Constant Fear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 9, 2011
When I was little, I would sit on the brown leather couch and clutch my ragged panda bear to my chest — waiting. At six o’clock I would hear it — the sound of my father’s workboots echoing throughout the hallway. The instant the first thud was heard, everything changed.

My mom would jump up from the couch to make sure dinner was ready and check to see that there was plenty of cold Michelob in the fridge. My older sister and I would stop whatever we were doing. In an instant, we were transformed into “little mice” as my mom called it.

It always seemed like Dad took hours to climb those stairs. But soon enough his foreboding presence would take over the den. He would walk in, take off his smock and sit down on the couch, saying nothing. Only after he sampled his dinner, drank his first two beers and changed Sesame Street to his favorite program would he speak. He would stare at my mother, watching her every move ready to fight. Then he would ask her how her day was. We all dreaded her answer. If she said it went well, she was a dirty liar. If it went badly, she was a no-good, incompetent mother and a whore. She was always a whore. And we were spoiled brats – always.

He would only stay home for a short while. He would be off to the nearest bar within an hour. We never knew whether he’d come home drunk or spend the night with another woman. My mom used to try to lie for him. “He’s sleeping at a friend’s house,” she would say in her sweet, soft voice. But we always knew; see, Dad, you always forgot your toothbrush.

In the morning, I would go downstairs and eat my breakfast quickly, trying to slip out without bumping into him. I would gulp down my Cheerios, drink my juice, and sit frightened as my mom swiftly made my lunch. Grabbing my Cookie Monster lunch box, I would lift my red backpack off the floor and slip silently out the back door. I would walk slowly, looking into neighbors’ houses, wondering if it was like my home in everyone’s house. To me, my routine was normal. The constant fear and unbreakable silence were perfectly normal.

Walking home when I was in second grade one day, I had a funny feeling. I arrived home to find my family in the den. “Divorce” they said. The best, for all of us. I couldn’t understand anything except that Daddy was leaving. All I asked was if Daddy would please take that Budweiser lamp with him when he left.

In the beginning he would visit three times a week — then two, then one. Holidays, always drunk. Christmas eve, 1983, he arrived at 1:30 drunk and on drugs. He begged to stay; Mom let him. For three days we lived in fear, just like before. Constantly drunk, he left food and beer cans everywhere. Finally he left. Visits became weekly again; he brought gifts. I was happy with new toys, but they never made up for the pain. I still feel the pain, every day. I lost my childhood, lost it to a Michelob bottle.

For a while, he took us out for dinner once a week and gave us money for clothes and tapes whenever we wanted. But I still hated him.

Then angry, hurt and violated, I walked the streets for hours. The headline flashing over and over in my head. Arrested for drug dealing, Daddy is going to jail. I’ve yet to face my father since that day. All the pain, all the anger climaxed on that day as I slowly read the words in the local paper. He’d been betraying us for years, living a lie. I was devastated; how could he do this to us? I haven’t gotten my answer yet, I’m still sorting through all the anger and pain. So far it’s been six months of silence; silence and bitter anger.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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