Thursday, February 5, 2009

It Always Starts The Same Way...

It is 1:00 a.m., and he’s still not home. My eyes are burning from the powerful need to sleep, so I close them and begin to drift. I remind myself again that he is not home and become more alert at the thought. Luckily my favorite show in a long line-up of Nick at Night programming is about to about to begin; the Patty Duke Show. I turn from my side onto my back, propping my head up with an extra pillow in an effort to better see my 15 inch television set and then I hear it... the rev of a 1987 Mustang G.T. pulling into the driveway two stories below my bedroom window.

I quickly turn off the television; pull the covers tightly around me up to my chin for protection and wait. My pulse is racing. I attempt to quiet the sound of my breathing as I strain my ears to hear his familiar movements downstairs. Despite the loud thumping of my heart, I can hear him in the kitchen. The door of the pantry slams shut, the fridge opens then closes, and is followed by the whirring of the microwave. I am sweating under the weight of my pink quilt, too afraid to move, listening intently. Ding…whatever concoction he has created for dinner is done. I hear the clanking of the utensils as he chooses a fork. Each heavy thud of his boots on the 1970’s yellow linoleum shakes my soul like thunder. I worry because he hasn’t taken his shoes off yet, this is the first sign that a disaster is coming. I become more agitated, my stomach aches from the butterflies flying around in terror. Click…I hear the lamp in the living room and a roar of applause as the downstairs television comes to life. Some late-night talk show. “Isn't it too late for Letterman?” my mind begins to wander and my body to relax, until I am startled back to reality by the sound of his plate on the coffee table and the creak of the couch springs as he rises from the sofa. “Please just turn off the lamp and go to sleep!” I plead with him silently from the depths of my mind hoping to will him into staying downstairs.

But no. Tonight we will not be so lucky. My small body tenses, I am trembling, though I am sweating profusely. The thud of his boots on the stairs as he begins to climbs leaves me feeling nauseous. I am worried that I might throw-up. Now is not the time. I need to be watchful... my mother might needs me. Finally, my dad reaches the top of the stairs, turning on the hallway light that is bright enough to light up a stage and busts through my mothers bedroom door. I imagine the light pouring into her room and wonder if it hurts her she pretending to sleep like me. I hear her calm voice tell my dad to, " quiet you’re gonna wake-up Andrew.” My two-year old brother is sleeping next to her. I am shaking uncontrollably now, still unable to bring myself out from under the covers, paralyzed by the fear of what is about to take place. “Paul leave me alone!” My mother’s voice is rising in frustration and fear. I am being so silent that I am positive that I can hear the bruise forming on her arm as he grabs her with his large hands and drags her down the stairs. At this, I am finally released from my pink-quilt prison and I spring to my bedroom door. Opening it as quietly as I can so he doesn’t hear. At 8 years-old I stand guard at the top of the steps ready to intervene should things get too out of control.

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