Beginning with muffled anger inside my parent's bedroom, it grew to unleashed fervor every time my dad left and came back. But my mom never let on. As she tucked me in, she couldn't hide the washed out look on her face. My sister and I could see the black streaks of eyeliner and mascara that she had tried to wipe off her light skin and red cheeks. We knew she had been crying on the back porch with her cats and the mosquitoes to console her. That's the way my mom handled the barren times when my dad wasn't around. He had his friends; she had hers. But when every other weekend turned into every weekend and into every night, the pressure of her anger was too much for her to hold back any longer. The moment my dad and his Sublime t-shirt exuding cigarettes and Jack Daniels entered the house, it shook with their screams.
At the time, I didn't know why all this was happening. I only knew of my mom's pleading, my dad's yelling, and my guilt. Psychologists say children take their parents' problems upon themselves. Every time my parents began, I tried to push back the questions, but they always prevailed. "Why is this happening?" It had to be me. I knew then that was the answer, as positively as I know now that it was not. "What did I do?" I could never get a clear answer from myself. It was a new problem each night. I ate too much, misbehaved in school, wasn't doing my homework, or hadn't cleaned my room. Every morning, I had a resolution to do something right that day, only half-hoping it might prevent the fighting. It never did.
During the day, I tried to speak to my mom and dad separately and together, but they never seemed angry once I got to them. Night brought out the arguments. I felt hopeless. Even with my conquer-the-whole-world attitude, I knew reality was boiling over. And I couldn't do anything about it.
The worst part was that I was the oldest. My hopelessness couldn't show. Sharing a room with my six-year-old sister taught me many things, one being the ability to convey happiness while my whole world crumbled around me. I always prayed that she wouldn't wake up when my dad got home. Sometimes God answered my prayers. Other times I heard her delicate voice entwined with my parents' screaming ask, "What's gonna happen?"
I replied, "Everything will be all right in the morning. Go back to sleep."
It convinced her the first few times, but one night she asked, "When is morning gonna start?"
Her soft whisper grabbed my strength and crushed it. Tears rained down my face, and I gave her my hand. "I don't know."