Calming the Beast

January 13, 2008
By Justin Smith, North Barrington, IL

I knew something was wrong from the moment I walked in the front door. The house was completely silent. It wasn’t a normal silence, like the days when my siblings were at school and my mom was taking a nap. It was a stiff silence that thickened the air so that sound couldn’t penetrate. I stepped slowly into the house and shut the door. I walked up the stairs and saw my parents sitting in the loft, completely silent.
“Hello?” I asked cautiously.
“Sit down,” my dad whispered, barely audible. I complied immediately.
“What’s going on?” I asked. After a brief pause, my mom answered.
“Your sister wrote a suicide note today,” she said.
I was completely taken aback. I felt the world freeze. I felt like I was being squeezed tightly by the thick air that seemed only to get thicker as I sat there. My heart was pounding in my throat; it was the only distinct sound.
“What did it say?” I stammered at last.
My mom took the time to explain that my sister was feeling depressed because she was adopted. She felt that she was unloved by our family, and wanted either to leave it or die. Because she knew she wouldn’t be allowed to leave, and because she didn’t want to inflict pain upon herself, she wanted God to take her life for her.
For months afterward, my sister was in and out of hospitals that were meant to help her feel better about herself and her relationship with my family. Every time she came home, however, she seemed only to have gotten worse. She now dressed in black and wore her hair in front of her face as a way of separating herself from the family. She disobeyed blatant orders from my parents and expressed strong interests in joining a gang.
I could see that my parents were suffering. My mother cried every night, wondering how in the world she could have failed so miserably as a parent. Everyone in my family began to look at my sister with hatred and contempt.
And yet she was gleeful, almost sadistically so. She literally laughed at our pain and poked fun at every little sign of what she considered to be our weakness. She truly believed that she was superior to us. I began to feel the hatred burning inside of myself, as well. My sister had cried out for help, and when we had so lovingly reached out to help her through the roughest of times, she trampled over our hearts… and laughed.
Daily, I came home loud fights and a crying family member. I wanted badly to do something to help, but what could I do? Daily, I walked past the fights and hid myself away in the solitude of my room, blasting angry music to drown out my sobbing.
“You aren’t even my real mother!” my sister cried out. “I don’t have to listen to you!” The little bitch. My mom was crying again. I had had enough.
I leaped off my bed and threw open my bedroom door. Anticipation welling in my chest, adrenaline running through my veins, I stepped purposefully into the battle zone.
“Come here,” I said to my sister. I was amazed at how calm my voice sounded. I wasn’t yelling. My voice wasn’t even raised. My tone, however, was stern and possessed a fury that I didn’t know I was capable of producing. Something in it must have struck my sister, because she obeyed. The next thing I knew, we were both sitting in the living room alone together. And for once, there was peace in my house.
“What are you doing?” I asked at long last.
“What do you mean?” My sister asked.
“You’re destroying our family, and you know it.” She paused briefly and leaned towards me. Never before had I heard something as terrifying as what was about to come out of my sister’s mouth.
“It’s sort of like a video game,” she said. “It’s like, I’m the main character, and I have to get control over everyone else and be in charge, and then I win.”
As I thought over what she was saying, a deep fear welled up inside of me. I realized suddenly that I had absolutely no idea what my sister was capable of. This newfound insanity was completely illogical and utterly ridiculous, but my sister believed it. She believed it so much that she was willing to sacrifice my entire family just to win her little game.
I don’t know where I got the courage to speak, but from deep within me, something bubbled up and began emptying itself from between my lips. The words were my own, and yet I don’t remember thinking them. “You don’t realize what you’re doing to us,” I said. I spoke in a soothing tone that was meant to cause peace. My sister was taken aback. She hadn’t heard anything apart from yelling for months. I continued speaking. “You think that you’re misunderstood and you don’t need us, but you’ll never understand how much we care about you. I don’t know how much longer I can stand watching you do this to us. The thing is, I love you. I can’t watch you do this to yourself. I love you.”
She looked at me for a long time before there was any reaction. I could tell she was trying to hold something down, trying to stay strong so that she could remain in control. She struggled against herself, but to no avail. She broke down. Within moments, tears were streaming down her cheeks. She stood up and wrapped her arms around me, holding tight. She cried and cried.
“I’m so sorry,” she murmured every so often, but it was barely noticeable through the sobs. As I stood there, hugging her in the dimly lit, quiet living room, I cried too.

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