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Sorry Is Not Enough
I was on the hunt for food, not in a literal sense but close enough. I prodded at the mass of empty beer bottles and crushed cereal boxes, which crowded the kitchen counter, only to find a box of crackers. These crackers would have to supplement for breakfast, because this was no forum for pickiness. I was just thankful we were somehow living in a house this month. Though it was mysterious how my father pulled together the funds, I didn't care. I didn't call this place a home because I knew we wouldn't be here long. We'd be kicked out for late rent payments or a noise complaint within a few weeks.
A home is more then just four walls topped with a roof; a home provides security, and comfort. A home had a mom and dad who loved each other and their children; the house had a dad who loved that bottle more than anyone or anything. A home had a pie cooling on the counter; this hellhole barely had food. A home has pretty pink wallpaper; while this house's only decoration were the brown and green glass bottles scattered about, and stains from god-knows-what on the carpet. A home had beds where the children slept after a day of playing; this house the children slept on dirty blankets and took more responsibility than either of their parents.
It didn't look like much of a home either. A row of blankets fastidiously lay in one corner and a couch protruded from another. Out of the small amount of clothing we owned, about half was contained in a single suitcase the rest was sprawled about the room. If you looked close enough you could see a roach crawling out of a box, empty of course, of rice. There was no time to clean today, because they were already late according to the watch. The watch was my most prized possession. The soft familiar leather complimented its sleek sterling silver face. It was one of the few things my mother left behind years ago.
As I walked along the all too familiar streets of Detroit, Michigan holding my brothers hand, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd ever leave this place. I would never wish this lifestyle upon my enemies, more or less my own children. Obviously my father did not relate to this emotion. Most of the people you saw along the walk to school were living in the same sort of poverty as yourself or were literally homeless. The friends you had were in a similar situation to your own, with parents whom had been laid off, unemployed, or were trying to 'get their lives together'.
If I saw someone with nice new clothes or eating a really hot lunch, I would secretly begin to hate them. I had good reason to since while she sat in her car, while her dad drove her to school on a full stomach, I was in pain. My shoes were so worn I felt the cold ground beneath me. My stomach felt as if it was beginning to eat itself out of starvation.
That girl sat there rolling her eyes that she had to go to school. Unlike that girl in the car, I was excited to go to school. This was my favorite time because I was away from everything and just got to learn. I could loose myself in the equations, grammar lessons, and science lectures. As I sat in that blue plastic chair, there was no need for me to think about any of my struggles. I didn't have to wonder if my dad would come tonight, and I didn't have to think of how I would feed my brother tonight. But once the bell rang, life would come back to bit me and I'd be wandering to the shop.
The temptation was too much and so I gave in and had to stop. The post office's big windows temptingly teased me with its eyes. Though I would disagree with my decision later I walked in hoping for a letter from my mother. Every once in a while, maybe around once a month, I would receive a letter from some far off land where my mom was visiting this month. Last month she sent me a postcard from the west coast, where she described watching the sunset to me. Deep down I was happy for her, that she got out of this place. I couldn't understand how that woman could describe this extreme beauty to me, and then leave me here in the black hole of Detroit. Deep down I was happy I walked through the door, with the bell chiming to welcome me, with high hopes and a forced smile across my face.
The place was empty with the exception of the lazy attendant sitting at the desk. The sound of the bell had startled him and he was adjusting his collar as to make it appear he wasn't half asleep before I walked in here. I told him my name and asked if I had received anything, bracing for him to say no and to confirm the fact my mother had officially forgotten about me. To my surprise, he handed me a letter. I told him thank you, and he just nodded his head, as I ran to work.
My shift was always slow, which usually got on my nerves but today that was fine with me. I tore through the envelope trying to salvage the precious address but I ripped it right in half. With my hands shaking I carefully opened the folded up note and began to read. Her letter told stories of walking along the dessert and seeing the sky turn from blue to red and purple. She described how even with the hot temperatures and the sun beating down on her neck, she still enjoyed the weather. The last part I remember was not what she said, but what she didn't say. She never said she loved me or she missed me.
No matter which way you looked at it, my mom didn't care about me. Her letters were obviously only written because she knew she should, not that she wanted to. Truth was, she never wanted me. She never wanted to have kids but, me and my brother popped into the picture anyways. One day, about eleven months after my brother was born and I was four years old, she left. She had left a harsh note describing her plans to see the country and all its natural wonders. So now my brother, my dad, and I were on our own. But it usually felt as if it was just I alone trying to keep the family alive.
The clock read eight o'clock, which meant it was time to close. This can mean one of two things: I will go home and take care of my brother and go to sleep or my dad will be home. As I turned the key into the locked position I took a deep breath, the same breath I would take in about fifteen minutes as I walked into my apartment. Before I even got through the door I knew my fear was confirmed, that my dad was home. As I put one foot in front of the other trying to focus on the black and white tiles of the linoleum floor, my hands were shaking. They were shaking because I knew what was about to happen.
As I wandered across the room, I could feel his eyes on me. He was oddly observant for being about three drinks past drunk. And then he started to question me.
'Girl, where have you been? I've been dealing with this damn brother of yours all on my own, and I'm dying for a drink. Girl, why your hands shaking?'
I couldn't muster up the power to even talk to him. As I stood there in disbelief that he could be so insensitive, I opened my mouth but nothing came out. He was going to try and tell me how hard it was to take care of my brother, after doing it for three hours at the most.
'Girl, you better answer me right now, or I'll show you what happens when you ignore me!'
I was afraid, and I did everything I could think of to respond to him. But I just could not do it. I swore that I was speaking but the words wouldn't come out.
'Girl! That is it!' And with that I flinched because I knew what was about to happen. For a few seconds I felt as if time had stopped, and then I felt the harsh sting of his palm making contact with my face. As he smacked and kicked me in a drunken rage, I felt as if I had left my body in some a sort of dream-like numbness. I knew and could see him hitting and grabbing at me, but I couldn't feel it. This feeling was surreal and foreign to me, yet all too familiar. Usually these rants didn't last so long, but what usually felt like it lasted about ten minutes was beginning to feel long by an eternity.
The next morning I woke up and went to the corner gas station to search for some cheap food. With the money I hid in a jar under my bed so my dad wouldn't take it, I bought a pack of two pop tarts. I brought it back to the house just as my brother was waking up. I handed him the pop tart so he could eat it while I got dressed.
I went into the living room where I kept my suitcase full of clothes. I pulled out the red turtleneck sweater I was given when we were staying at the YMCA, along with the jeans, which I had to roll up because they were my mom's old jeans. I pulled the collar up as high as I could in an attempt to cover the red handprint that ran from my chin to the bottom of my neck. Luckily, the sleeves were long enough to cover all the bruises on my arms.
I went through the same routine as usual, dropping my brother off and going to school. I was especially excited for this routine today because I had been waiting a week to turn in the English paper my teacher assigned. I had sat it on the coffee table, which no one ever used so that I would definitely remember to grab it. But when I went to pick it up it wasn't where I left it, so I looked on the ground. Now I saw my pile of notebook papers spread about haphazardly and covered in a strong scent of alcohol. I knew my dad had done this and I couldn't stand him for it right now. I don't think I could have faced that teacher so I dropped off my brother and turned around and ran home.
I sat on the blanket and just cried. I had tried to stay positive and make excuses for him but this, this was just plain inexcusable. I had my face in my hands and then I looked up and saw him. My father just stood there and looked at me crying. He didn't say a word and neither did I. and then he said it.
'I'm sorry.' He whispered just barely loud enough to hear. As if that was all it would take for him to be forgiven. As if just saying those words could make the bruises disappear, and vanish the emotional scars. This was not the case, and it would take more than two words for him to forgiven. Even if I forgave him, I would always have these physical reminders of what he had done to me. Sorry was by far, not enough.