Arms and Hands

Kyle said it was his hand that had pulled the trigger.

I held my boy on my lap, my arms embracing his. “Junior was this close to being hit,” I said, failing to gesture with my hands.

“You should have seen the blood guzzle out of his head, like crude oil overflowing from a cracked pipe.”

I covered Junior’s ears. This wasn’t supposed to be about Kyle’s daddy.

“You know, the sensation that part of your body is not your own? There are people who swear by that feeling all their lives.”

Yes, I remembered such a feeling – only once or twice – before realizing that it had just been a dream. That one time when I grabbed one hand with the other and threw it across the bed. It felt like I was grabbing someone else’s hand that at the same time was my hand, so that when I woke up I was surprised to find both hands still there.

I squinted at the walls of our living room, each one equally white and bright. The slits of daylight shining through the vertical blinds added nothing to the uninterrupted glare of the barren walls.

I wanted to escape the memories of Kyle’s past, or the memories of his memories in my mind. He would blurt them out at odd times, generating uninvited images in my head. They did violence to me, so that I could feel the terror of a scream imploding, with no one else to hear, where even shutting my eyes felt unsafe.

“We really ought to hang some pictures up,” I said softly, now rocking Junior with a loosened grip. I thought of family photos, with their eternal grins.

“Maybe you’re right.” Kyle grazed the top of my head with his hand as he passed towards the opposite wall, softly skimming its surface with his fingers. “But when I touch the naked wall like this, it feels so cool.” Not like his daddy’s fury. Daddy used to shout, stop making my blood boil.

I lifted Junior from under his arms, gently placing him on the floor. He held one arm out towards his daddy, stretched out straight, but limp at the wrist. Kyle failed to take his hand, just as he had failed that very morning. “He’s still just a baby,” I whispered, recalling the horror of the screeching tires and my body gripped in terror, as the car just missed him by inches. I thought that Kyle had him by the hand as they crossed the busy street intersection, while I trailed behind. But when I raised my eyes up, Kyle had his arms folded while Junior wobbled ahead.

Kyle stared at Junior’s wrist, gripping his own tightly behind his back. “Wrists can be bent backwards or forward.” He had told me in the past that when his daddy wasn’t around, he would practice, to see how far he could bend them, to get them stronger and ready, for the next time.

“An arm can take on a life of its own.”

And that’s what he had told the court.

I watched Kyle as he stared at Junior arching his shoulders, swinging his arms freely.

He pushed back the black-rimmed glasses from his sweating nose, which failed to keep back the flames that seemed to flash from his eyes.

This was after all, about his daddy. Ignoring the sensation of panic rising within me, I asked. I had to be sure. “I know you’ve told me the story of that awful night before. But when your Aunt testified in detail about what she saw your daddy do that night, was she right? Was it really that bad?” I asked, instantly recognizing the answer in the way Kyle senior stood several feet away from Kyle Junior, stepping back further as Junior reached for him with his fingertips. I couldn’t remember the last time he had picked up or held his son.

Together, we watched Junior lean forward, swinging his arms around in circles. And in that moment of unrestrained freedom I couldn’t help but remember my own version of that violent night.

A young boy yanked off the bunk bed. Yanked by one arm and slammed into the floor.

One arm yanked. Body slammed against the floor.

Yanked by the arm. Body slammed.

Maybe the little boy saw his arm fly across the room after his face smashed against the hard wood floor. The arm was no longer his.

The movement of Junior’s arms appeared random, prodding him clumsily forward. Kyle grabbed under one arm, and then the other as my boy’s feet shuffled off the floor. I cried out – from fright or relief – I’m still not sure.

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