It wasn’t all bad.
That’s what makes it so hard.
I do have fond memories of my childhood--
plenty of them.
My parents were active in my brother’s and my life.
They coached, taught, and gave their time to us.
We weren’t neglected--our needs were more or less fulfilled.
Believe it or not,
in broken homes,
there are fractures of happiness
amidst the shards of pained glass.
The walls of the house preserve the fear--
they are canvases
that portray the contours
of the bodies that were slammed against them.
Their seismic tremors tested the integrity of the house
as they rippled through the joists and studs.
Every beam, brick, and shingle was touched,
the foundation bruised.
Photographs contain smiles,
but walls trap screams, cries, and pleas.
I’m thankful for the walls of the house;
they hold the nightmares captive.
morphed into a bullet.
It was an errant shot
that hit his brain,
not his heart.
So many nights I heard the kitchen drawers slamming,
cooking implements and silverware clattering.
Vicious thuds, the footfalls of retreat and attack,
I never wanted to look,
but I played everything out in my head.
The anticipation of trauma turned out to be worse than the trauma itself—
the ever-present hope of escape
negated by the looming fear of what it may take
to finally escape.
March 3, 2008.
The air was chilled
when the cops escorted my brother and me out of the house.
My mother’s tears were obscured by the tinted windows of the cop car.
I was spared from seeing her grief-stricken look.
I couldn't bear to see the scores of bruises and cuts
on her face and body
that never made it to her trial.
Two cops separated my brother and me that night,
taking us to different squad cars,
and it feels like we still sit in those separate cars to this day.
All I know is we both have different accounts of what happened,
and the contradictions have never been settled.
My brother has no interest
in talking about it—
it seems the closer we come to corroboration,
the more we are repelled from each other.
My father's desperate heaves tapered into shallow chokes…
Each breath was laden with fear.
I never knew how scared he was
until the smoke and mirrors of cognition were lost,
and only his brain stem functioned.
To be alive
but unable to think,
That’s when he felt most authentic.
I learned then
that the ultimate expression of fear
I recall the little boy
in the sepia photograph
wearing a baseball uniform,
posing next to his bike,
before the polio crippled him,
and stole his childhood.
His parents told him he was a failure,
But I prefer to remember my dad as that beaming little boy
standing next to his bike,
hopeful and confident
as though he had the game-winning hit.
I wish I could have taught that little boy
how to play make believe--
to assemble a nurturing truth
from the cruel fictions that besiege our lives.
I visited my mother once
during her seven-year prison sentence.
Below, I have furnished a sample conversation demonstrating how the erasure of an incarcerated parent is executed:
“Tell me about your folks.”
“My father passed away when I was fourteen, and I haven’t seen my mom in a while,” I warily share.
“I am so sorry to hear about your father. That must be hard.”
“It’s alright. I am okay,” I stoically reply.
“Where’s your mom?”
I change the subject.
However, I cannot dodge and deflect forever. One day I will have to explain to my partner why my mother cannot live on her own and why I have to support her along with tediously detailing how the justice system failed her—failed me.
People look up articles on the incident and the trial all the time. Journalism is dirty—it's strictly business. Those writers do not have to live with the aftermath--their association with the word Times or Post validates their narrative while smothering mine.
“You want a relationship with your mother? Haven’t you seen what’s written about her on the Internet and in the papers?”
It grew wearisome trying to defend my decision--it became moot. So I stopped. Arguing about the truth was futile, so I resolved to live it.
Hope is a dangerous thing,
My story is not one of recovery
I don’t indulge in illusions of recouping what was lost.
I don’t want those things back--that’s not where I place my hope.
I moved back to the neighborhood after college.
I live there now.
My mother is with me.
My house of horrors still stands,
but the property is up for sale--
it dodders there on the hill
as it awaits demolition.
It's hard to predict how I will react
to seeing it flattened
and watching the walls that harbor nightmares
reduced to dust.
I may mourn the house's destruction,
Why cry for the horror, the fear, and the nightmares?
Because even in the twists and gnarls of domestic turmoil and pain,
a clunky, wonky love
jimmy rigged by me from all the broken and defective pieces--
a love I don't wish to go back to,
but one that is there nonetheless.
In the disintegration
and the decomposition,
I find the nourishment to keep going—
I am afraid.
I am afraid of what will be and what won’t.
I am afraid of turning into my father.
I am afraid of my own damaged mind.
But I am most afraid of no longer being afraid--
to pretend that I am never scared,
like my father
who was ambushed by fear
and scared to his death.
Fear urges me to keep going.
Courage is my choice to keep going.
And hope is every step I dare to take
without knowing where I am going
but only knowing I can never go back.