Shattered lamps, bloodied faces, clenched fists, and hysteric cries filled the dark house. It had seemed so long ago that I had woken up that very Christmas morning overflowing with joy, only to wind up alone and cowering next to the Christmas tree with my knees pressed to my chest just hours later. Clenching my eyes shut, I imagined I was a little girl again, protected by the warmth of her home and family as we watched holiday movies by the fire. I was not that little girl. As I heard the sobbing of my mother and the drained voice of my father, I watched my obstinate seventeen year old brother slam the door behind him with only that of a backpack on his gaunt shoulders, descending into the cold night with not even a sweatshirt. Little had I known, the slamming of that door would be the last time I would hear of him for three weeks.
Several years ago at a young age of fourteen, my brother slowly progressed into becoming an alcoholic and steady drug addict. For years, I resented the nights of delirium that he had seemed to so willingly bring into our home, causing the inevitable destruction of my family's happiness and trust. Being only thirteen when my parents finally told me of my brother’s addiction, I simply listened wide-eyed, later shrugging off the idea that this might actually threaten my brother’s life and the stability of my family. That, however, was before the yelling began. Before the physical disputes began. Before waking up in the middle of the night to hear mother’s muffled crying and the heaviness of my brother’s drunken footsteps walking in the door became routine. Though I never asked Nathan what his mindset was during this time frame, I had become eminently aware of the fact that mine had been turned upside down. Everything became black. The world was an inconsolable home, in which I felt I could never escape. It was as if the people closest to me had deteriorated to flesh and bones, an ocean of hatred spilling from their mouths whenever they found it fit to speak. My parents’ minds barren. My brother the ominous fiend, red-eyed and irritable. And I, growing older in trepidation each year as I continued to live in a world which I felt had no meaning other than abandonment and the wrapping of covers tightly around my ears each night as darkness fell.
I didn’t invite friends over. In fact, upon entering high school, many of the new friends I made were left uninformed of the fact that I had a sibling at all, let alone the fact that he had a fatal addiction to drugs and alcohol. The cons outweighed the pros. My family wasn’t exactly something I was proud of at the time. How else do you explain the punched out hole in the wall? The abrupt arguments breaching the quiet of the upstairs? Finding pudding in the kitchen refrigerator only to have Nathan slump down the stairs, red-eyed, and snicker, cluing me in that this was indeed another mixture with Nathan’s added ingredients? No, friends did not come over. My home became a house. The walls a barrier. The foundation a splinter, steadily spreading its infection throughout my veins.
The pavement was freezing. I brushed my hand against the uneven surface of the rocks and granite, unable to decipher the difference between them as my fingers had become increasingly numb with the passing time. I looked down to notice my bare legs embellished with a scratch in the shape of a V, and my navy Soffe shorts clinging to what little they covered of my thighs. A ragged white tank top shielded my chest from the blustering weather, though it was as useless as a fork would be for eating soup. My hands and feet lay naked, uncovered and open to the ferocious wind that was now whipping at my sparsely covered back. The pool was slightly illuminated by the moon above it, the water contorting to the shapes the air demanded it to take, constricted by the walls and barriers that surrounded it. I watched my dimly lit house from the outside, the old fashioned popcorn machine still sitting where it had been left, overturned and spilling its contents onto the chilled tile floor. Nobody had bothered to clean it when my father smashed it to its side; what was one more mess to do? My parents arguing had become incessant since Nathan’s most recent run off, leaving me alone to hear their rampant accusations. Tonight, mother had been the target. My dad slung insults this way and that, insisting this time that she was having an affair with her new boss at the dentist office. She refuted, and that was enough for him to vanquish the popcorn machine from its rightful place on the counter. Hot tears had flooded my mother’s face as she raced out of the house into the empty garage where my father followed her. He was filled with steam. With remorse. With insecurities. With a brokenness that none of us knew how to repair. As I watched him disappear into the darkness, I found myself mindlessly opening the door handle to the backyard, leading myself to the distant side of the lot where I had curled into a small ball of flesh and bones. And so I sat. And so I froze. And so I smiled. The unforgiving breeze wrapped itself around me, and for the first time in months, I felt nothing at all.
I watched out the glass window for what seemed like years, awaiting the dark nights of winter to break into an array of color and fresh air, signaling the picturesque arrival of spring. Amidst the budding flowers, the buoyant birds, and the bursting hues, there was plenty of artistry to ease my thoughts away from the house. So, appropriately, as the first plants began to sprout, spring offered its companionship and demanded my company. Fresh air provided fresh thoughts, allowing beauty to seep into my mind as I noticed the smallest of geraniums, dancing with the wind as a happy new bride, reunited with a long lost love. Creation was everywhere. Love was evident. Walking along the dirt trails to the neighborhood park, my bare feet could feel the moist soil, still wet from the morning dew. Cool breezes caressed my cheek, while the warmth of the sun seeped through the back of my shirt, sending a slight tingle down my spine. Home was a million miles away, deep within the depths of my mind, hidden beneath the earth’s splendor. As I carried a single green flower in my hand, I meandered back to my house, unaware of the car that sat on our curbside until I took the first step into our driveway. The car sat heavily in its black metal, proud of the bad news it bore into my mind. The word embedded within the white stripe rang loud in my head, as I stared at the blue, red, and white lights stationed on top of the hood. As I ran through the yard to the front door, I was met by the eyes of two officers struggling to hold an irate boy between them, grasping each of his shaking arms with their hard hands. I watched mindlessly as they took my brother down the driveway and heaved him into the cop car, hearing his yell even after the vehicle had driven him well out of the cul-de-sac. After willing myself to break my stare from the cop car’s trail, I hung my head, noticing for the first time that I had dropped the green flower on the porch, now black as soot after being smothered by the officer’s foot. It was only then that I realized that beauty, no matter how compelling, would always wither under the power of man.
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