Monday, April 16, 2012

how to disappear completely

by Jarrett Fontaine

 A wooden step creaked under the weight of a large man. It sounded like a staggering walk up the stairs, drunken but deliberate. My heart filled with dread.
One step closer.
His alcohol breath was my kryptonite. I lurked away from my bedroom door. Nine years old, but I felt like a weary soldier. Battle fatigued. I'd been waging wars against my alcoholic father for as long as I could remember. He took it out on mom; he took it out on me. I looked at the starry sky through my bedroom window. Last week my dad had thrown a ten-pound weight at me and broken it. My mom scraped together some money to have it replaced, but inside I still felt shattered.
If my dad had a bad day at work, he'd slap me and touch me and tell me it was just a game. Our little secret. Mom would scream at him whenever she found out, so then he'd hit her too. I'd cover it up and say he hadn't hurt me in a while, just to save her some pain.
But our bruises never seemed to heal.
There was a fire on the other side of my door, a flameless one. Anger steamed inside my approaching father. Why me? I always wondered. Air quickly cycled through my lungs. My heart beat fast, faster than I hoped it’d ever beat again.
He yelled something. He was mad that I had locked the handle again. I just wanted privacy.
Solitary confinement.
I heard the metallic rattle of his belt buckle being removed. His fists pounded on the middle of my door. The wooden frame seemed to moan.
I was trapped in my panic room. Prison walls covered with Pokémon wallpaper. My bed now a torture rack. My sheets became tourniquets. The door handle jiggled. I couldn't endure another beating. I'd used all of my excuses up at school.
"I fell down some stairs," I'd say one day.
"I crashed my bike into a tree", I'd say the next. The teachers would always raise their eyebrows before jotting something down. I wanted to tell them the truth, what was really happening back at home. But I couldn't imagine what dad would do to mom if I did.
His foot suddenly kicked the door, like a thousand hammers all at once. It bulged inwards towards me, its frame barely holding together. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the wall. Air from the vent was icy cool against my neck. My curtain softly brushed up beside my cheek. I curled into a ball as wood splinters shot from the busted door. Everything slowed down around me. My father's angry yells now sounded low and muffled, half-speed. I went to another place in my mind.
White sandy beaches with palm trees swaying in the breeze. I was running through surf, smiling. A warm sun peaked in the clear blue sky. Seagulls flew overhead. I hummed melodies I’d long forgotten. I was carefree, living in the moment.
Creating a new world out of the ashes of my old one. There were no belts here. The only foam came from crashing waves, not spilt beer cans.
He jammed open my bedroom door and was shocked by what he saw. A pile of a typical 4th grader's clothes lay in the corner of my room. But my body and my soul were nowhere to be seen. Raptured out of that hell. I had finally learned how to disappear completely.

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