"Where is that country where you can say,
'I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you'
and it's true?"
–ANN BEATTIE, The State We're In: Maine Stories
INNER CITY STORIES
When the words slipped from her lips, I could have already predicted it. “We’re getting a divorce . . . we never really loved . . .” her voice fading into a fuzzy white noise. All I could picture was years of screaming and fighting and crying and laughing and hugs we exchanged with each other. My body feels numb and my eyes are suddenly not there anymore.
“Hey, are you okay?” she asks.
“Yeah I’m . . . I’m okay.”
My eyes begin to shed tears.
The air felt thick, my tongue heavy, but I foresaw this happening; I should have been prepared. It was the summer before high school and my mother had decided to leave my father. I understood then that the ghosts of her past were too much for her to bear, that every second she spent with this man reminded her of the nights she wishes to forget – the drunken yells and loud noises of rage. There was a war raging in my mind: should I stay or should I go? I was a speck of dust, a mere nothing in the midst of all this chaos. Weeks passed and he still refused to sign the papers. My mother and father had stopped sleeping in the same room. She now slept in the basement; I wonder if during those sleepless nights she experienced she found peace within herself, peace within those four lonely walls. She sent me to ask my father to sign the papers, but he still refused. I looked outside the window and it was dark, just like the darkness taking over my home.
She would start to cry, “ I’m going to kill him,” she’d say in her rage.
I’d look into my mother's eyes and could not even recognize her; I’d see this hurt women staring back at me with wrinkled brows and wild brown eyes. My brothers held her back, yet she had already grabbed the knife. I hid in the back of my sister’s room door and blinked hard just to reassure myself that this wasn't true, but it was. All of it was, and I couldn't even cry, because there were just too many emotions coursing through my body. We spent the Fourth of July in darkness, we watched as the fireworks exploded in midair, scarcely seen since the trees covered them and they faded into darkness. I could hardly remember the last time I felt content. I thought, “This happens to almost every parent, it's fine”, but I faked a smile when my mother asked me if I was fine with the divorce. I couldn't bring myself to say that everything was not fine, and that I felt like my parents were the twin towers falling into the ashes of this divorce. I knew it would be selfish to say all this to her.
My father finally signed the papers, although he seemed unsure; I remember he told me he loved me, and for the first time that August afternoon, sitting on the worn down sofa in our hollow home, he cried. Crazy to think how something so small as a paper and a pen could tear a family apart. All of my siblings were lost in their different worlds, and we all couldn't keep pretending it was all fine. We were a damaged family, a broken one. I was beginning to think this was the end. My mother spewed bitterness towards my father; I never thought I could hate and love someone at the same time. How can the hands that break you, still feel like home?
We never really spoke about it, but we all knew what he had done to us. The damage he caused, the nights we spent crying ourselves asleep because of one of his outbursts. I couldn't even begin to describe the facade we kept building all those years. A united family, a lovely, large happy family. We were secretly oppressed, breathing out dissolution and heartbreak. They would ask us in school, are you okay? But all we could manage to say was to mutter “mhm”. There was a loud cry in the silence of our hearts that the ones closest to us never seemed to hear. In the bleak stress of all this, we still managed to stay sane. I was still alive, we were still alive and there was hope yet kicking in our guts. He was someone that had never received love, so he couldn't quite possibly know how to give it. The rawness in our situation burned our hearts and left scars long after the damage had been done. We gathered our belongings at the end of that summer, hoping we'd leave everything behind us, even the memories. My father was not shocked that we all choose to go with our mother; I think he knew the damage he'd done but while confronting it he'd deny it all. Saying he could never do such things, and that my mother was crazy beyond belief. We were taking off to start over, find a fresh new beginning. My family needed time to heal, finally to breathe.