The writing prompt was: write about someone who left. And so I did. I don’t know the specifics of Ruth’s history, and I never met Ruth–she died before I was born. Ruth’s story is a fiction of facts, but not of suffering. So, here it is. The story, as I wrote it. . .
She had been captivated by this moment for a long time. Gripped by it, engulfed in it, completely identified with it. This desire and lust and ecstasy that helped her block out the reality of who she was. The wife of a cold, staunch dairyman. Trapped on a modest farm in depression-era, nowhere Kansas. With five kids under the age of ten, whom she didn’t know how to love.
She married this man to get out from under the weight of her own charismatic father’s sensual body. Out from under a relationship that filled her with shame, loathing, self-hatred, anger, Fear. Jöran was different. Upright. Loyal. Hardworking. Respectful. But she felt no warmth, no love for him. With him she felt old, tired, faded, hollow, empty.
But now, Tommy. She was drawn to him as iron filings are drawn to a magnet, a moth to a flame. Rugged, handsome, cocky, not-quite-clean shaven, sweet-talking, dangerous, smelling of sweat and earth. His thick Scottish brogue attracted her like a fly to butter.
Her father was Scotch-Irish and she missed the fire in his eyes, the wit of his tongue. Tommy brought that alive in her. Touched a deep yearning. “Ruth, maybe this time.” . . . The words blew through her mind but she didn’t hear them. So secret, so buried was the desire to awaken from the nightmare and relieve the pyre of suffering her father had ignited in her. Her father. The man she loved so fiercely.
So fiercely she could bear to think of leaving her small children to run away with this hired hand. So fiercely she could turn away from the rubble of the violent explosion he had unleashed upon her family. So fiercely she could dismiss from her heart the pleading eyes of her four boys and daughter who had been cruelly, drunkenly abused and molested by this man she craved with such passion. So fiercely she could abandon her own flesh and blood, impregnated with seeds, not of their choosing. Seeds of shame, loathing, self-hatred, anger, Fear. So fiercely she could lock away that knowledge behind walls and walls and walls of self-protection she had built up to keep her soft heart from being crushed under the trauma she had suffered from men who had abused her in exactly the same fashion.
So fiercely. She left. She ran. With only a satchel of clothes and her two youngest. My dad and his two brothers, she left behind. And then she had babies with this man. Innocent babies who carried in them seeds, not of their choosing. Seeds of abuse, betrayal and vicious, out-of-control destruction.
All these seeds were planted, and they sprouted a world of pain and suffering. Created a vortex of confusion, agony and grasping that swirled through a wounded family. All of this. From the magnetic attraction of two wounded, disturbed human beings. An attraction that unleashed waves of violations and violence into a family that, two and three generations later, includes hundreds of people. Like the nuclear reaction in an atomic bomb, expelling its energy explosively upon innocents. From the initial shock blast, to the caustic mushroom cloud of deadly radiation billowing out in all directions, we are still recovering. Even ‘til today. Some never will.