All her life he told her, “The sun rises in the West and sets in the East.”
Maria followed her father anywhere. Hung on his every word and instruction. He had taught her so much over the past few decades, a lifetime of lessons. Story after story from his youth. Moral after moral learned from his mistakes. He was preparing her; giving her all the tools she needed. One day, he wouldn’t be around. She clung to these moments together, and not just to the words, but to the sound and emotions in his voice. Sometimes, she recorded their conversations, so she could replay the stories later. Stories about growing up, about his life with and before mom and children, about working for himself and paving his own way.
She was proud of him and longed to please him.
There were two constants in her life growing up. One was her father; and like her father, the sun was the other. Always there, day after day, as promised. No matter the tribulation, it set and rose on a fresh, new day.
She often wondered why her brother always seemed to be doing quite the opposite of her. They rarely saw eye to eye, and more often than not, it was agree to disagreement. She chalked it up to the fact that they were just two different people.
Why hadn’t her father guided him in the same way? Or rather, why hadn’t he followed their father, as she had.
Then, one day, he sat them both down on the patio where they typically shared important conversations, and there the truth unfolded.
He sat quietly before them. Pensive, slowly swaying in his rocking chair. She sensed he already knew what he intended to say, but still he physically struggled to get the words out.
He didn’t look at either of them, merely used his hand to gesture towards the sky as he said, “The sun rises in the East…”.
For a moment, she was baffled. Had she misunderstood? She sat silent, waiting for him to continue, while she repeated what he said over and over in her head, “the sun rises in the east…”
“So, you’re saying the sun sets in the West?” He winced at her words, but nodded solemnly, a hint of heartbreak at the corner of his eye.
“But all my life you said it was the other way around? I lived my life based on that information. Imagine the decisions I would’ve made had I known better. You were my compass; I followed you unquestioningly. I trusted you with my life, my choices; that the path I was on, was the right one. And now…” She choked on the words, not wanting to cry in front of her brother. Wanting to be strong, as she was sure her father expected her to be.
“Now, I see my entire life was a lie. I was misguided in believing you.” She cried freely now, sadness and confusion overwhelming her.
Her father sat in silence, perhaps sensing the futility of any explanation. What’s more, most likely lacking a reasonable explanation.
“What shall I do now? Follow others around?” she said gesturing towards her brother. “I forged a path that I thought was in line with yours. I did everything right. I followed you, and now I don’t know how to find the way on my own.” She stared at him, waiting for a rebuttal of any kind. It seemed ages had passed, the years suddenly falling on him, silencing him; he wouldn’t lift his gaze from the floor.
Silence, except the beating heart that drummed loudly in her ears.
“Why would you lie to me? You had endless opportunities to tell me to the truth, assuming it was in error or a misunderstanding on my part. I would’ve understood.” She wiped the tears from her face, and dried her hands on her jeans. It was she who couldn’t look at him now.
“Is that what you were counting on? Me… understanding this?” She held her hands up in the air, palms up, as if the weight of the world now hung on her shoulders. Shoulders that were once proud, the base for a head held high.
“So, that’s it. My life was a lie, and now I just have to accept this new truth?” She was stating more than asking. It was evident she wasn’t going to get any answers from him, much less from her brother, or mother.
She had been sitting there the whole time; shushed by their father more than once during Maria’s emotional discourse. Not that her opinion even mattered; although that had never kept her from being vocal in the past. The truth is, she wasn’t going to stand up for Maria; if Maria had thought so, she would’ve advocated for mother’s right to speak.
Maria stood up, still in tears. “You’ve changed the trajectory of my life, of our relationship, forever.” She turned away and closed the door behind her, on a chapter of her life, uncertain what would be written next, but certain it was an uncharted path.