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  • I ran away today. I ran as fast and as far as my mind could carry me. I ran until I dropped from exhaustion, always one breath away from safety. I turned to see how far I’d come only to see my father sitting on the bench next to me with that smug smile that always signaled he’d won and I’d lost. Just a hint of pity that I didn’t understand the physics of the afterlife where distance didn’t exist. Cuffs rolled, collar open, suspenders clipped to his gabardine suit pants, he looked uncharacteristically disheveled, weary. It confused me. After all, I’d been the one doing the running, trying to rid my pockets of the rocks that weighed me down.
    “It’s not so easy is it?”

    Don’t engage. Ignore him. Don’t engage.

    “They tell you to just drop the rocks like you’re too stupid to realize they’re holding you back, that you’re running in place. They make it sound so easy but you can’t let go can you?”
    I stood up to move away but he was in front of me.

    “We all have rocks, Kate. Maybe they start out as pebbles, hardly noticeable, but then they start to gather the dirt in our lives, get packed hard with fear and anger. You look around and no one else seems to be lugging that crap with them so you try to hide only the shame makes them even heavier. And who are you going to tell? Who can you ask for help? No one wants to be bothered with your baggage so you lie about it, keep it secret. There’s no place to leave the rocks without someone finding out.”

    He was in my face now. Where ever I turned he was there.

    “I couldn’t drop them, Kate. I tried but I couldn’t. I needed help. I had no one else to go to. You had to do it. I had to make you do it. We would have gone poor and hungry if anyone knew the truth. I might have gone to jail. It’s what kids do for their parents. They help carry the rocks, keep the secrets. I did it for my dad. You may not want to admit it but your kids...”
    My eyes were squeezed shut when his voice started to trail off. As I slowly opened them, I prayed he would be gone. He wasn’t. His clothes seemed baggy as he stood before me. He almost had a scarecrow quality. We were in a field. It was a sad place. Others were watching from the shadows.
    “This is what happens when you hang on, Kate. Endless regret. Drop the rocks. Let me go.”
    There was no apology in his voice. There was no other worldly happy ending, He was gone. All he’d left me was my breath. I finally took a free and deep breath.
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