Como luceros fríos

Sobre el olivar hay un cielo hundido y una lluvia oscura de luceros fríos.

12 March, 2008

My right arm aches and goes stiff with a memory. My little brother was a toddler, still in diapers. My father was in front of the tv playing Space Invaders on the Intellivision and there were Falls City beer cans everywhere. It was always Falls City, with the red logo on the front. My brother wanders between my father and the tv screen. The time between my father shouting at him to move and my brother freezing in place from being yelled at was probably only a second or two, and then he stood up and grabbed the baby by his right arm and flung him. Hard. Who would have known that a drunk could move so quickly? He sat back down to his beer and his video game, scowling, while my mother called out, horrified. I remember exactly how she said his name. I sat there and I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I stayed very, very still for a long time. I think I was six, seven at the most. I wanted to go to my brother and hold him, but I couldn't. I was too scared.

I still freeze when I think about it.

I think it was three years later. My father was drunk. Again. The basement needed new panels to cover the overhead lights in the ceiling. My father was standing on a chair, trying to fit them in. Only, he was fumbling because he was too drunk to do it. He stepped down from the chair and beat the panels against the wall and the floor, smashing them while he hollered I can't remember what, just a lot of swearing. In front of all of us. I ran upstairs. My brother ran upstairs. I heard him crying in his room. I went to him that time and held him. We didn't say a single word. He cried and cried. This was the only time I ever went to comfort my brother.

I could hear my mother and father fighting when they came back upstairs. She was shrill and he was thundering. It's all confused now, but there were rifles in the closet. And a handgun I didn't know we even had. She was going to leave him and take us with her. Probably to Grandma's. I wanted to go to Grandma's. He pointed the gun at his head and I knew what he would do if she took us to Grandma's. I had to take my brother out of the room, I think she told me to. The front door slammed and he was gone. Drunk driving again. To the bar. We crept out of my brother's room to see. She wasn't crying, but she had a stricken look on her face. She raised the gun. It wasn't pointed at us, but it wasn't pointed in the opposite direction either. I wondered if she was just going to start shooting everything. I wondered if he had made her crazy. She pulled the trigger over and over, finally aiming at the wall and down. She wanted to check if it was loaded, she told us. It wasn't. I wondered what would have happened if it had been. We would have had holes in our house, shot by my mother, and for some reason that was very, very scary. But I was dry-eyed and mute. So was my brother. I can't remember anything that happened next, for the rest of that day. I don't think he came back that night. This was also scary.

She was always packing suitcases, for her and for us, but she never left. Not once. Not for a single night. She never took us out of there. She wonders, today, why my brother is always so short-tempered with her. So angry and resentful. Why he takes things out on her. Does she really wonder, though? Does she really not know?

She emailed me last night. Spring is coming to West Virginia and she is sprouting little plants for her garden. And I can't possibly be too busy to write. She wants to hear from me. She's worried about me.

Yeah. Me too.


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