This week we asked you to write a post beginning with the words, "This was absolutely the last time" and ending with "She was wrong."
I wrote this post as a response to the above assignment. I wasn't sure where it would take me, but it turns out it was a deep and painful place. A place that has since healed, to be sure, but it surprised me.
She Was Wrong
This was absolutely the last time I could stand to lie in my bed listening to my mother scream from the next room. Tears rolled silently down the sides of my face as I lay frozen in terror. Again and again, she called:
“MELONEY!!” Her voice was hoarse with the screaming.
There was a time when the role of rescuer was reserved for my brother. He was six years older than me and his room was closer to hers. I never knew what happened at that end of the house. I knew, of course, about the screams and curses that flew between my mother and stepfather, but I stayed in my room, as far away from the chaos as possible. Kevin would go and do whatever it was he did to help resolve the situation.
Now it was my turn. Kevin was grown and had left the house and here I was, a fifteen year old girl who didn’t want to have to save her mother from whatever was on the other side of the door. I was the only one here, and the fear of my mother needing me to save her paralyzed me.
I don’t know how long she called my name. My memory of that night is sharp and unfocused all at once. I heard my stepfather through the wall taunting, “She can’t hear you.” Still, I lay there, unmoving. Wishing it was just a dream. How much time passed? Was it five minutes? An hour?
Eventually, something snapped and I ran as fast as I could to their bedroom and shoved open the door. My heart was beating frantically, not knowing what I would find inside. But here stood my pajama-clad mother and stepfather near the dresser in their room. “What?” he asked. “Nothing’s wrong.” Looking around, I could see no sign of wrong-doing (it was only years later that I would learn that sometimes he would hold a gun to her head. He must have hidden it when he heard me coming). My mother took the opportunity my entrance provided to escape the room.
I turned and went to the kitchen. Shaking and crying, I poured a cup of water and drank between sobs. Mom entered the kitchen and, lighting a cigarette, she said, “What’s wrong?” As though she had no idea that this incident would give me post traumatic stress for years to come. As if she didn’t think that anything out of the ordinary had even happened. And, I suppose, in our house, it hadn’t. I had just never needed to rescue her before. “Nothing...”I mumbled back, heading back to my room and closing the door.
The next day, I called my father and asked if I could come to live with him. There were no questions from him other than when could he come to get me. My mother couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave. I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t understand.
She had thought that I was hers forever, that if she took the abuse and protected me from him I would stay and, maybe, not be hurt. She had thought that the yelling and name-calling and cursing would bounce off of my skin like so many rubber bullets, leaving no permanent damage. She had thought (somehow) that her always-sensitive, ever-fragile daughter could handle it. She had thought that I would be strong enough to rescue her when she needed it.
She was wrong.