Age 1. To learn, I listen. My parents’ voices, sweet and relaxing, always linger in my ears. They keep repeating their names as if I would forget which one was Mama and which one was Daddy.
2. I’m an only child. My laughter is the sole sound resonating throughout the house as I shuffle across the family room and crawl behind the lamp to play hide-and-seek. Despite its bright blaze I am left cloaked in shadows until hearing my mom's voice again. Pretending not to find me she sits in a nearby chair and reads a story aloud. It's something about the alphabet or farm animals, I can’t remember.
3. Dad is teaching me how to ride a bike. I am afraid of crashing, so he promises not to let go until I say I’m ready. But we are both too distracted. I scrape my knee and cry.
5. Staring blankly at the ceiling, I clutch the ends of my comforter in a tight fist as my head lies on a tear-stained pillow. It is my fifth nightmare this week.
5. I hear my parents’ voices,
but they have turned into deafening shrill.
Cold terror flows through my veins.
5. They roar with rage and retaliation.
5. They keep reusing the same threats because they don’t listen to each other’s words the first time.
5. They call each other names that I don’t want to hear but I can’t help listening.
5. They yell about something called divorce
and I start to wonder if they will still want to be my parents when their relationship breaks.
6. Outside my window a movers’ truck is halted. My mother announces her departure and says shared custody arrangements allow me to see both my parents separately.
She tells me everything will be fine, but my father’s expression disagrees.
I no longer remember which one of my parents is trustworthy. I want them to speak with honesty, but then again, if the truth doesn’t want to be found maybe obeying in silence will save me from heartache. My mother and father both tell me to pack a suitcase.
7. It's only half a year later and a new woman sleeps in my father’s house. She will be his 4th wife.
9. My parents rarely communicate.
I begin to inquire about subjective discussions in my attempt to be a helpful daughter.
Wrapping myself in a spider’s web I try to piece together the missing years of my parents’ cracked bond hoping to renter my childhood fantasy of happiness. But I have trapped myself in a vicious cycle with a hyperfocus that prevents me from listening to the rest of the world.
10. I chase my parents’ past, but like the sun trying to tag the moon, it could never be caught.
Left alone I have mastered the art of emotional deception and thrown hope far from my world.
I cling to a person without substance and a life without meaning.
11. At my mother’s appartement another movers’ truck is halted outside my window. This time we will be living in another town with a man and his three teenage daughters that I haven’t even met.
Desperation provokes my search for a new passion.
12. I love school, science and math particularly. While listening, I learn new explanations for the world’s being and why things work. Equations and research overtake my mind and I marvel at the beauty of a complex yet single sided answer.
I have faith that the human race isn’t as oblivious as my 5 year old experience portrayed.
13. I still don’t quite understand life. Everyone tells me they detest going to school. The people in my classes act like waves approaching a shoreline, always wanting to continue along their journey without stopping to absorb the lessons residing beneath their crests.
Waves are powerful, but they are also destined to crash.
While listening to my classmates I realize all their conversations seem to echo the tones of my parents’ arguments, but instead of repeating names, they simply glitch. As my peers mingle I only notice the constant infiltration of interruptions, subject changers, criticism, lack of attention, unrelated context, nervous laughter, assumptions, and pure ignorance.
Yet people still gape at their own sorrow.
13. The obscurity I first perceived as unique to my parents I now view as normal.
14 to infinity. To learn, you must listen. Refusing to do so is confining yourself to a bike you don’t know how to ride.