Friday, October 21, 2016

When it is Safe to Sleep

Front:  Gizelle, behind mom (Joyce), me and Yolanda
It is instinctive to want to rationalize disaster or suffering and put them into a framework so that we can cope emotionally.  This may seem like a silly thing, but I can’t go to sleep unless there is perfect silence around me.  This became even more of a profound and troubling situation once I got married, because he could not sleep without the TV going.  I spoke about it, asked about moving the TV, I begged and I got nowhere until the day I just moved out the bedroom and into one of my own where I could have quiet and could sleep.
This started in my childhood.  Pubs closed at 11pm in those days.  My father would come home when the pubs were closed either alone or with some of his drinking pals, mostly the police from the mobile unit.  He would make my mom get up and rustle up food for everyone at midnight, but I knew then it was safe to sleep because there were strangers in the house.  He would be too tired by the time they left to exert the devil within him.   If he came home alone, I would like awake until there was silence in the home.   I listened to all the fights and was vigilant because I thought that if it got out of hand, I could always run down the stairs to save my mother.   I had four younger siblings, the youngest was 10 years younger than I was.  I would have the youngest in my bed and the smaller ones in my bedroom and in the second bedroom which was upstairs.   When they would wake up from the noise of the fighting downstairs, I would tiptoe to their beds and bring them quietly to me, whispering to them to be quiet and trying to comfort them.
One night something bad happened.  I was, as usual, lying awake, waiting for my parents to go to sleep.  The fighting started and it escalated to a physical beating.  I heard my mom scream, “Do that again and I will kill you”, with more noise of bashing and beating. 
My father was screaming, “Tonight I will fucking kill you, you bitch”.
 I jumped out my bed so fast and flew down the stairs.  My father was standing looking at me while my mother sat crumpled up in a chair crying. 
“If you want to listen to us fight, you may as well watch us.  Go and fetch your sisters and bring them down here”, he said.   My brother had a room outside so he was not in this mess with us.
I fetched my sisters, they were awake and crying…and brought them downstairs into the lounge.
“You can now watch us fight”, my father thundered and with that he lifted his hand and beat my mom so hard across her head that the chair she was sitting on toppled over and she was on the ground.   I ran to her, but he pulled me roughly back, all the while screaming “You want to interfere; now you are part of the fight”. 
My memory is a bit hazy after that but the sadistic bastard made us all stand in a row, my mom included, while he went to fetch his camera.  We were all crying and in shock, but he took his photographs of our misery.  When he was finished, he sent us to bed.  At least this time we did not have to strip and have photographs taken of us in the nude.  I still lay awake listening, straining my ears for the slightest sound.  I was sure that that was the night he would finally kill her.   The photograph pinned to this blog is one of the photos taken that night. Look at my little sister's face.  I don’t recall where my sister, Joy, was that night.   He truly was a street angel and a home devil.