I wake up to screaming. 4A.M. Chris and Amber were staying at a friends house but must be home now because the screaming is Chris. It's right outside my bedroom door. I flail around in the darkness for my glasses, the light, the deadbolt. I open the door to see Chris turn the corner on his way down the stairs. The baby is screaming in his arms. Anger is in his face.
In the bathroom, Mom is slumped over the toilet, leaning against the wall next to it with her legs limp in front of her. She sways and mumbles. I ask her whats wrong. Nothing, she says. I ask her what drug she is on. Nothing, she mumbles. The screaming starts again, this time from downstairs. I ask mom to get up off the toilet. She sways. I ask mom to get up off the toilet. She mumbles. I beg mom to get up, come downstairs. What is she on? Whats wrong with her? Why is Chris yelling? PLEASE get up.
Finally, finally she stumbles to her feet. She clutches the walls for support. Her feet are akward down the stairs. I stay behind her because I can't catch her if she falls. In the living room, Amber and Kiersten cling to each other on the love seat. They are both staring into the kitchen. Chris is still screaming. He says: Do you even know who I am? Wake up! You have to wake up, John. Do you know who I am? Get up! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
I make it around the corner. Dad is cross legged on the kitchen floor. The barstool is on its side. His wallet is on the counter, contents spilled in all directions. His eyes are unfocused as he bats weakly at Chris' hands. He stares at the floor, closing his eyes again. Chris yells. I tell him to stop. Why is he so upset? Yelling doesn't help the situation. Why is he SO upset?
He came home to find Dad passed out on the kitchen floor. It looked like he fell off the barstool and stayed there on the ground. The back door was open, screen door locked. Chis couldn't get in. He saw Dad on the floor. Banged on the door. Screamed. No response. Chris broke the screen door to get in. Dad was still breathing. He decided to leave Dad on the kitchen floor, let him wake up that way to see what he had done to himself, but the baby was crying.
In my parents room, Kiersten is alone on the bed, waking up. At her feet, there is a tray of food, the remnants of a TV dinner. A plate. A cup. A knife. Kiersten is alone on the bed near a knife and Dad is too far gone to wake up even when his head hits the floor. That is why Chris is so upset. After that, he ran upstairs to find Mom pinned in the space between the toilet and the wall. She was stuck and struggling to come awake because of the yelling.
As he tells me this, Dad begins to realize where he is. He starts yelling back at Chris. He stands up. That tray is now on the counter and Dad tries to grab it, to throw. Mom is screaming. Chris is struggling against my Dad. Amber paces with Kiersten behind me, looking for the phone to call the police. Dad breaks free. He cant get to the tray so he throws the fan. The metal face comes off the front of the fan and the blades thunk rythmically against the metal face. They are still screaming and pushing. Amber still can't find the phone. I run upstairs for mine.
I don't want to call the police. I dont have anymore money to bail Dad out of jail. If he is in jail, he can't work. I can't support the family on my own. I hesitate. Chris has a warrent out for his arrest. Something about the Dog and the kennal he says. I'm sure they would arrest all three of them anyway. Chris has been smoking pot. Mom and Dad are clearly on something.
Downstairs again, Dad is trying to get out the back door. He wants to drive away. I'm scared. I beg Chris to stop screaming at him. Stop provoking him. Leave the room. Go sit down. Go calm the baby. I talk to Dad, he screams at me. I beg him to go to bed, we'll talk about it in the morning. He screams and screams. In the morning, I say, when everyone is awake, we'll talk about whatever is bothering you. Lay down. Go to sleep. Please.
Mom is in the living room trying to get the baby. She starts screaming at Amber. I tell her to go to bed. She can't, she says, Daddy is leaving. No, not leaving, I say, going to bed. Go to bed too. I push her towards the bedroom. I speak in low tones. I agree with everything she says. Anything to get her into the bed.
They are both in the bed now. Dad turns out the light. Mom is sitting up, wobbling again with a ciggerette in her hand. She puts in the ashtray. I close the door. Five minutes later, I go back in. She didnt lay down, she just fell over on top of Dad. I think they'll stay like that for awhile. I take the ashtray and the lighter. I don't want fires tonight.
Chris, Amber, Kiersten and I sit in the living room waiting for our pulses to slow. I think of the song, "Never Going Back to Okay." Eventaully, I decide to go upstairs, but I jump at every sound. It's just the TV. Its just my jewelry falling over from the slamming door. Its just the candle jar falling off the table because of the fan. Its just Kiersten waking up again. Its just the fridge kicking on.
I tell Chris about the song. "Yeah, we're never going back to okay. We're never going back to easy. We're never going back to the way it was." He says it was never okay. It was never easy. I tell him it was, once. Doesnt he remeber being okay? He says we just didn't know we weren't okay. We didnt have anything to compare it to. He's right, of coure. I remember now. More fights. More broken glasses. Police. Homelessness. Fear. I remember these things now. Back and back until there is nothing else to remember. I had hoped Kiersten wouldn't have nights like these to remember.
6AM now. I think of a different song. Julia Nunes. "I'm waking up, to see the sun. Its a light that lets me know a new day's begun. I can leave behind the terrors of my unconcious mind to the sunshine." But its not the terrors of my uncouncious mind keeping me awake tonight. These are real terrors that don't dissapear with the light. They don't fade under scrutiny like so many nightmares.
Already though, the terror of the moment is fading. I tell myself it wasn't so bad. It wasn't so bad. It could have been worse. Its over now. It won't happen again. It wasn't so bad.
We're never going back to okay.