, reaching out for me.

June 1997

She is sitting on the floor, watching a Thomas the Tank Engine video and
snacking on Cheerios. We are in my new place, a tiny upstairs apartment in a cottage on the grounds of a much larger home. It’s where the horse groomer, or perhaps the gardener, used to live: one smaLL bedroom with a twin bed, walls covered with paneling.

A car pulls up, wheels over gravel. We hear a door slam, then someone
stomping up the stairs. It’s her mother, banging on the door, shouting out that I am an adulterer. We’ve been separated for a year and a half, and I just started dating someone, but the woman lives in Colorado so we only see each other once a month.

She looks up at me, her eyes wide. The banging and screaming continue. She opens her mouth and the wet Cheerios tumble out.

Read the full story: Buck Off Magazine

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