Sunday, June 22, 2008


If I write what's happening now, it might make me feel better, right? The 5-year-old is refusing to go to sleep, and it's making me incredibly anxious.

There's something about nighttime that he hates, that revs him up, into high gear. He gets into his sister's bed and does I don't know what until she starts screaming and mommy comes to break it up. He needs a drink of water, which he is permitted. He gets spoken to in a calm, insistent voice. He protests. Mommy leaves, closes the door. Click.

He screams, he shouts, actually, over and over: "A-ni-mal!" Pause. "A-ni-mal!" He listens for a response. "A-ni-mal!" He wants a specific stuffed animal. He's not going to get it tonight. I don't know why.

He gets up, runs downstairs in a flash. He negotiates, refuses, demands, tries to cry (but there's nothing to cry about, so he can't get himself worked up enough to produce tears). "No!" shouted as loud as a grownup. Mommy keeps telling, explaining, admonishing. Back to bed, but now he's laughing all the way up the stairs. Wide awake. Revved up.

The door clicks shut. Mommy stands just outside the door, head bent, listening. Surely he can hear her listening. After a while the floorboards creak as she shifts her weight to leave.

He's back downstairs. Protesting, not frantic, not desperate exactly. But insistent. More talking. Pleading. Insisting. "I'm scared." Of what I don't know. I can't hear most of the words, really, just the puncturing volume of them. 

All I know is, this is not a procedure that works for him. Or me. But once it has ended, his mother seems able to forget that it ever happened. So it happens over and over and over again. At least three or four times a week. I've just started keeping track.

Downstairs, upstairs. Downstairs, upstairs. It lasts for about 45 minutes this time. Then, inexplicably, silence. The music is on now (why wasn't it before?). Beethoven. Satie.

When I was five my parents would fight so loud at 2 a.m. they'd wake me. I'd listen, barely breathing, to shouting and a sound that I recognized as the sound of hitting. A hand hitting a body. Sometimes terrifying silence. Struggling. One or both of them falling down. Thuds. I couldn't tell who was winning. I hoped it was Mom. Dad's drunken, cracked-voice curses and name-calling: Whore. Mom yelling, I can't remember what: You're hurting me, George.

Remembering me back then makes my eyes sting and blur over with tears. I can see the infinite blackness of my room: black contours in a palpable black space. I can feel the panic of certainty that I would wake up in the morning and find my mother dead. The feeling wrapped around me like a cocoon.

This 5-year-old will wake up tomorrow morning and his father really will be dead. It makes me wonder if all childhoods are the same.


Billy Glad said...

A child is absolute potential, and life is the process of giving up one possibility after another. Gradually, the adult comes into focus and takes on shape as the child learns he is this and not that.

Maybe the difference in our childhoods is the different possibilities we gave up.

gasket said...

I've been thinking about your comment since you wrote it, Billy, and I have to disagree. If a child were absolute potential, then women would select their mates differently.

When women have the freedom to choose, they exercise control over how many children they have and who the father is. If nature were absolute, this selecting process by females wouldn't be necessary. (Even my mom determined how many children she would have. My dad had absolutely no say.)

Haven't looked at the research on this in a while, but there's compelling evidence that females of every species choose the best father out of the crowd and reject many, many others no matter how pushy the males are. Scientists think it's to achieve the best chances for her offspring, whether genetically or for other reasons. If absolute potential were possible, there would be no reason to reject any potential mates.

Unless they smelled bad. :)

WorkerBee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gasket said...

Thanks for visiting, bee. I never saw your comment, but I discovered you left behind some pollen, so I knew it was you. Hope you'll come back. :)