A Daughter's Journey - Poem by Portia Lane
A Daughter's Journey
She didn't want the conversation to end; though they had discussed most of what she wanted. It had gone so well and she had so many questions. And so many things to tell him. She wanted to catch up on his life and to catch him up on hers. She really wanted to know how'd he been. What more could he tell her so that she could understand him better? She hadn't had a real conversation with him since she was 14; It was a conversation that she wanted to disappear from her memory. She wanted to get to know the man he had become since then. She realized though that now wasn't the best time. "Baby steps", she told herself as she looked at him. "This is the beginning. No need to push it." He must have noticed her struggling to find a way to say they'd talked for long enough. Smiling, he looked at her and asked, "Can I have a hug? "
She stood and as he approached to wrap his arms around her, she closed her eyes and hugged him back. It had been at least 2 years since they had last embraced and even in the years before that, she cringed inside as she reluctantly allowed him to hug her. She never hugged him back and whenever she'd allow him to, she felt her stomach in her throat. Today, though, she hadn't felt anything. In fact, she felt better than she had in a long time. She didn't want to let go, but she knew if she didn't she might begin to cry. She stepped back— and holding in her tears— she exhaled and smiled at him.
Twice he had reached for his cigarettes; twice she had asked him to wait. He did.
"I'll wait ‘till I get home just for you. We leaving now? " he asked.
"Well, I was thinking about making you walk." she said jokingly.
"That's not nice." That was his favorite line. She remembered him saying it all the time when she was younger.
"I'm just kidding." she said grinning. She quickly realized that she couldn't remember the last time she smiled in his presence, let alone joked.
As they walked back to the car she couldn't help but wonder— could one conversation really erase 15 years of pain and heartache? Was this real? Was she awake? She reached for her keys and unlocked the doors to her car. As she reached for the handle, she raised her head to the clear blue sky and whispered, "Thank you Jehovah."
She had been praying off and on for the past two hours. She prayed for courage, for the right words, for a tranquil spirit. She begged that God would keep him calm as she told him what she had long to tell him for years. She petitioned that whatever happened would bring her a least a little relief from the pain she'd been feeling for now more than half her life. He had answered her prayer. All of them, and for that he deserved to be thanked.
As they approached his new apartment, her father said with a tear in his throat, "I feel so good. I've been waiting for you to talk to me. You told me a few months ago that you were going to write me a letter, when I didn't get it, I stayed up thinking about what you wanted to say. Sometimes I couldn't bare to eat when I thought about it. I'm so glad you came to me. I knew you would. I hoped you would. I just didn't know when. You just don‘t know…" He stopped there. She could hear the genuineness in his voice and again wanted to cry, but didn't.
As she pulled up to the side-walk, he had already pulled out his cigarette. She smiled. He just couldn't wait, but she appreciated that he had respected her wishes. After he got out he leaned back into the car.
"Can I have a kiss." she turned, signaling for him to kiss her cheek. He did.
"I love you." he said. This surprised her, not because of what he said. He always told her that he loved her (and she felt sick each time.) What surprised her is that this time she wanted to tell him she loved him too. Before she could make up her mind to tell him or not, he closed the door and said,
"Bye." She said smiling.
As she drove off, she imagined telling him that she loved him. She realized that, though for years she had denied it, she had in fact continued to love him despite how she felt about him. Even during the years she had spent feeling as though she truly hated him, she thought, she loved him. She could no longer deny it and surprising even herself, she didn't want to.
She had only driven a block from his home when the first tear fell. Once it reached her cheek, she couldn't stop the rest from joining it. She cried for about five minutes before she finally stopped.
She quickly realized that she didn't want to go home. She wanted be alone with her thoughts. Immediately, she drove towards the Marina. She was only ten minutes away. As she pulled into the parking stall, she thought that she couldn't have chosen a better place to go. It was a clear day and the waves were tranquil. She could see the bay bridge in front of her and San Francisco to her right. She knew that as the sun fell the sight would be even more beautiful. The scenery only added to her joy.
As soon as she parked, she sent a quick text to her second mother. It read, "It's over… It went like I wanted. I told my side. He told his. We both understand.4 the 1st time in 8 years I didn't feel sick when he hugged me. I cried after. Only Jehovah knows the weight of the load He just took from me. Love you."
When she decided to tell her dad she wanted to talk, the first person she called was Ari. She knew her mom was working, but she didn't know Ari was as well. Ari's mom answered the phone. Even after talking to Ari's mom, who's advice she appreciates just as much, she still needed to talk to her. Justine didn't know her like Ari did. She didn't know their history like Ari did. So despite her best effort, she couldn't help calm her nerves like Ari could.
Ari called her back a few minutes later. Only Jehovah could have been behind that, she thought. She spoke to Ari as she drove to her dad's place. Panicked, she told her what she was about to do and listened as she gave the always appreciated advice. She loved Ari. She knew that despite the fact that they didn't talk as much as they did when she was younger, Ari would always be there for her.
Her thoughts moved from how much she loved Ari to how much she wanted to remember this day. She never wanted to forget the way she was feeling. She wanted to somehow document it. She smiled as she realized she had documented in some form or another, each of her big moments. Most of the time she wrote a poem; This time however, she felt that a poem would be too much work. She didn't want to worry about format, rhythm, rhyming or metaphors. Despite her best efforts she could never just forget about those things when she wrote poetry. So today she decided to write a recap. She would write the story of their relationship. What she remembered about their relationship during her childhood, the years they went without sharing one, and the new found hope she had of building it.
She pulled out her lap—top, which she always carried with her in case she was inspired to write a poem. Next, she put on her headphones, and after taking a deep breath, she began to write all that had gone wrong.
She titled the first section, My Childhood. Before she started she thought it would be best to introduce herself, her parents, and to briefly summarize what she planned to write. It read…
My name is Amarie Beatrice Chambers. I was born March 4th 1990 in Richmond, Ca to 17 year old Michelle Johnson and 19 year old Michael Chambers. This is a chronicle of our lives together and apart, the good and the bad. More specifically, this is the journey of a daughter back into the arms of her father.
my earliest memory
He blasted through the front door more furious than I think I had ever seen him. We were sleeping on the living room floor of my aunts apartment. I was lying next to my little brother MC (His real name is Michael, after my father.) He was just five at the time, and I was two years older. Before I could understand what was happening I saw him charge for my mother who was lying next to us. Much of the details of what followed are a blur, but I will write what I remember. The next thing I see is my aunt running from the back of the house to the living room. She immediately jumped on my dad in an attempt to dislodge him from my mother. Once he released her, she yelled to me to take my little brother to the back room and lock the door. Tears streaming down my face, I grabbed him and dragged him to the room. I shut and locked the door as my mom commanded. As I held my brother I told him that I was there with him. I told him that everything would be okay and that he was safe with me. I choked out in between tears the same thing over and over again. To comfort him and to convince myself that I was right.
Outside the door I could hear bodies banging against the walls. I could hear yelling. There was anger and fear in my mother's voice as they argued and fought. I closed my eyes trying not to imagine the scene on the other side, but as I closed them I could only imagine my father on top of my mother, hitting her or choking her. I gasped at the thought that he might… Before I could finish the thought I heard them rumbling down the hall. Again their bodies crashing into the wall. I clenched MC even tighter between my arms.
I don't know how much time had past, but the rumbling eventually stopped and now all I could hear were the sounds of blows and yelling. I can remember my father's voice distinctly, it was less angry and more fearful. My mother's tone was now more angry than fearful. I let go of MC and told him to stay in the room. I unlocked the door and walked out trembling, not knowing what I was going to see. When I reached the back room I saw my mother and aunt on top of my father somehow punching him and holding him down at the same time.
My father was 6' 4" and at least 220 pounds at the time. My was mother was a whole foot shorter and at least 80 pounds lighter. And my aunt was only a few inches taller than my mother. How had they managed to get control aver him?
When my mom realized I was watching she yelled at me to go back to my room. Tears still streaming from my eyes, I ran back to the room with MC. He wasn't crying anymore, but from the expression on his face I could tell that he was still afraid. I grabbed him again. We sat and listened to the yelling continue for a few moments more. Then, we heard footsteps coming from the back, hurriedly passing the room we were in. the weight of each step moved me to believe it was my father. The door opened and slammed shut soon after.
I jumped up and ran to the living room. My mom looking out of the window. She was looking at my father. He was cursing at her and threatening her, and I could see blood covering one of his eyes. My mom didn't notice that I was beside her, or maybe she did, but was still caught in the moment. When she did eventually realized it, she hugged me. From there I don't remember how the rest of the night went, but I know that I will never forget the relief I felt to see that she was okay.
She had spent a long time trying to come up with a more pleasant first memory, but this is all she could conjure. It saddened her when she realized that the first memory she ha of her dad, was so scary. As she reread the account, tears swelled in her eyes. She wondered if she could really continue to retell their story. She knew that more painful memories were yet to come and that it would hurt to recount them. She decided that she would continue writing. It was a journey she felt she needed to take. It would help her work through the pain he caused her then and would allow her to begin to see him for who he is now. After making the decision to continue, she decided it would probably be better to take a break so she could release some of the tension she felt.
She decided to get out of the car to listen to the waves. The sun had gone down and as she predicted, the scenery was beautiful. The Bay bridge was lit up. She scanned it for cars. Though from this distance, especially without her glasses, she knew she wouldn't see any. She then gazed at the city lights that illuminated San Francisco. She hated being in the city, but from this distance she was able to enjoy it.
As the wind began to pick up, chill bumps raised on her arms. She wasn't cold, she told herself, hoping that she could trick her brain. She didn't want to get back in the car, but she didn't have a jacket, and the frigid air was beginning to get to her. Fine, she decided reluctantly, and sat back in her car. She wasn't ready to start writing again, but she wasn't ready to go home either.
It was getting darker. She knew that if her mom knew she were out here she'd be angry. It didn't matter that she was sitting in the car with the doors locked, or that their were other people doing the same. She was 22, a girl, and alone, which made her a prime victim.
She started her engine and tried to figure out where she was heading. Maybe to Ari's house. It was getting late though and she had her meeting in the morning. If she went over there she wouldn't want to leave and would pay for it later. She then realized that she still hadn't told her mom any of what happened. She knew her destination. Burlington Coat Factory.
Her mom worked today from 2: 00pm to 9: 30pm. She didn't know what time she took her break, but she hoped she would catch her right before, so they could spend the whole of her break discussing what happened.
There was a stall a few cars away from where her mom parked. Seeing her car there was good news. That meant she hadn't left for her break, which she did sometimes. When Amarie reached the entrance she turned for the customer service station where she knew her mom usually worked. She scan the station, but her mom wasn't there. Hoping she may have just gone in the back for a moment, she stood by the station, anticipating her appearance. After a minute or two, sad that she hadn't spotted her, she walked off. She decided that she would walk the store and see if she could find her. After asking a co—worker if she'd seen her mom didn't help much. The coworker didn't even know who she was, which surprised Amarie because she figured everyone would know her mom.
Michelle was a really sweet person. Though, like any mother she had her moments, for the most part she was wonderful. Everyone seemed to like her. Not just because she was beautiful or because her smile could brighten any room, but because she was patient, amiable, genuine, compassionate, and respectful. (Amarie especially appreciated her patience.) She was the type of person people wanted to be around; the type of person many of us wished we could be.
Amarie walked around the entire store then asked another employee if her mom was around. The lady said she was on her break. A little disappointed that she was too late, she walked out and to the store next door waste a little time. She bought a comb and walked back over to Burlington. Out of no where, her bladder felt as if were going to burst. Just as she was leaving the restroom, her mother was walking in. she greeted her with an extended embrace. She hadn't hugged her mom like that in a while. It felt good. Her mom was happy to see her and she was likewise. Joanna asked how long she had been there. Fifteen minutes had gone by since she came in the first time. Her mom then asked why she hadn't asked that they page her. She told her that she didn't even think about it, then kicked herself for not thinking to.
Still surprised to see her, her mom asked why she had stopped by. Amarie explained that she had talked to her dad earlier and wanted to tell her about it.
Her mom, in her high pitched squeaky voice said, "Really? " Amarie said yea, then explained what about and how the conversation went. She could tell her mom was happy for her. When she was done explaining, her mom asked if she gave him a hug after. Amarie wasn't surprised that she asked her, though she was the only person who would think to ask her. Amarie said yea and explained that she didn't get sick that time.
They didn't have much time to talk about it because her mom had to get back to work, but she was satisfied with what they were able to talk about. She gave her mom another hug and said goodbye. She left her mom in an even better mood than when she arrived. This day had turned out better than any that she'd had in a while.
After leaving the parking lot she went to grab a quick bite from In'N'Out, then headed home. Once home she said hi to her brothers then escaped to her room. She was ready to write some more.
She sat on her bed and opened her laptop. She sat for a long time trying to figure out what she would write next. Would she write another memory? Which one? The plan was to keep the accounts in chronological order so she knew she'd have to write about something in that same time period. What though? Perfect she thought.
"Are you bleeding? What happened? " he yelled concerned. He saw the blood that had soaked through my jacket sleeve.
My dad worked with cars. Often he'd take me and MC with him to the junk yard with him. That day he meant to be quick so he told me and my brother to stay in the car and wait for him. We did. That is until he took too long to come back to the truck. I got out and started looking around like I always did. There were broken down cars and scattered everywhere were car parts. As I walked around I saw a car whose front windshield was broken out. I still don't know why, but I decided to climb on the car to mess with the broken class that was still connected to the frame. I guess I can blame it on my age or my never ending curiosity.
Some point between climbing on the car and picking at the broken glass, I slit my wrist. The incision left a quarter of an inch of hanging flesh exposed. I don't remember the pains as much as I remember being afraid to show my dad. I knew that he would be angry. I covered my bleeding wrist with the sleeve of my jacket and hurried back to the truck. To this day I am baffled that it didn't hurt more than it had.
After I showed him my wrist he rushed me to the emergency room. My mom was already at the hospital. At the time I didn't know why, but I found out later that that day she'd had a miscarriage. Usually we'd have to wait hours in the waiting room, but because they felt my injury needed immediate attention, they skipped me to the top of the list.
My dad said that I would have to get stitches. As soon as he explained to me what that meant, I cried and begged him not to let them give them to me. The doctor looked at my wrist and confirmed that stitches would be necessary. At that point, I cried uncontrollably. I was inconsolable.
During my fit, my dad was able to contact my mom and tell her what happened. She wasn't able to come see me because she was still dealing with losing the baby… I screamed that I didn't want stitches and begged again that they didn't make me get them. Eventually, my dad said I didn't have to get them.
He spoke with the doctor and my mom, telling them that I didn't have to get them. And though neither the doctor nor my mom agreed with him, the acquiesced. The doctor told them how to wrap and take care of my wrist until it healed then we left the hospital.
This memory has lasted, I think, because that day my dad was my hero. He stuck up for me and didn't let them hurt me. That reasoning no longer holds up, now that I am older and realize that his decision could've had bad consequences. Now when I think of that day I don't remember him as my hero, rather as a father who didn't want to see his daughter in pain. He couldn't handle seeing me cry as I had. He wanted me to be okay. So he made sure that I was. Maybe not the wisest choice, but his motivation behind it is what will always stick out. He loved me, and that was his way of showing it.
It was now past 10: 00pm. After writing for an hour, she was tired and ready to go to bed. Ending on a positive note was a good idea. She saved what she'd had thus far, shutdown her laptop, and then left her room to tell her family goodnight. After kissing her baby brother she made her way back to her room. Shutting the door behind her, she entered, and then lay down. Today had been a good day, she thought. She said a prayer then closed her eyes.
The next day Amarie awoke refreshed. She checked the time on her phone. It was a little after seven. She couldn't believe it. Did she really sleep through the night? She continued to lie in be for ten minutes thinking about how well she felt. She kept asking herself. Am I actually happy? She'd think hard, trying to see if the depression she'd felt the entire winter season, was really gone. It was. She wasn't sad. She wanted to get up. She wanted to go into her mother's room and say good morning; to give her a hug and a kiss. She couldn't believe it. She wondered, though, how long this feeling of relief would last.
I don't think that I have mentioned it until now; in fact I'm sure I haven't. Amarie for years now has suffered from depression. It seemed to begin to take a toll on her, her sophomore year of high school and since then has escalated. It comes in bouts, usually around the winter time, though, she had spent the better part of 2009 and 2010 disheartened. I promise to explain why, later, and in more detail. Until then, know that since 2006 she had not spent one year without battling her depression.
She spent countless hours with various psychologists as they prodded her memories, attempting to dissect and extract the cause of her despondency. She's seen three different psychologists. She spoke with the first while still in high school.
Dr. Stein was a Caucasian woman probably in her mid 50's. She wore her glasses tight on the bridge of her nose and her shiny blonde hair fell right on top of her shoulders. She always spoke in a calm soothing voice. Amarie had asked to see her out of desperation, but once they were able to find a day that fit in both of their schedules, she wasn't really in the mood to talk anymore. It seemed that Dr. Stein could sense that their first meeting. On that first day, Amarie went to her office right after school. Looking around, she noticed that it was a bland office, nothing like what she was used to seeing in the movies. There were no stress balls, no comfy chairs, no where to lie down. In fact, the office was really small; just enough room for the two of them, a file cabinet and her desk. Amarie figured it was probably because she was a school psychologist, and they couldn't afford to give her a bigger space. Then she thought about the fact that tuition was 28,000 per year and decided they were just being cheap.
After a little small talk, the usual questions and answers; "How's school going? "
"It's going fine."
"What classes are you enjoying? "
"All of them. Mostly ceramics and English"
"Is junior year hard for you? "
"Some classes are harder than others. But it's not too bad so far though."
It felt almost awkward to talk to her about those things. They seemed so insignificant compared to what she was really there to talk about. And if she were to be truthful, the more they avoided the reason she was there, the more she wanted to bolt out of the office and not come back. She held it together, though, and eventually they began the dreaded conversation.
"Alrig ht. So is there anything specific you wanted to talk about or something you would like me to help you with? "
Amarie inhaled knowing it was her turn to talk, still debating whether she really wanted to talk about her father. Father, she thought. Did he even deserve that title? She shook the thought and began.
"Well, I don't actually know how to begin. I've never done this before and to be honest, I… well, I don't really like to talk about what I wanted to talk about…" Her voice trailed off.
"Don't worry, Amarie, first sessions are always a little uncomfortable. You don't know me and I know very little about you. It'll take a couple sessions I'm sure, but, our conversations will go a lot smoother. If you'd like I can ask you some questions so I can get to know you a little better. And maybe that'll break the ice a bit."
"Okay" Amarie responded, thankful that the pressure was off.
"Alright, how about you tell about your family. Do you live with both parents? Do you have any siblings? Are you the oldest or youngest? And anything else you want to add."
Was she reading her mind? How'd she know she wanted to talk about her family? I mean, she hadn't said one word about them. Its probably what everyone her age came in to talk about. That has to be it, because there's no way she read her mind…
"I live with my mom and two younger brothers. I have a younger sister but she lives with our dad and her mom. I'm the oldest."
"I'm the oldest in my family too. It can be a blessing and curse."
"Yea. I enjoy it for the most part, but it can be challenging. It's a lot of responsibility. I help my mom out a lot, especially since my dad isn't in the picture. And my brothers really look up to me. It's almost like I'm their second mom. I kind of see myself that way."
"How old are your brothers? "
"13 and 7."
"Do you get along pretty well? "
"Yea. Like I said, they're more like my kids than like my little brothers. Well, our relationship is more of parent child than brother sister. I guess that can be kind of hard for someone to understand, especially since I'm no that much older than either of them."
"If you wouldn't mind, maybe in one of our future sessions when can talk about how you think your relationship with your brothers has become a parent child relationship."
At the time, Amarie had no idea how to answer that question. She'd never thought about it before. It was just that way (that's just the way it was) and had been for as long as she could remember. She wouldn't realize why until a few years later.
"Sure" she replied still lost in thought.
"So earlier you mentioned that you live with your mom. How long have your parents been separated."
The question brought her back to the conversation.
"Officially for about two years I think. They've separated many times over the years. But I think this has been the longest and I'm pretty sure it's for good this time, or at least I hope so." Oops… she didn't mean to add that last part, or at least I hope so. Now she'd be asked about it and she still didn't feel ready to go that deep. She was just getting comfortable talking to Dr. Stein.
"Hmm. You mind explaining a little about why you hope they stay separated? I usually hear students talk about how they wish their parents would get back together."
"Well…" she paused as she sorted through possible responses. She wanted to answer the question as quickly and vaguely as possible. She really wasn't ready to dive into a full blown conversation about them yet.
"They didn't get along. It's better now that they're apart." Perfect. Now please read my mind and leave it alone.
"I see. Okay. Now I have a little background information about you and your family. Thank you for sharing that with me. Now I would like to know what moved you to ask for an appointment with me." Dr. Stein spoke as if she already knew the response that was coming.
Amarie hesitated before she began.
"I… um… well… To be honest, I'm not quite ready to talk about it. I know that doesn't make sense seeing as though I'm the one who asked to talk to you. I'm sorry. Now I feel like I've just wasted your time." Amarie exhaled with a sigh, and lowered her head. She wondered what Dr. Stein was thinking. Probably why in the world she'd asked to talk to her and then backed out of the conversation. She realized that the room was still silent. Dr. Stein hadn't responded yet. What was she waiting for. Oh goodness just say something already! She pleaded silently.
As if reading her mind for the second time, Dr. Stein spoke.
"You don't have to apologize Amarie. Don't worry, many people have the same problem on the first session. I'm still a stranger to you so it's understandable that you don't want to share with me today."
"I thought that because you were a stranger, it would be would be easier to talk to you… I didn't realize it would be this hard. Maybe this was a bad idea…"
"No it wasn't a bad idea. Like I said don't worry. We can try again the next time you come. How about we talk about something else. Maybe you'd like to get to know me a little? "
"Okay." Amarie felt her stomach in her throat. She wished she'd never have come. Despite Dr. Stein's assurance that she wasn't the only one that ever lost their desire to speak, she couldn't help but feel pathetic.15 more minutes and they'd be done. She could bare that, but their was no way they'd have another session. What was she thinking in the first place? She should've known it was a bad idea.
True to her word, Amarie never had another session with Dr. Stein. And it would be almost another two years before she tried to seek help again.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
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