I watched my parents as they sat in the car. It was parked in the garage and I stood at the entrance. I locked the garage door so it wouldn’t open and neither of them would be able to leave. My mother sat in the driver’s seat and my father sat in the passenger seat. I just supervised, I guess. They had been arguing for months now. It was an ongoing thing now and although I was used to it, I watched it get worse and it hurt.
My mother, Agatha, had wanted this change. She wanted to have independence and freedom without the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. My father, Leo, on the other hand, was content with being a father and husband. They had already been married for 16 years and he was satisfied with how his life turned out. He always tried to compromise for her but it looked as though she had just had enough. My family had been a picture perfect looking family for the last 14 years that I had been alive but that was all about to change.
I stood by the garage entrance door and listened. My heart was heavy and my veins had been throbbing against my skin. My brain was not comprehending the destruction that was my family.
“Leo, I’m leaving you, get out of this car!”
“Listen Aggie, you are not taking my car. If you want to leave, you do what you want but you are not taking this car.”
“Leo, Get Out!” Agatha began to slap Leo. “What are you gonna do, Leo? Hit me? Go ahead! Go ahead. Hit me! You gonna do it, huh, huh, huh? Pussy!” She kept smacking him but he just sat there. His face had been getting beet red. The look on his face told a detailed story. A story of a man who could not comprehend what his life had become. It was a tale of sadness and anger mixed together to cook up the perfect recipe for confusion with a side of pain.
“Don’t do it, daddy! She is provoking you! Don’t fall for it, daddy. Just let her hit you, it’s a trick!” I pleaded that he would not respond to her because I knew what she was trying to get a justifiable reason to leave our family. I didn’t cry because the pain had twisted into an angry flame of fury. My father looked at me and he knew I was right. His face was red and glistened with question marks and exclamation points. His salt and pepper hair appeared to become saltier. I could see his eyes, tired and saddened and unsure of how he had lost control.
My brother stumbled through the door with his roller blades on, unaware of what was going on in this house. I ran upstairs.
“Junior, just go in your room and hang out in there for a little while. Mommy and daddy are arguing.”
“What happened, Tee? What are they fighting about.”
“Listen, mommy is being crazy and they are fighting again. Just stay in your room until it’s over, ok.”
“Again? Ok, Tee.”
I ran back towards the stairs and my mother was making her way up the stairs from the garage, she held her pocketbook close to her. My father was right behind her, following her upstairs.
“Ag, I don’t understand why you are doing this. It is ridiculous and I have tried everything, what else do you want from me?”
She didn’t answer at that point, she just stormed her way through our one story ranch house, right to their bedroom. I moved out of their way but followed behind them. She moved frantically around the room.
“What’s happening to you, Ag? You never want to be with this family anymore. What did we do to you? I’ve tried to compromise with you for months and it’s still not enough. Why can’t you talk to me anymore?”
“I hate this! I hate you! Just leave me alone already! I’ve had it with this whole situation. I don’t want to be married to you anymore. I don’t have to explain myself to you. It’s my life!” She was going through all her belongings but wasn’t taking as much as she should if she was leaving. Then she grabbed the phone and dialed it.
“Leo, leave me alone!!!” She was screaming but then her voice suddenly shifted.
“Uh, hello, June, yea it’s me. Pick me up, it’s over. I’m finished here.” She hung up the phone and threw it on her bed.
I didn’t know what June said on the other line but I assumed she was coming to get her and sure enough she did. June was an old family friend. Her late husband, Edgar was my father’s best friend but he had died, 3 years back of heart disease. Edgar and June lived in Brooklyn with their 4 kids of which I called them my cousins. When Edgar passed away, they moved to Staten Island, where I lived and we would see them a lot more. My mother became friendlier with June. June began to date guys and at that same time, the internet was introduced to us and we were all fascinated at the opportunities and connections we could have with other people. June and Agatha started to hang out more and be more involved with online dating and single because after all, June was single. It was a domino affect and one thing led to another and Agatha was intertwined also.
My mother continued to take her things such as her wallet, jewelry and pocketbook. She still didn’t take as much as I expected. The three of us stood there in their bedroom.
“Da, let her go. She doesn’t want us anyway. She has been acting this way for months.” I looked at her. “Just go and don’t come back. All you have brought is pain.”
I stood there but I don’t think they heard or saw me. Who knows what they were thinking, but I knew what I saw. My hands were shaking but my eyes were dry. My head was pounding against my forehead and my heart was slowly being caged in a protective shield. It felt like candle wax that was poured through my chest and the wax slowly drying so the blood would not flow through my veins. It prevented the emotion from traveling through me and instead it remained in that cavity of wax where I held it tightly.
After a half hour of rummaging and frantically running around, the door bell rang. My mother ran to the door and June pushed her way in.
“Ag, are you ok? Let’s get out of here. Leo, you’re an asshole. Let’s go, Ag!”
“I’ve never been more ready.”
My father spoke. “Ag, make sure that this is what you want to do. There is no turning back from here. This is the last goodbye, make sure you want this.”
She didn’t answer. She didn’t even look at him. I looked at her and she didn’t look back. She probably didn’t want to face me or him. They both walked out the front door and Agatha didn’t even look back. As the door slammed, my brother’s bedroom door swung open and he ran to the front bay window. Tears rolled down his face and he watched them pull away. As did I.
Leo, my strong father, he just sat there in his recliner. He didn’t have an actual expression on his 39-year-old face. He just stared at the television and didn’t say a word. I could see tears in his eyes but he wouldn’t show them to me. I could tell he was trying to remain strong for my brother and I. There was nothing he could do at the moment but let it just settle in.
I didn’t cry and I wasn’t sad. It didn’t settle into my mind at first. I wanted her gone because I saw the pain that she had put my father through and how she neglected to realize she had any responsibilities as a mother. My reaction was to be strong for my father and my brother while I allowed them to be weak. I wasn’t allowed to be weak because they needed me. That is the reason why I have become the person I am today.
A heavy cloud of sadness and disappointment hovered over our house. I wrote in my journal everyday. I remembered how I trusted “her”. How I loved her when I was younger and we used to be best friends. I told her all my secrets, Agatha “was” my mommy, once. She then became the mother of which I was born from. I never knew what caused her sudden change. I was never given a reason. It was a gradual change when she decided to separate herself from us. I was disappointed at the completely broken relationship and destroyed by it.
“I hate her! I hope she falls off this earth!
“She is still your mother, Tina. She is sick, you have to understand, she can’t be well and she obviously doesn’t know what she is doing.” My father defended her anyway, even though she had destroyed his whole life. He never wanted to taint my thoughts with his sadness and disappointments. I developed those all on my own. He still would encourage me to stop.
“No, she is not sick! She is selfish! How could she do this to me! And not care? SELFISH! Just like her family.” My mother’s family had always been distant from the rest of the family. They were from Italy and didn’t speak much English and apparently didn’t feel emotions. They had separated themselves from most of their family as well because of this so-called disease that I called, “Selfish-ness”.
“One day, when you are older, you will want to help because you are a good person and you will forgive her. She will be old and you might have to care for her and you will because I didn’t raise to be that way. In time, you will see, everything will work out and you just be a good person and good things will come.”
He always said that, ‘Be good and good things will come.’ I believed him but I began to lose sight in that because I was good and I was let down by Agatha. I didn’t want to believe him anymore and I didn’t want to trust him anymore even though I knew he would never leave me. I still carried doubt that he could leave because I never thought she would have done that. I realized that anything was possible and just because they were “my” parents or adults, it didn’t make them inhuman. They were capable of all the evils that came with being alive and until that night, I had never known that.
It sounds corny but a part of me died that night. The wax cooled and my heart stiffened and I was there for my family but I began to resent them. I began to separate myself slowly and detached all feelings associated with them.
“Tina, dinner is a 6pm.”
“I won’t be home.”
“What do you mean? We will eat together as a family.”
“Well, I have to study at the library with a group from school and then I have a meeting for the poetry club, so I’ll be home later.”
“Make sure you call me when you go from place to place and I want you home before 9pm. You still have school tomorrow.”
I lied. I didn’t have to study. I never studied. ‘Ha, poetry group, that was a good one, Tee’. I didn’t want to be in that house. I kept saying, ‘I want to go home.’ When I was already home. I hated being there and looked at those walls and those rooms and it was so cold. Maybe because I was always there when my dad was at work or my brother didn’t get home from school yet. It was empty and the routine developed where we started to have our own schedules even though my father tried desperately to prevent us from not being a family. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be there so I made up lies to be everywhere else.
My father raised a daughter and a son. My mother was absent from us and didn’t contact us after the ink on the divorce papers were dry. I rebelled against myself. I didn’t care about my life anymore because I didn’t think it matter. I used her as my excuse to do things that I shouldn’t. I began to drink, smoke cigarettes and have sex at the age of 15 years old. I hung out with the wrong crowd and I didn’t care if I were to live or die because I figured I didn’t matter to anyone. I let eight years go by and I distanced myself from my father and brother as a defense mechanism so that I wouldn’t get hurt.
“TINA! Do you know what time it is? Four guys just carried you to this door! Get in your room and don’t come out until tomorrow. What are you thinking! Four guys, do you even know what could have happened. You’re drunk! You’re 15 years old!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I stumbled to my room and passed out on my bed with all of my clothes on. My jeans were already unbuttoned and I had a guys sweatshirt on. I didn’t even know how I got home that night. It was the first time I had been drunk and all I knew was that I was never going to drink Black Haus liquor ever again.
It was a snowball effect after that. Incidents occurred like that more and more. I would lie more to get out of the house and drink more to forget. I was getting better at it though. I was better at eliminating the “getting caught” thing. He tried to punish me but he was at work during the day and I had time after school to do whatever it was I wanted before he came home. I drank and I smoke cigarettes and I had guys over during the day. I was free between 2:00pm until 6:30pm. I built a brick wall around me and I allowed no one to get in except the dirtbag guys I dated. I thought that I was going to forget what happened. I thought as I grew up, I would be so happy and never go back to “her”. I ran. Fast. So many people went in and out of my life and I was not getting any happier. I was becoming more angry and depressed. I ran through eight years. I didn’t remember the faces of love and happiness. My best friends were anger, sadness and disappointment.
I roll over in my bed and I decided to get up and look in the mirror to see a 22-year-old, angry, saddened woman who is still an innocent girl looking for a solution that she hasn’t yet been able to find. Old enough to know my mistakes and but not mature enough to change them. I am run down and my legs hurt from running but I don’t know how to stop and I can’t talk to my family because I don’t remember how to. The choices and the paths that I have taken were the wrong ones. It took me 8 years to realize that by defending my dried up heart, I had to sacrifice ever feeling love. My family doesn’t know how to get through to me and I don’t know how I can change. I realize that I have been running away for 8 years too long and I’m about to let my pain settle in.