Leave: Shade’s story

Editorial note: Shade Ardent blogs at The Unspared Rod. This story is reprinted with permission.

my car isn’t even full, it didn’t take that much time to pack my clothes. river stares from the window upstairs. she didn’t want to say goodbye. everyone else is busy with their lives.

no one looks up as i walk by.

‘Hurry up, Shade’.

i turn to go.

she is mouth thinned, eyes scraped against the sun. no more air escapes her, my chance to leave is now or never. her hands are tapping against car’s door.

it’s time.

road unfolds in front of me, she is letting me drive.

‘You want to go to college so badly, then you can drive there yourself.’

i’m not sure why she came.


i find the speed limit, and hold its edge in my mind. i want nothing to stop me from leaving.

‘I can’t believe you are really leaving us. How could you do this to us?’

out of the corner of my eye, she is grim. hands move while she thinks of more words to say.

i keep watch on her ring, it glints in the light. i know its curve, its sharp edge. i hope that driving means she won’t do anything.

road keeps curling away.

sun splits away trees’ branches, stained glass splintered hopes, my dreams grow.

‘thank you for visiting [state]. please come again.’

each mile feels like points, adding up the amount of leaving i am doing. i count and count, they sift their tens and hundreds into skin’s knowing.

am i leaving-leaving-leaving?

‘You’re so selfish, Shade, to be leaving. Think of all the work I will have to do now that you’re not there to help me. Who will help me?’

words are stuck behind my tongue. its grasping for shape, for sound, but words never come.

i am selfish, i want to leave.

‘You’ve always been a difficult person, Shade. You will have no one to blame but yourself, when you have no friends.’

sun has splayed colors across horizon’s edge. we are westing into the coming night.

‘No one will ever love you like we love you, Shade. How can you leave us?’

sky is tattooed with stars.

i know it’s late, but i don’t want to stop. if we stop, she might find a way to take me back.

so i keep driving, leaving-leaving-leaving.

headlights slice up night’s darkness.

city from city, we flow on by. highway carries us past their normal lives. maybe i can have normal too. maybe college is where normal starts, and the great yawning darkness is forever killed.

i stop for gas, i stop for food, but not for sleep. the miles keep counting up and up.

she sleeps next to me, so i keep driving.

‘welcome to [state]’

she stirs.

‘You know he won’t arrange a courtship for you now. You’ve removed yourself from his umbrella of authority. You have only yourself to blame when you get hurt.’

i have sinned, i have disobeyed.

i don’t care, i am leaving-leaving-leaving.

words still pile up behind my teeth. they scatter into the growing light. sun’s promises echo from behind, east is gone, west is new.

dawn’s moon laces up between the branches, sky’s replete with hope.

‘You’re so proud, if you think you’re smart enough to go to college. Don’t come crying to us when you fail.’

we are side by side, still. little car, bigger mountains. it climbs and climbs. each mile, each peak, each pass, her anger grows.

air is stifled between us, she seems to have run out of words. they still hover in my mouth, bitter, broken shards of dreams.

will she be happy for me now? will she give me advice?

all the books i’ve read say that moms do this, they fuss and then they love. was she going to love me now, pat my hand and give me silly advice?

but she is silent.

we are here.



  • How sad some parents do not let us reach for the stars and use threats. I hope you succeeded. My parents were sad when I left for college too, but they also encouraged it and wanted me to make my own choices. I hope you enjoy yours. Freedom is good and teaches us more than anything we can learn in a textbook.

    • i did succeed. it took me many years to fully leave them, the emotional leaving took the longest. i had to learn that the way they treated me was not normal.

      i am now 2 years since having talked to them, and beginning to heal.

      • I like the way you expressed your leaving, the kind of bits and pieces in memory laid out like free verse. Thank-you for caring for yourself and allowing your family to be as they are, abnormal and abusive in patriarchy. As you allow your parentals to be as they are, the distance sharpens your vision and the true learning begins, that you are free to choose in all things, that your mind and heart are worthwhile, that life is a magnificent blundering along, a poetry.
        Hey, I have a cat named Shade! He is under my free-food umbrella but regularly goes off on his own to discover teh world. I am so happy you found out how to live free, shade…. Full wonder to you!

      • it’s hard, for sure. but i have found infinite value in my freedom. and even though i miss the sense of belonging to something, i realize more and more that i am healthier away from them, and safer.

        your cat sounds amazing.

  • Are you saying that those nice things are what Shade’s mother actually meant when abusive, shaming, manipulative things came out of her mouth?

    • Darcy, I have heard that people can sometimes say very toxic things and not ‘mean’ them but I think that most often they are meant to display at least the horrendous effects of denial and in the instance you refer to here, a specific religio-denial.
      Next comes the talk about anger and resentment being a bad thing and Jesus wants us to be happy…After all, it wasn’t all THAT bad, now was it…
      Unless I am sorely mistaken, JaDonnia B. is a full-time usher in the Jebus Mega-Church of Denial.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Got a big lifetime discount on Egyptian River Cruises, huh?

  • A parent should be overjoyed when their child goes to college. It’s a right of passage that opens many career doors for their child. I’m sorry to learn that your mother reacted so selfishly.

  • she absolutely did not mean anything of the kind by those statements. trying to tell me otherwise is unfair and dismissive.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Shade, every time I have heard “HOW COULD YOU BE SO SELFISH?” it was coming from a professional parasite who was trying to hit me up for mooch money.

  • The parents sound incapable of missing anyone. They just couldn’t believe that Shade actually left,got out, went to college, and put up boundaries too high for them. But What about the siblings-any chance of helping them escape at all ?

    • my siblings were able to go to college, and 2 of them have sort of left my parents, but 2 of them decided to stay. so it’s a mixed bag.

      it’s hard having contact with the ones who did leave, we are still working out ways to be healthy with each other.

    • JaDonnia- you’re really presuming a lot about Shade’s history and family and parental units based on…I have no idea.

      Do you know them in real life? Or are you just assuming that all parents have deep wells of parental love toward their offspring that sometimes they are uunable to express?

      Because if it’s the latter that’s not actually true.

      And if that’s what you’re selling, despite what shade has written and then said in the comments, then you’re not a good listener, nor very empathetic.

      Shade gets to tell their story as they experienced it. Shade has not asked for assurance of deep parental love. You’re crossing a boundary in telling them how to correctly interpret their mother’s behavior.

      And it’s dismissive as well.

  • Admin Note: Some comments in this thread have been deleted for being dismissive of abuse survivors’ experiences.

    For more information on our comment policy, please see:


  • I always wonder, with suspicion, about people who would minimize what happened to Shade and the others who shared their personal histories with HA.

  • JaDonnia, it is VERY hard to read about the daily interactions going on between Shade, the “parents”- who hardly deserve the title, and her siblings. The savage comments made by those two over the years, to those children !! Not to mention physical stuff. The progenitors-more accurate here-are classic narcissists INCAPABLE of love as most people understand it, see. Perdita, the incubator/housekeeper, was spiteful, angry, and trying to scare Shade into turning around and going back. Most likely, the woman was not permitted to live out her OWN dreams, so she tried to destroy the kids’ aspirations. Unable to know what true love is, she went through the motions. Shade leaving for college brought the reality of all that home, and this enraged Perdita, who simply could not pretend, and hide her deep envy. “No one will love you like “we” love you”. How low can one go ?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      <blockquote.Perdita, the incubator/housekeeper, was spiteful, angry, and trying to scare Shade into turning around and going back. Most likely, the woman was not permitted to live out her OWN dreams, so she tried to destroy the kids’ aspirations.
      “If I can’t be Happy, I’LL MAKE SURE NOBODY CAN BE HAPPY!”
      Similar to Syndrome, the main bad guy of The Incredibles — “If I Can’t Have X, Then Nobody Can!”

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