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Watching Paint Dry
The clock read 6:48. Mesmerized, I blankly stared at my bare walls, as I had been the past few months in my free time. Most kids my age would be watching TV, doing homework or playing outside whenever they had the chance. However, the dull, yellow walls of my bedroom were the only thing in my young life that felt stable. The four connected pieces of drywall that enclosed me had been what I considered one of my only escapes from the world, one thing that I knew couldn’t fail. My house hadn’t been a home for years but at least the walls were giving me a place to stay, and that was enough.
I stared at the paper-thin drywall with a million thoughts flooding my mind, but one question stood out in particular. “What’s it going to take to change him?” That doubt raced through my skull like blood pumping from my veins. I saw this question relentlessly in my daily life. I see it etched in angry stranger’s coat sleeves. Written in brightly colored chalk across sidewalk cracks. In the embers of cigarette butts I’d find tucked between the cracks of the couch cushions. Near the underbelly of dry whisky bottles he’d leave in the backseat of his car.
I broke my stare with my bright walls to peer at my dark phone screen for just a moment, the time read 7:08. I had been watching my dusty, yellow walls dry when he busted through the front door. The whole house heard the hinges wail when he stormed in. He stumbled through the narrow door frame of the broken, locked gate with cold tears on his cheeks and Jack Daniels reeking on his breath.
“Are you drunk?” my mother whispered, trying to protect us from knowledge of something we’ve always been aware of.
“Honey, I can explain” He said in a sloshy, raspy voice.
This is all I heard before I stole my younger siblings from the living room to protect them from the cross fire that had yet to begin. At twelve years old, I had been rescuing my brother and sister from these attacks for almost two years. In their eight short years of life, they had seen too many fights, too many broken bottles of brandy, and in their precious childhood they had only seen love die.
“Do you know how many people you put into danger when you do this?” my mom roared through the house, shaking the floorboards.
My siblings and I were huddled in the corner of my room, the one farthest from the war. Trying to distract them from the chaos only an inch of drywall away, I pulled out my civics notebook and transformed a page that was dedicated to the sixth amendment, into a tic-tac-toe game.
“You don’t want me anymore, the kids think I’m a terrible dad, what’s my purpose? So what if I’m dead?” His slurred words echoed off the crumbling walls of a house that had never been a home.
As we sat in that corner, my siblings marking their X’s and O’s, I couldn’t pry my eyes from the walls. Images of fights I couldn’t sneak away from danced on the yellow paint in before of me. The thundering of all words I had heard, used as ammunition in their battles, skipped on repeat through my eardrums. Illustrations of the first time I saw him cry with his once strong, masculine shoulders now violently jerking up and down.
Praying, I whispered “God, I don’t ask for much. You don’t have to keep my family together, if it must break, let it.”
I heard a glass explode on the kitchen floor, every shard spreading like wild fire.
“How am I not enough anymore?” he said in a crackly voice that ripped under my door frame, forming goosebumps along my spine.
As I ignored half my DNA blubber curse words and threats I continued with my prayer, “Make him leave. Fix him. I don’t care but Lord, please, do not let these walls fail.”
As I finished sending off my plea, I heard one final rumble before I recognized silence. He was gone. With the walls still standing, I let out a sigh of relief.