Walk Away, a memoir
The past lives in our skins, our synapses, our laughter, our scars. It lives in places where our best and worst memories happened: warm meadows where we nested in long grasses, rooms with blood-stained plaster walls, empty beaches where we walked away.
I’d walked away from a violent love affair, and then from a series of less toxic relationships with men who left me feeling diminished. Each time, I promised myself, was the last time.
Then I met another man, who was tall and questioning and brilliant, who had his own dark places. I was fifty years old by then, and no one had hit me in thirty years, yet the thought of leaving my job and my home to move West with a man I loved terrified me.
I cried uncontrollably, I raged uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to do, and my impulse was to walk away.
Instead, I decided to have faith, and that’s how I ended up living in Moscow, Idaho, and attending a small party at a house near Paradise Ridge. I was one of six middle-aged women who ran outside to see a great horned owl. Our host told us the owl arrived each day at dusk. The other women were avid birdwatchers who carried field glasses. I borrowed a pair to watch the owl perched on the triangular yellow Yield sign at the place where two farm roads met. “He’s magnificent,” said one woman. “He or she?” asked another. The ornithologist among us told us it’s difficult to tell the females from the males.
Back inside, we took our seats again. Talk turned to the murder of Sarah Parks, a twenty-eight-year-old woman, pregnant with her first child, a substitute teacher in that small Idaho town. Dental records were used to identify her remains because in the fire that burned her house to the ground, her flesh was consumed by flames. The autopsy revealed she was dead before her body burned. Her husband, Silas Parks, was the murder suspect. There was a history of domestic violence.
I closed my eyes. It was the second time I’d heard people speak of this murder, the second time the image of Sarah Parks’ charred corpse rose up behind my eyelids, her body blackened but draped in pale linen, levitating in midair like the hypnotized body of a magician’s assistant.