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How Strength Helped Me
I laid awake, crumpled under the alien covers in the freshly cleaned guest bed. I clutched my grandmother’s old bunny, fingering her long and lopsided ears. Her little blue dress was faded and her skin was beginning to yellow.
I rolled out of the bed, sliding my feet on to the cool floor. The clock was nowhere to be found. I slipped my suitcase out from under my bed and began to rummage through the hurriedly packed items, searching for my phone.
Suddenly, my fingers caught hold of the smooth edge as I tugged it free from beneath a balled up sweatshirt. I clicked a random button and the screen lit up, temporarily blinding me in the darkness.
It was 10:58. I had two minutes. I had two minutes until my phone would blow up with texts and calls. I had two minutes until my life would change forever.
I attempted to fold myself back into the bed, forgetting about its low structure, and flopped down the extra foot on top of the bunched up pillows and blankets. I then proceeded to curl up, wanting sleep to wash over me and take me away in its lulling currents.
Glancing about the foreign room, I found that it held a chair and a closet containing shelves stacked high into the darkness. There was also a gaping, circular hole punched into the ceiling.
Looking at my phone again, it was 10:59. Beads of sweat decorated my face as I realized that it would happen at any moment. Would he notice the missing paintings? The empty beds and long gone family members? I sat up with a start as anxiety filled my lungs, desperately wanting to find out his reaction. I slowly calmed my rising panic attack and took long, deep breaths.
11:00. An eerie silence fell upon me as I endured the drawn out and painful wait. I wanted nothing more than to dissolve into the sheets beneath me and exit the world that had been so cruel for so long.
My thoughts were disrupted by a frantic buzzing. I squeezed my eyes shut, building a wall around my tears. I slammed my hand down over my phone, temporarily quieting the obnoxious buzz. I quickly peeked at the screen, taken by curiosity and terror.
Dad: Where are you?
Dad: Where are you?
Dad: Come home.
Dad: I miss you.
Dad: I love you.
I allowed a solitary tear to slip down my cheek.
I love you too, Dad, I thought. But I’m not allowed to tell you.
This was the first night among the six months I spent in separation from my dad after my mother decided we needed to leave. It was miserable racing away from the house on the night of my dad’s arrival from Haiti, driving to friend’s house in search of a place to stay. Our new status became “homeless”. We gave up our home for a marriage that was cracking and breaking, seemingly beyond repair.
As my brother left to live with my dad and segregation became evident, my mother, sister, and I struggled in the absence of his presence. I was breaking inside, but I knew I could never reveal it. If I showed that I was weak, they would become weak, as well.
I stayed strong for my sister and mother.
My little sister often times awoke in the dead of the night with nightmares. I laid by her side, feeling more comforted by her than her by me. I assumed the role of a second mom as my mother went back to work for the first time in twenty years, pretending to be overjoyed when really I was fighting depression in the long hours I spent alone waiting for her to come home.
When I visited the boys in our old home, I ignored the ache in my chest as we talked and fantasized about what life would be like back together as a family. We dreamed about a vacation home with horse stables, and an indoor pool, a pool sized jacuzzi, and a treehouse larger than the main house itself. This, of course, was not going to happen, but it lightened the mood.
As my mother questioned her choices, she became fragile and confused by all of the strife arising. I came to her as I heard her crying silently on the steps, letting a few small sobs escape, sitting in the pitch black hallway. I comforted her by letting her know it was all going to work out, when really I wore a heavy jacket of grief and had lost hope for our family. The pain some days was so unbearable that even my reassuring smile was obviously fake.
Slowly, gradually, my parents began to talk. They then decided to date and picked a single night each week to eat dinner, while I was left at home to deal with the little monsters that were my siblings. Sure, Friday’s were rough (and not the way I wanted to spend my nights), but it was helping our family to fix its flaws.
The long months of separation finally paid off. Our family came together stronger than ever before through hard work and dedication, and if it weren’t for our strength, we may have never gotten to be where we are now. I am overjoyed with the outcome of the situation, and embraced my parents’ remarriage ceremony with a smile. If I continue today with the strength I had then, I know I will be able to find a thread of light in a pool of darkness.