Friday, November 08, 2013

What They Don't Tell You


What they don’t tell you about being the child of a violent household is the vivid imagination you’re forced to develop.  All the ways in which your mind draws pictures to fit with the sounds you hear just beyond your bedroom door. 

Like the way the shower curtain must have hung bunched against the corner of the bathroom wall, at the point where the tile meets the painted wall.  How it must have slumped inside the white porcelain bathtub, limp and incapable of providing much in the way of protection. How the square tiles must have gleamed under the yellow glare of the bathroom light that night.

You picture your mother pressed hard up against the farthest corner of the bathroom shower stall, trying and failing to merge the molecules of her body with those of the ceramic tiles.  Was she standing with her head turned away and her shoulders up around her ears?  Were her hands up to protect herself when she cried out your father’s name, infusing that one word with all of her desperate prayers for mercy?  Were her eyes closed in an attempt to shield herself from the horror or were they fixed on the barrel of the gun that my father aimed in her direction?  

It’s never been this bad before.  This is something new.  He’s ratcheted it up a notch, your father. 

You know it’s bad by the tone of his voice and it’s only years later that you learn to assign a dictionary definition to that particular way his voice changes from angry to rage.  You know, even in your child’s mind, that he’s not capable of rational thinking when that happens and it scares you into stillness.  You picture your father’s body blocking the only exit out of that small space.

Suddenly, they’re not alone.  You hear the voice of your brother, sixteen at the time, and you don’t think you’ve ever heard anything more courageous or dangerous in your young life.  You picture him entering the smallest room in the house, injecting himself into the battle between your warring parents and you know a fear like you’ve never experienced before. That he would enter that room voluntarily is a form of crazy daring you can’t begin to make sense of and your breath stops.   

Sitting on your bed in the dark, with your legs tucked up as tight as they will go, your forehead rests on your knees that are softened by the fabric of your flannel nightie and your arms wrap themselves around your shaking limbs like binding twine.  You’ve braced your body, as best you can, for the impact of what must surely be coming. You breathe through your mouth and stretch with your ears to hear what you don’t want to hear rapidly unfolding on the other side of your bedroom door.

You hadn’t fully realized how far things had escalated until you hear your brother’s voice coming to you, soft and muzzy through the wall.

“Put the gun down, Dad.”  And, your mind frantically scribbles him in, with swift, jerky lines, standing between his step-mother and his dad.  You imagine him looking in your father’s eyes, unblinking, ignoring the gun barrel that waves like a matador’s red cape mere inches from his chest. 

“Put the gun down.” He says.  Calmly, firmly, with only the barest shake in his voice revealing the abject fear he must be gripping like the leash of a snarling dog in his clenched fist.  He speaks like one addressing a madman and he surely is.

His is the only voice of reason in this house.  His, the only sound of authority.  This is why you love him so much.  This is why he will forever possess the largest part of your heart.  You can count on him to keep you safe, no matter what madness threatens.  


*******

I've enrolled in a writing e-course offered by Laurie Wagner that she calls Telling True Stories.  I'll be sharing the product of my work each week that results from the writing prompts she gives us.

11 comments:

C-ingspots said...

That's intense. And surely, nothing any child (or adult for that matter) should have to encounter. They say we become who we are because of many factors, but surely our experiences in our formative years are some of the strongest. You must be a very strong individual Carolyn, to have come through the other side, and still function as a rational, self-supporting and most importantly, non-violent human being. Many keep the circle perpetuated. I can only imagine the fierce love and adoration you feel for your big brother. Blessings my friend.

Annette Mickelson said...

Carolyn, I've got goosebumps and tears at the same time reading this. Your writing is very tight on this -- you show, not tell, us that little girl's fear. I see her clearly and I feel her emotion. ...oh, my stomach is lurching too... well done. How hard this must have been for you to write...

S. Etole said...

Your writing grips the heart in a major way.

altadenahiker said...

Rich, Carolynn. So much to appreciate here, but my favorite: "And, your mind frantically scribbles him in, with swift, jerky lines..." You could have just said "envision," but this is so much stronger.

Nancy said...

You are a woman of tremendous courage and depth. No child should have to endure what you did but you have taken your experiences and used the gifts from them by making your life different where you could have just ignored the gifts and harbored the hate. I hear the voice of deep compassion for others that weaves itself through your stories and you will never know the lives you touch and encourage because you took the gifts....Big hugs to you my friend...

TexWisGirl said...

i'm here from annette's blog. this brought tears to my eyes and a tightness in my chest. bless you - and your brother.

Carolynn Anctil said...

Thank you, Everyone for your generosity. These are not memories I like to visit often or dwell in for long. This particular one has been on my mind and needed to be told.

Blessings, my friends. As always, thank you for taking time in your day to visit and leave a comment.

Eileen said...

My heart aches for the little girl you were and is in awe of the strength and courage you demonstrate in telling your story.

Catherine said...

So gripping! I can not even imagine the pain of that memory. Sending you much love my friend!
xo Catherine

Christina said...

I read this and didn't comment at first. It hurts my heart so much to think of that young girl and that brave boy. Children deserve safety and security at home...because it can't be guaranteed anywhere else. Our parents should protect us from the monsters.

Thank you for sharing such a painful memory. I hope it helps you in some small way.

Much love to you and keep up the writing.

Sharon said...

I waited to comment,too. The Children of Domestic Violence Club is not one that any of us asked to join. Your post brought back memories - I'm glad both of us are on the other side of that now.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin