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“I’m strong on the surface, not all the way through. I’ve never been perfect, but neither have you.”
-Leave Out all the Rest, Linkin Park
“Despite the lies that you’re making, your love is mine for the taking. Our love is just waiting to turn your tears to roses.”
-Whispers in the Dark, Skillet
It was quiet and dark; the kind of darkness that I was normally afraid of. The malicious, unforgiving darkness of my own bedroom. The darkness enveloped me like a blanket of evil, deceit, and treachery, the chilling blanket that keeps the cold with you. But, in a way, that kind of darkness was comforting, like another presence that protected me from the lies, screams, violence, and anger. It protected me from my parents.
I was listening to my MP3 player, one of the only luxuries I had. In fact, it was the only luxury that I had. I was listening to "Whispers in the Dark" by Skillet, one of my favorite bands. But my parents didn't know that. They hardly knew me, my interests. I loved heavy metal. The loud, whiny riffs and the crashing drums gave me relief from my worries. They expressed my own unforgiving anger. So, my MP3 player was all that comforted me.
The shouting from downstairs grew louder, and I heard a couple of loud noises, like the breathtaking sound of glass crashing against the cold, hard ground. But they were nothing compared to the monstrous shouts of my drunken parents yelling at each other. Just more lies and false accusations. Suddenly, I heard the dog yelp in pain and I cried. I cried. I cried. I couldn't help it. I was helpless, stranded in the shadow of my parent's drugs and alcohol. They didn't care for me. At least my father didn’t. He told me that during one of his rages…… Why do I remember memories like that? Urgh….flashbacks. The bad ones haunt my memory, making my parents seem like devilish monsters created from the bowels of their own insanity, their own problems, the alcohol. But not all the flashbacks are bad. Some are, well, indifferent. Like my mother. Careful enough to raise me, but careless enough to fix her own problems that haunted us. She tried, though.
She tried religion, something I never understood. I once caught her in her room, reading a Bible. I was little. I was clueless as to why she was reading it. I always thought it was just something else to read.
“Mommy, why are you reading THAT?”
“I….I need help, Adam. That’s why.”
“But Mom, books don’t help. Rehab does, or that crazy doctor guy. Why don’t you talk to him?”
“I…..you don’t understand, Adam. It doesn’t help. The doctor. I need to find Him….I…..go away Adam.”
“Who’s Him? The doctor? Do you have another boyfriend besides Dad?”
“No, Adam, I just….go away, please.”
“I said, GO AWAY!!!”
I didn’t understand who Him was, is…whatever. My father apparently never found out, or at least never cared to find out, either. He never cared. He never cared to fix his problems so that he could live a happy life. A life of happiness and love. He could have loved his wife, me…
They never loved me. All they ever did was lie to me and then get angry at me after I unraveled their web of deceit. It's sad, but I knew I was stronger. I blocked the world out...just me and my loud music. I hated my parents. I thought it was just a cliché, but I thought it was true. I hated-
“Max, come here boy.”
The dog was whining as a stream of blood trickled down his leg. He clambered up the stairs to my room and then mustered enough strength to climb up on my bed with me. He laid down with his head on my lap and I petted him. I heard his heavy breathing behind the loud drums and whiny riffs of my music.
By now, Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park, another one of my favorites, was playing. Another song, another flashback.
I was little, maybe five or six. My parents supposedly wanted to surprise me, so they didn’t tell me where they were taking me. It was a good ten-minute drive to the local pet store. The pet store?
“Mommy, we don’t even have any pets. Is daddy gonna start eating dog food?”
“No, Adam. Just wait and see.”
We got out of the car and spent fifteen minutes talking to some tall man with a curly mustache at the front desk. I got bored and started looking at the cute puppies that were locked up in cages. I slipped my fingers through one of the cages. The dog whined, but gave in to his desires to be petted. He looked so lonely. He needed someone to hold him, take care of him, love him….. Finally, my parents came over to me.
“Mommy, why do they have to keep the dogs locked up like that? They don’t bite!”
“I don’t know, Adam. But I…..we have a surprise for you. Adam, we know that we may have problems sometimes….your father and I. Sometimes you get stuck in the middle. I know how frustrated you feel…..well, maybe I don’t. Well, anyways, we want you to pick a puppy to get unlocked and come home with us. You can keep it, Adam.”
My face lit up with excitement. “Thank you so much, Mommy! I want that one…the one with the brown spot on it. Max, that’ll be his name. Max. Oh, thank you Mommy! I will love you forever!”
Yeah, okay. That happened. I just had Max to love forever. I stroked his hair, stroke, stroke, and fell asleep.
Finally, I woke up to the sound of sirens and big men talking downstairs. I tip-toed downstairs and caught a peek of what was happening. I couldn't believe it. Both my mother and father were on a stretcher, each with a bullet in their chest, with officers and medical workers hurrying their bodies to the ambulance.
An officer saw me and frowned. “Son, you’re parents….we’re gonna try our best to take care of them and make sure they’re okay. Son, do you-“
But I knew it was too late. I cried some more. I cried. I cried. I cried for them, not for me. For the life they could have led, and for their stupid mistakes that they made.
The officer opened up his arms to hug me. But I fled. I didn’t want to feel the warmth of a simple, fatherly hug. I ran to the fridge and took out every damned bottle I could find. Another bottle, another lie, another mess of glass on the floor. I got the ones under my father's bed, in the closet, and under the couch. I took them and smashed all of them. Smashing things made me feel good. I smashed every freakin' damned bottle I could find and then I ran. I ran into the woods. I ran. I ran to who knows where, who cares where? My mind was so clouded, I didn't freakin' care where I ended up. I just wanted to run. The cool breeze in my hair, my heart racing to the end of my life; it all set me free. Freedom. Freedom from the binds and chains of my parent’s addicitions and abuses.
God, I started to sound like my parents…
I finally stopped and pulled my MP3 out of my pocket. I listened. To the loud banging drums and the whiny riffs. And the passionate lyrics. Those lyrics drove me. That's why I loved metal. Every song; it was so addicting.
My battery eventually died. I was surrounded in darkness once more. Everything was oddly quiet. But I could almost hear something just outside of my consciousness. I heard noises. Not the noises of my parents screaming, but….
Then I heard it, the real whispers in the dark. The sounds that can be heard when all is quiet. Not the whispers of my parents’ rages, but the whispers of beauty, of the crickets chirping and the wind rustling through the leaves in the mid-summer trees. The water from a nearby lake rushing to the ocean. The star lights, twinkling in the night sky. I heard the whispers, and they hugged me like the comforting darkness.
Finally, the officers caught up to me. I didn’t resist, I didn’t cry. I just let them hug me, pat me on the back, ruffle my hair, lead me to the police car. I didn’t care. I was numb. I was excited. I was…..peaceful.
The funeral was a few days later. I learned what happened. My father killed my mother, and then shot himself out of sorrow. Another dumb mistake. It was crazy....everything flew by me at once. I can hardly remember anything; the funeral, the eulogy, the countless hands that touched me. But, I do remember something. And always will remember it. An officer came up to me and stared. I stared back. Finally, he put an arm around my shoulder and said, "Here." That was all. He handed me a small Post-It note and walked away.
It was soaked with tears. Not mine; my parents’. I looked at the Post-It and found a message:
I’m sorry. That's all I can say. We had to. I know that you cannot keep a strong, healthy life as long as we are interfering. I’m sorry. About everything...I can't explain it. And so you know, I do love you. I know that you like "Whispers in the Dark". I…we, you’re father and I… we love you. We're sorry. But, remember, leave out all the rest. Because when all is said and done, remember the good times we had together….if you even think there were any…. not the bad.
But there were, Adam. Like the dog. Do you remember when you were only five and we bought a dog for you? You were so excited. You’ve loved that dog ever since, and he loves you. And so do we. We love you. Sorry. I can only part you with one piece of advice.
You see, I drank because I was frightened. Scared of the dark. Scared of the unknown. I needed comfort. The alcohol….that was my comfort. But then I found something else. It took me a while of hard searching to find it. Your father, he never found that same comfort. Look, I know that you are in need of some comfort right now. Look for Him in the dark; he will guide you to the light.
I was confused, so I cried. I cried. I cried. And my tears mixed with the stains of their tears. I cried.
A few days later, I was in my dark, lifeless room again collecting all of the imaginary luxuries that I wanted to keep in the orphan home. I was in the dark without a battery for my MP3 player. And I still didn’t understand who Him was. But something was still there.
As I was rummaging through my room, I found something that I still carry with me to this day. I found the Bible that my mother was reading such a long time ago. I skimmed some of the pages, flipping through the huge book. Suddenly, another Post-It note fell out of the binding. I picked it up and read it.
I hope that one day you find the desire and the will to read this Bible. I know how strong your bond with your mother is. I thought that one day, her religious influences would rub off on you. I hope you do take the time to read this.
Adam, I never took the time to get involved in religious matters. They seem so petty…so stupid…..like me. Adam, I know that I don’t take much time to spend with you, either. I know that I should. It’s just that…it’s too complicated to explain. Your mother and I, we’ve always had problems. We both resorted to drinking and drugs. Those damn things take away so much. So much of my life disappears every time I take a sip. Like my time that I should spend with you Adam. I’m sorry.
I was so dumbfounded. I was numb, like the day that my parents died. I couldn’t think straight. However, it wasn’t that I couldn’t think straight out of sorrow. I couldn’t think straight because I was, in a way, happy.
I started reading the Bible for ten minutes. Then fifteen. Then half an hour. Finally, I looked up and heard something.
In the still silence of dark's clutch, I again heard the whispers. From the day my parents died. The soft, beautiful whispers. But these were different. And I suddenly had the urge to pray. So I prayed. For the first time. I suddenly understood who Him was. I understood who Him is. And I felt good. I knew that Him knows my pain and will guide me. Suddenly, my mind cleared. I felt my lifeless room liven up and become filled with extreme happiness and joy. The darkness left. I realized I never hated my parents, I was just too sad and angry to help them. I opened my eyes and saw a battery for my MP3 lying on the floor, good as new. And I listened to something else, not metal. But the whispers that kept coming at me with a light comfort. The soft, beautiful whispers. The whispers that conquer the dark.
“When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. Don’t resent me when you’re feeling empty. Keep me in your memories. Leave out all the rest, just leave out all the rest.”
-Leave Out All the Rest, Linkin Park
“No, you’ll never be alone. When darkness comes I’ll light the night with stars. Hear my whispers in the dark.”
-Whispers in the Dark, Skillet