Warning: this chapter contains topics of domestic violence. If this makes you uncomfortable please skip past the italicized writing.
"I think Danny likes you," June said. I scooted farther away from this girl who was far too mature for our first grade year, who used words like 'likes' with secret smiles that stretched far too wide and eyes that narrowed more than usual. She scooted closer to me in her pink Barbie skirt and brought her mouth, sticky with candy residue, close to my ear. "Do you like him?"
I tossed a hurried gaze at the teacher, but she was too busy mopping up a spill that seemed to come day after day. I shook my head, unsure whether to speak or not. I didn't know if I liked Danny or not. At that moment all I was aware of was that I wanted to grab the green pan in the play kitchen first so that Sandra didn't get to it first.
"Well, I think you should go out with him."
"What does that mean," I said against better first grade judgement.
"You have to kiss him!" she shrieked, her voice rising suddenly, and the girls around us burst into laughter that made me feel varying degrees of uncomfortable. I scooted farther away from the group and towards the teacher, gazing at her with wide eyes. She led me away to read a book or play with play-dough or do something that would take my mind off whatever just happened. I didn't know what had just happened. I was are that I had dodged a bullet of some sort, though I didn't know what that happened to be.
I don't think I ever have fared well with romantic relationships, starting at a young age.
I didn't have the worst childhood in the world. In fact, it wasn't terrible. I spent most of my life with my mum. It was just that one month before mum and I started living together that I remember. Maybe it went on before then or after then but to me I remembered it as one month and that's it and I'd want it to stay that way thank you very much.
May of 1998. My father; his name was Jonathan. Tall, strong. Don't remember much else. There was a way the right side of his mouth curved up whenever he made a joke. He played classic rock: the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and yes, the Beatles.
One month. May of 1996. I heard a slap from the room next door. What was I, four? five? I choose not to remember. Someone yelling; the tones in their voice clear and as jagged as glass. Not sure if it was my mother or father. Next night. Another slap. Next week quiet. I made marks on the wall with my red Sharpie whenever the slaps happened, and when my mother found them her mouth went into a thin line and she confiscated the Sharpie and repainted the wall. I watched her fingers shake slightly as she slowly covered up the red marks with the smooth white paint. But the marks remained in my mind. Week after next. A harder hit. I was still like a statue, but something broke inside of me and I kicked at the wall with my heel and froze, my heart beating like a jackhammer. There was a silence and then someone crying. I picked up my blanket and headed to the living room couch, unable to deal with my front row seat of a show I never wanted to attend.
My mother came in and picked me up and kissed me, and my father's strong arms around my small body. I fell asleep in the bliss of my parent's fleeting love that night.
Another week, then the last night. A crack. I heard it in the air like lightning, a thin, sharp crack, and it cracked the thing inside of me and I yelled out and I gasped for air and then my mother came in and said it was all going to be over in a thin, quiet voice. There was a narrow, jagged red line coming down her face; I glimpsed it though the moonlight. I cried into her arms. Someone was crying into mine. It was my father, his tears running down his face into my pink pajamas, and she was tugging me away from him, her fingers soaked in her blood, saying "John, you better stay the fuck away from us," and then I fell asleep. I'm still not sure why I fell asleep. Maybe denial. Maybe trauma. I don't know and I don't want to remember.
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