My truck sits idle on the street, parked along the side of the road with the lights off. I watch as the house I once called home flickers to life, one room lighting after another. The light in the kitchen goes off as a silhouette is cast on the dining room curtains. I can imagine them, sitting down at the dinner table preparing to eat. It’s Wednesday, which means meatloaf.
I can see my daughter scooping the mashed potatoes out of the bowl onto her plate, the huge white mound more than her small frame is going to be able to eat. I can see her smashing the middle down with her spoon, creating the ‘lava lake’ that is soon filled with peas. Finally she pours the brown gravy over the top, filling in the lake, and watches as the peas float to the top, all the while smiling.
My son sits opposite of her. He always has. Not wanting to be too close to his younger sibling, afraid she might try to steal his food. Again. He will have taken the biggest piece of meatloaf, after all, it is his favorite. He looks at his sister, mocking her as she plays with her food saying something about how she needs to grow up.
My wife will hush him. She never did like it when he made fun of her. Peace was her thing, always trying to make things okay, apologizing even when it wasn’t her fault. I close my eyes for a second, and I can imagine her looking across the table at me, that smile breaking my heart. Something about her face always brought me a moment of peace, no matter how hectic my day had been. I think that’s why I married her.
I see them continue eating their dinner as my wife asks the children about their day. My daughter is super excited to express about how her 2nd grade class is doing an art project and how she is going to make a collage, which she pronounces as college, with butterflies that she is going to cut out and paste to a poster board. My son rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath about how girly the whole thing sounds.
My wife turns toward him and asks him what he did. His reply is very matter of fact, math, science, and English, then he adds how silly he thinks school is. My wife replies to him how grown up he is for only being in 5th grade, using a tone that is less sarcastic and more exhorting than I would be able to muster up. I let out a small chuckle as this conversation goes on in my head. That’s when I hear my daughter ask, “Daddy, can we go get some ice cream?” I smile and nod at her, saying out loud in my truck, “Yeah, honey, after dinner we can do that.” I can feel a small tear welling up in the corner of my eye as my throat tightens.
I open my eyes again. The house is dark. But, it has been for three years now. Ever since that night when we went out for ice cream. The night that changed everything. The night a drunk driver took my home away.