Mom and dad never used to fight. I came into the world cuddled by two young, supple faces. When I was younger, we lived in a little apartment in the city that looked over Central Park. We travelled a lot, and to many different places. Disney, Europe, Asia, I had seen it all before the age of 7. I even saw them, standing at the altar, kissing underneath a bed of flowers. Life was fantastic and my ignorance believed we would stay this way forever.
Eventually, the glimmering passion that burned whenever my parent’s eyes met began to dim. My father became irritable. He started to drink day in and out. The light in my mother’s eyes began to fade. They yelled more than they talked. Black and blue spots would appear on my mother’s arms and legs occasionally, and then not so. Red handprints on her face and back would mark when she had done something wrong. More smashed glass was on the floor than anything else.
My mother would just sit on the couch all day, staring at the black television screen, an empty glance on her face. She disregarded all interactions. She moved, talked and lived at a slow pace. The palpable heartbreak pulsing from her whenever she met eyes with my father was unbearable. She would offer a kiss, a plate, a comment, and it was followed by a punch. But it was a secret. No one outside of my house knew what went on inside. My mother barely left, and when she did, it was a shadow of herself, caked in makeup. She developed a stutter and certain tics. Sometimes my father would pull her into their room, and I knew it was time to go away for a while.
I would start to avoid the house, staying out late at friends’. None of the parents questioned why a 10 year old was practically couchsurfing. My grades were good, my friends aplenty. From the outside, I seemed like a normal New York kid who was going to grow up and be a normal New York adult, and then die a normal New York elder. I seemed normal, but I learned to take care of myself in those years. I barely interacted with my parents.
One day, I came home and the apartment had an eerie feeling. The image of my father, leaning over my mother’s body, sobbing, is ingrained in my sights forever. The open bottle of pills spilled by her side and her blank stare at the ceiling both gave me the one fact I needed to know my childhood was over: my mother was dead.
I ran away. I didn’t know where I was running to, but I ran away. I ran until the light drained from the sky and ran until I had just plain ran myself home. When I went to school the next day, I had a black eye to match my mother’s. I told people I had fallen down the stairs, or just had a little accident with my non-existent sibling. But I could not use that excuse for long, as one does not fall down the stairs often. My friends grew concerned that I was being hurt, but I tried my best to convince them otherwise. Eventually, a teacher noticed the situation and reported to authorities. I had no idea what was in for me next.
I had never stayed in a home for more than two months after that. I traveled from foster home to foster home, back and forth between big cities and small towns. Constantly. No one wanted to keep the lean preteen with the mean green arms and legs. I was called a “troubled child”, as they would look at my family history, the fact there were no relatives, and hope I would not pass for the two weeks I happened to be under their roofs. In custody with many different people I learned one thing: to keep my mouth shut, or the person beating me would not be shameful in doing so.
I had spent many a day in court, debating which place to get my education, whom to call my guardian next, if any family had reached out yet, blah blah blah. I knew it was hopeless. My only family lay in a prison cell, blamed for a murder he did not commit. Taken away without resistance for he knew it was too late. Dead within three days.