Flick the Switch

March 3, 2017
By , Jacksonville, FL

I watch as my father grabs my mother from behind and swings her into the upstairs living room. There are screams echoing down the hall, my brother runs toward the situation. I didn’t I watch as my father grabs my mother from behind and swings her into the upstairs living room. There are screams echoing down the hall, my brother runs toward the situation. I didn’t understand what good he could do, but I didn’t think to object. It was a normal occurrence that’s been happening for the last few weeks. My mother didn’t think it a good idea to leave, but it’s common sense to me to leave an abusive husband.

Since the day I could form cohesive thoughts, I’ve known that my dad was abusive. He would strike her in the bedroom if she turned in bed the wrong way. He would tell her she’s not worth the money he gives her to pay the bills, but held a smile around others. He loved his image, so he would treat her like a queen at church, and she was too embarrassed to speak the truth.

The lights are off, only the light from my small box tv lights up the dark hallway. I see the shadow of my father sitting on top of what appears to be my mother, throwing punch after punch into her ribcage. I had a feeling this was going to happen tonight—they were just in their loveless bedroom having an argument.

The argument was completely stupid, too. The night prior my mom made chocolate chip cookies. She wanted to bring some normalcy into my brother’s and my life. Dipping out a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a dull, white coffee cup, she handed me a plate of cookies. “Bring this to your father,” she turned toward me with the coffee cup in hand, sternly. “See if he’s in a good mood.”

At this point, they haven’t slept in the same room for a few months. He kicked her out, so she now slept downstairs in the guest bedroom. I often slept with her, to keep her company. I was scared she’d feel unloved, that she’d do something that would take her away from me forever.

I brought the ice cream and cookies to my father, the light was off in the room. He took them, said his thanks, seemed happy. I told my mom. Tonight, she went to his room to see if things were getting better, that she took it a good sign that he was happy with the cookies. That’s what they were arguing about. He said that was the only thing she was useful for.

My brother and I were sitting in my room watching to when heat rose in the room across the hallway. We would turn up the volume in an attempt to mask the squabble, but nothing was loud enough to cover the nerves howling in our bodies. We could feel something might happen, but I remember the way we prayed. We prayed that it’d just stop, mom might leave the room and go downstairs where we could talk to her, where we wouldn’t have to worry.

That obviously didn’t happen.

We ran out of my bedroom when we heard the door open and a loud thump on the floor, shaking the piggy bank on my desk. I saw just a glimpse, a quickened shadow of my father picking up my mother from behind as she sat at the top of the stairs. It looked as if she was sitting for protection, that she might have pushed her. I know now that he almost did.

The light switch sat on the wall, my brother ran toward my father, I flipped the switch. My brother made a pathetic attempt to pull him off mom, and it did get him off her, but onto my brother. I didn’t recognize my father’s face; his eyes were filled with a darkness I didn’t know was possible. My mother was purple, weakly fisting my father’s side profile. It was difficult to breathe; the air became so thick that I now wonder how I was strong enough to stay standing.

My father got off him, and began to walk to the edge of the room toward the tv on the decade old entertainment center. My mother screamed at my brother and I to lock ourselves in my bedroom. I ran, he ran, my mother ran.

I locked the door. My brother turned on my light. My mother went into the room beside mine and I heard the click of the lock.

There was silence.

I took slow breaths, drowning under the oxygen. Breathe in. Footsteps, heavy. Breathe out. A misty silence drenched in the house. I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know if he’d left or not. Breathe in. My brother stood by the door, mouthing that he was going to check. Breathe out. My father didn’t leave. My brother grabbed the handle and immediately there was a crash of screen splitting and wires snapping and anger oozing that stopped my brother.

I don’t remember exactly how much longer, but eventually my mother knocked on my door, told us to come out. My father had finally left. There was a silence, an unsettled peace in the air. I walked behind my brother who hid behind my mother. My mother hid behind the strength of our collective fear. My father had thrown the tv against the wall, splinters of glass in the wall and splayed out across the carpet. I haven’t seen my father the same since.

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