I think that I was six years old when I realized that happiness just didn’t occur for everyone, when I was sat on the bedroom floor alongside my older brother, listening to the sounds of my father yelling at my mother. The walls quaking with the rumble of his deep voice insisting that it’s her fault, that it always is and always will be her fault. The sound of her begging for some type of mercy, for a compassion that merely did not exist, no room for anything else in his alcohol filled veins, veins that could not afford to run over, could not afford to tip over the sharp edges of his heart. Though there were also silent moments, the house would go so quiet that even the walls would stop their shaking, waiting for the next sound to knock them down like a chain of dominoes that maybe took a little too long to assemble, but create the perfect anticlimax.
I think these silent moments were the worst ones, where we listened with caution, having that light, but also very much heavy feeling in our gut. They were even more horrible than when we had to endure the lengths of her shouts of agony or his shouts of anger. We knew what was happening in that moment, well kind of. We knew that they weren’t good moments, not like the lovely sound of our mother’s voice in the dead of night, lulling us to sleep. We knew that much, and I suppose for kids it was almost too much knowledge, too real for a six year old mind to even try to begin to comprehend. The silence was worse because we didn’t know what was happening or what would happen next. It was like having to sit through a horror movie that consisted of loud suspenseful music and risky decisions, only to have all sounds stop and you’re left with the sound of your erratically beating heart. The only thing in the movie to break the silence is a very frightening, but much anticipated jump scare of some paranormal entity and even then it wasn’t something you were exactly pleased for knowing to being with.
We would always wait for the silence to be broken, and we didn’t always know what to expect. So, we held each other for whatever seemingly endless amount of time it took for us to have our lovely mother back in our arms, back in the safety of her two children. We couldn’t do anything then, but at least the safety we’d provide her with would be a true one, one that held so much honesty that her heart shattered at the thought of it. So, every night she’d rest with us, she’d rest just as a building in ruins would after a 7.4 earthquake. At least every morning she’d have us there to gather her broken pieces in an attempt to put them back together.
And even at six years old, I would always wonder if some day we’d stop being the construction workers of her soul, and instead the harborers of the life she never had.