Sunday, August 02, 2009

I am not smooth and whole, but I will keep you warm at night.

How many mornings will I be woken up by screams? This new house has walls like paper and I hear every word, every slammed door. And now she is smoking in the bathroom with the door closed. The smoke fills up the tiny space and I can't go in there. Should I go somewhere else to pee? Does anyone else ever worry about this? I could hold my breath long enough, I think, but the smoke would sneak into my hair and wrap itself around my skin and follow me into the bedroom like the screams.

And who should I tell? It burns inside me like quiet embers, the glowing evidence of a raging fire. No one can see the flames, but do they see the scars? And what good would that do anyway? No one is going to take me away and make it all better. I never trust anyone enough to let them do something like that anyway. I know its awful here, but here is familiar. Here is what I know.

What are they screaming about? Is it drugs this time? Money? Aren't those the same thing? The cigarette smoke is in the hallway now. Long fingers of it now creep invisibly under my door. It doesn't matter about the door, though. It is swirling now into the air conditioner intake. It will pass through the rumbling machine and blow through my bedroom vent with vigor now. No more need to hide. I can't see it and the AC has turned the hot weight of it to a cold burn that fills up the secret places in my nose with ash. And the screaming continues.

I wonder how normal people sleep? My father would tell me I ought to be grateful I have a place to sleep at all. He would say that other people have it so much worse, who am I to complain? I am unhappy, that's what I am. I know other people have it worse, but I can the evidence that some people don't deal with this. I didn't understand that when I was a child. I assumed everyone knew what it was like for the police to come in the middle of the night to stop Mommy from chasing Daddy with the 2X4. I assumed every parent had more than one personality. People change so much when they are "tired" as they call it. I know better now. Should I still sit here in silence? They are never silent.

How would it feel to sleep with the bedroom door unlocked? Or even worse, open? Or to lay in bed not crowded with fear and anger? Fear crawls close to my chest and sends my heart into a panicked, lopsided stumble at the first sound. It opens my eyes and ears as I stare at the doorknob, praying it doesn't move, that the screaming stays on the other side of the walls. Anger is gentler, wrapping itself around my fingers and slowly bringing them into fists. The nails dig into the flesh of my palms. The heat spreads under my skin in trickles like rain down a windshield.

Finally, finally, finally: silence. Now the decision comes; do I go back to sleep or should I leave? If I sleep again, it will inevitably lead to another episode of screaming. How long do I have? Twenty minutes? An hour? And if I leave, where shall I go? The gym is good but I can only stay there so long. And I don't have money for things. I can't go to a friends house. I don't know how much to tell them about this.

When I try to share, I get the same response all the time. I'm so sorry Sarah Jo. You are so strong Sarah Jo. I didn't know you had to deal with that. You seem to be handling it so well. Somehow I earn a new respect and a new pity. Its uncomfortable now like a fever blister or a pimple. We all know its there. And it hurts. But all you can do is pretend it isn't there and hope time fixes things quickly.

But how can I tell them I'm not strong? These screaming words are fine razors, dragging shallow lines across my soul. I wake up and I cry and I beg the ever-silent god to make it all go away. To save me. But there is always another morning and I am absolutely covered in scars. Who will love me now? Mottled in scars like lines of stitches on a quilt. I am not smooth and whole, but I will keep you warm at night.

One day, I tell myself, I will have forgotten how it feels to feel this way. Time and circumstance will change the situation and I'll take for granted a peaceful morning, a quiet discussion. It will be like the weight loss. The memory always a looming horror, but behind me now and only thought of occasionally. This is my silver lining. This is my promise to myself.

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