I lie prostrate on my bed, my whole body engrossed in the act of waiting. Idle hands trace patterns on my quilt while listening in to the conversation going on in the living room. My room is dark and quiet. I try to pace my stuttered breathing with the ticking of the hands of the alarm clock on my bedside table. A memory replays in my mind, one of a night after watching a movie I can’t recall very well, where you took my hands in yours and in a voice that would feature as my conscience well into my adulthood, said, ‘Life is a running story, and we all have our parts to play_’
Most nights are like this. I sit, lie or pace and wait for a shriek, a sign, or the sound of something breaking. The silence of a thing that has gone wrong. It’s the part I play in our pretend happy family. My appearance this night starts with a garbled thump against the wall. I jump out of bed, trip on a misplaced item of clothing, and rush to the living room where you have my mother clutching the back of her head, curled into herself, while you falter between helping her and keeping your hands to yourself.
‘_ some parts we choose, others choose us_’
Given the number of times I’ve experienced this, I should be used to it, shouldn’t I? The shock that always comes first, in the same ways but with different reactions. That sometimes I will rush forward to separate you from her and other times I have to slink back into my room helpless, ones like these where she turns to look at me and with tears in her eyes, pleads, “It’s okay. Everything is fine.”
There is a certain magnitude behind the way she says it that gives me pause. I hate myself every time it happens, but when I look into her eyes, so much like my own and so full of resigned shame, I can’t seem to interfere. Maybe it’s because I know that shame, the weight of it in my bones when I flinch away from strangers and friends alike that come too close, the armour wound around me so tight that it pushes away even those I’d like to be close to. It’s tiring to always be on your toes ready to launch defense, to feel at fault for the most trivial things, but I’ll be damned before I resign to it. God forbid I turn into her.
God forbid I give into the anger, the only resemblance I have towards you, the person I become when I’m backed into a corner. It comes over me quick and hot beneath my skin, boiling in my stomach and tumbles out in raging waves, to hurt worse than I’ve been hurt. Reining it in is becoming easier however, unlike the first time that it happened, when I went too far.
Hitting someone feels like a relief from the anger at first contact, before the shame of the respite and of your action breaks you. To look at them, and the bruise you’ve caused feels like having your insides scraped out with a blunt knife. Looking yourself in the eye is difficult when you don’t want to see the thing looking back, that thing that felt the relief, that is part of you. You want them to hide the bruise like you want to hide from yourself. And it scares me to think that I may one day look at myself deeper than skin level and not recognize myself, but see you instead. God forbid I turn into you.
But the two are parts of a cycle I play. Anger is the flesh that cocoons the heaviness in my bones. I get angry that you hit my mother even when you say you’ll stop tomorrow, that she stays after saying she’ll leave you tomorrow and that I believe in this straw of hope you dangle in my face even when I know better. I am as ashamed to say this is my reality as I am to be silent about it. I feel shame for looking for you in all of the faces of those I love, that I may carry the love between you as a compass for mine despite all my efforts not to.
‘_and we carry both the responsibility and consequence for those parts.’
Tomorrow, you’ll have my mother’s hand in yours on the dining table, smile at her with a mouth full of apologies and promise. She’ll return your smile over her tea cup, squeeze your hand and hand you another chance. You’ll talk with me later, about all things and everything, listen, as we work through music, which you don’t particularly like, but are involved in because it is something I like. It will remind me of the father I knew before the rose-coloured glasses I once wore were torn away from my face and I’ll endure. But as of tonight, I’m tired of playing this part. You’ll have to forgive me for telling this to someone else.
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