This one got me.
I was about fifteen or sixteen when I heard the sounds late at night, waking me from my sleep. The sound was replaced by voices but the sounds returned again. Curious, I crept down the stairs and saw what was happening. It was my mother telling her married lover that she was going to marry a nice American widower who promised to take care of her and her children, something he couldn’t do because he was never going to leave his wife. She knew that now. He didn’t like what she said and so he hit her. That’s when I realized what I’d heard from my room upstairs. I hadn’t realized they carried that far… or that they echoed.
That’s when it hit me: I couldn’t let him get away with this… or the nights when he’d slip into my room while she was still at the casino and tell me the only reason he stayed with her was because he wanted me or that one time I knew he was waiting for me in the shower stall and to this day, I pause at bathrooms where there are partitions. I could be at the world’s best hotel but I always make sure there’s no one waiting for me on the other side.
I remember standing up straight and tall on the top of the stairs where I’d been crouching. I remember seeing his hand raised up as if he was getting ready to hit her again and he stopped. They both looked up at me, their eyes wide. They didn’t realize I was awake.
“Don’t you dare touch her again,” I said… or that’s what I remember saying. Or maybe I didn’t say anything at all.
It was a foolish thing to do because he always came into the house with a gun. He was a police officer, after all, a sergeant who used to boast that they’d set suspects free in a remote field and make shooting practice out of them. But at fifteen or sixteen, your frontal lobe isn’t as developed yet. It’s the last part of your brain to fully mature because it needs the experience of learning from consequences. But I wasn’t worried about consequences then. All I remember was that I didn’t want to hear the sound of a hand hitting skin anymore. How could anyone ignore that sound?
I remember I was shaking. I remember glaring at him, my hands curled into fists, my jaw clenched tight. I didn’t cry. I was too angry to cry.
I watched his hand go down his side. I heard my mother tell me to go back to my room. I hesitated but I did as I was told. From my window which was over the back fence, I heard him leave through the back gate, the same way he went in and out of our house for years. Only this time, I don’t think he ever returned after that night. I threw it “right through the tire hole” although, with my uncle, I wouldn’t be able to.
My American stepfather would be the one to do that for me.