These wooden benches are funny. It’s hard to get comfortable. Not to mention these clothes. I don’t know why my mother insisted on putting this tie around my neck. I tug at it, but she gives me a glare. I put my hands back in my lap.
This guy has been talking forever. He’s standing up at the front of the room with a microphone. I haven’t actually been paying attention, but it seems boring. Oh thank goodness, he’s sitting down now.
What are we doing? Everyone is pulling out books now. A woman starts playing the old piano in the corner. It is a little out of tune.
The melody starts low, a few chords. But then it builds higher, notes nudging in next to each other. Sweet. Everyone around me takes a breath and joins in chorus. I’m not familiar with the words.
But- It’s strange. Like a swelling inside me. Like light. It fills my head, my chest, my toes tingle.
The song ends. The man at the front stands back up. I sit, puzzled at the sensation.
Soon my mother takes my hand and leads me from the building. Dad is carrying Gracie. The whole car ride home I stare out the window wondering.
A number of weeks went by. We didn’t return to the building with the funny seats and the decrepit piano.
I tried to avoid talking to my parents. They always seemed to be in a bad mood. Their faces were hard. Hands always clenched.
Another week passed. One morning I opened the door of my room and walked out into the kitchen. As my ears began to wake up, and I rubbed the fog from my eyes, I was confused by the scene in front of me.
Mom had Gracie on her hip, and a bag over her other arm. Were we going on a trip? Her eyes looked wet.
Dad was across the counter, both fists pressing into its surface. His face was cast down and he wouldn’t meet my mother’s stare.
I watched in silence. One long minute passed. Then she turned, keys in hand. The door shut behind her. She never walked through it again.
I’d go to see her and Gracie sometimes, at a new house. Dad would pull up to the driveway and let me get out of the car, but he would never come in.
I turned to him on one of the rides. “Dad?”
He kept his eyes on the red light. “Yes, John?”
“Are we ever going to go back to that place where the people were singing?”
“That building with the wooden benches. Are we ever going to go back there?”
He took a long breath. “No, John. We are not going back there.”