Some say the monsters come at night. Lucky them. Mine was loitering in my kitchen when I went for lunch, waking me in the morning, the last thing I heard at night. My days melded with my nightmares, a monotonous blur of tears and hours spent wandering the town, a waif, unnoticed by anyone.
Sometimes it wasn't hard. There were days that I didn't see him, days where I was alone. Other times, it was hell. His burning words and scorching glares, cutting into me, pointing out my inadequacies and failures, the stench of alcohol on his breath curling up my nostrils, making my stomach churn. Those were the days I spent in my room, furniture jammed against the door to make up for the lack of lock, with my head in a book or a monitor or my school work, forcing myself not to jump when he pounded on the door, screaming profanities, as though to prove my strength.
That was behind me now. Now, instead of words that cut like razor blades, the only sounds are the steady rumble of the engine and the low melodic humming of my broken radio as I travel from town to town, searching. Not for anything in particular, just something. Something to fill the space inside that sometimes consumes me, to somehow mend the shattered pieces of my childhood. Some would call it wanderlust, an overwhelming desire to travel. Maybe that is a part of it. But truly, I believe it is more running that anything.
Each new town brings something new. New scenery, new faces. I never stay in each town long, always moving, in fear of the past catching up with me. I send a post card sent to him from every new place. No "I wish you were here's" or "missing you"'s, because that would be a blatant lie. Just a picture, maybe a soft sunset, some palm trees framing a beach, maybe the arid bush scenery so commonly found in Australia, and so unlike my hometown. No message. Just a stamp.
Sometimes I wonder what he does with them all. Burns them, most likely. Maybe he keeps them. I'm not sure why I keep sending them. I suppose it's because, despite all the horrible things he did, he was still my father. After every drunken tirade, passed out on the couch, surrounded by the filth of his habit, we were still bonded by blood. He had still raised me, fed me, and taught me, my entire life. It was impossible to hate him entirely, despite everything. Because I still remember life from before his addiction took over.
He would take my sister and I fishing at the river in his little tin boat. He loved that boat. Smiling, he would explain the best ways to catch certain fish; what bait to use, whether lures were effective, and their preferred habitats. He would talk and talk, and my sister and I would nod and pretend to listen, actually just eager to cast of into the river and impatiently reel in our lines every minute because we thought we had a bite. I remember his pride when we caught our first fish, and how he let us throw them back in, sparing them from the dinner table. He would then trust us to drive his boat, an honour given to no other. He loved us, I'm sure of that.
Maybe he still does. Maybe he regrets it.
I still remember the good memories, even if they are being torn apart by the bad ones. I remember being a family, my mother, my sister and I. I remember the holidays, the tedious dance eisteddfods, the soccer carnivals in the blistering heat. But I also remember the fights and the unceremonious estrangement. I remember the night I was dumped onto the street, with nothing but the thin layers of clothing that hardly protected me against the cold winter chill, and the rattling old hatchback I had obtained after working a minimum wage job. That was the night I started running. I still haven't stopped.
In the face of my past, and driving towards the future, I should feel empty. Realistically, I have nothing. No job, no home, no friends or family that I have kept in contact with. Sometimes the memories are so vivid that the overwhelming urge to collapse into myself and become a shell almost takes over, and I feel as disconnected from the world as I probably should. But these times, when I'm driving to a new place, with the broken air conditioning making a feeble attempt to keep my core body temperature at maximum function level whilst the cruel Australian sun beats down on my face, causing droplets of sweat to form on my brow, these times I know that I am not alone. No-one is truly alone in this world. We are all connected, sometimes purely due to our humanity, and other times because of the flotilla of common human experiences we have shared. No matter where I go, how long I am there for, if I meet one person or many, the human consciousness allows us to connect to others. I'm still not sure whether I am running from the past or to my future, and I'm not sure it matters any more. The only thing that matters is the middle.