I cannot sit in the living room anymore without having to listen to mom and dad continuously fight about something or the other. Yesterday it was about my mom, not cooking dinner and ordering food— my dad didn’t like that. Today it is about my dad setting a bad example for me, tomorrow it will be something else. It has become difficult to imagine that there was a time when they loved each other dearly; a time when everything was normal.
So, I try to stay out of the house as much as possible. I try and study in the library and only come home once the shutter is pulled down, or late at night. And even then, I try not to make a sound.
A few years back, when the situation was normal, all of us would sit together and eat, but now my father takes his plate and sits in front of the television while mom eats in her room. I haven’t had a meal sitting with anyone in a long time.
Today, I had to bear with the constant noise of the sports commentary and the deafening silence between my parents instead of a normal conversation. I could feel the tension all through dinner; the overwhelming knowledge that something was going to go wrong. Before I knew it, my mom was downstairs and fighting with him again.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran up the stairs to my room. I couldn’t breathe. My heartbeat quickened. The world became hazy. I closed my eyes. 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1. Counting down helps sometimes.
It’s almost been an hour, and they are still fighting. Their voices kept getting louder as I hoped for the fight to end quickly. Whenever they argue, I wonder about the future and start sweating profusely.
Wait! I just heard the front door shut. I think dad left the house. I can see him going to get into the car from the window of my room. This is not the first time he has angrily stormed out of the house to go out and drink.
The last time my mother asked him to quit drinking, he beat her so severely that she lived with my aunt for a whole month. I was afraid to even come home at that time.
Honestly, I just hope we could have a normal day like we used to. Is that too much to ask?
It’s morning, and the driveway is still empty. Dad has not returned home since last night. I can’t help wondering where he went.
Throughout the day, my head was occupied with last night’s fight. I couldn’t concentrate in class. This has been happening for some time now, but today my teacher asked me something, and I couldn’t answer. I didn’t even know when she had taught that topic. Everyone was looking at me, but no words came out of my mouth.
She asked me again. My hands started shaking. I just stared at her, dumbfounded. 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1. Still, no words came out of my mouth. She told me to sit down and asked a different student. As I sat down, I felt like I could breathe again.
With the weekly test just a few days away, I have decided that I need to study harder. But I could never focus because their fight just kept replaying in my head.
I decided to go home, but when I entered the house my parents were fighting again. This time it was about him spending the night away and coming back home only after breakfast. I couldn’t be there anymore. I ran to my room and just sank into my bed. I couldn’t listen to them, or anyone, fight anymore. I laid in my bed until they stopped fighting. I stayed in my room, wondering what I was going to do. I kept trying to run away from what happens at home but everywhere I go, my mind is always preoccupied with it. It is exhausting.
I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared, I can’t breathe. My head is spinning, and it seems like there is no end to it. The results of my tests for this semester are out, and I failed 2 subjects. What am I supposed to tell my parents? I think my teacher has already asked my father to meet her. He’s going to be furious. I went for a walk and didn’t attend class either. But how do I explain to them that I can’t seem to focus on anything? I think a couple of kids saw me crying. They were sniggering. I wish I had someone I could talk to.
When I went back home that night, my father was drunk, and my mother was at my aunt’s house. She goes there twice a week so as to not lose her sanity. The only reason she returns home is me, and looking at my performance, I don’t think even I’m worth her coming back.
I was too scared to even walk. It felt like my limbs had frozen, and I couldn’t move. Maybe I could tell him a little later? But no. It will be worse if he finds out from school. Somehow, I mustered up the courage to approach my father. He reeked of alcohol. I tried to speak, but no words came out of my mouth. “Spit it, will you?”, my father shouted—his eyes fixated on the T.V. I guessed my teacher hadn’t told him yet. “I got my results today.” “And?” he grunted. “I… I did not pass two subjects”, I stuttered. He slowly stood up, towering over me. Without a word, he unbuckled his belt and thrashed me so hard I fell to the floor. He did not even stop when I was wailing for forgiveness. Almost like he had lost all sense of emotion.
I was present in school but I felt hollow. My mind was empty. I didn’t realize I was sitting and staring at the desk for an hour after school had gotten over. I felt tired.
I didn’t feel like going back home, so I walked around for a little bit. On the way I saw a couple of classmates on the street. What if they see me? What will they think? I ran behind a bush and sat there. I was about to get up after a minute, when I saw them appear in front of me.
“Didn’t you bunk class the other day? Do your parents know?”
My breathing fastened. “Please go away.” I thought to myself.
“Maybe we should inform the teacher that this little girl’s gone rogue and needs to be disciplined,” they all laughed.
I felt the world close in on me. I wanted to push them all and run away. And most of all, I didn’t want them to tell my father.
“Don’t tell him.” I stuttered, with a lump in my throat.
“Can’t hear you speak up.” One of them said.
I got up, pushed the boy standing in front of me, and ran away.
“So I heard you didn’t attend school on Thursday,” my father said. “There have also been allegations that you attacked a classmate.” He was eerily calm. “Why?”
I thought long and hard before answering. I told him I was scared and upset about my test results. And the boy was troubling me so I had to get out of there.
To my surprise, he said he understood! For a just a moment my heart felt lighter. Was he actually listening to me? Did he finally understand what I was feeling?
He said he needed to make sure I didn’t repeat this. He then slowly walked towards the front door and opened it. He abruptly asked me to leave.
I was confused.
“Leave. Spend a night outside so you realize the importance of the house you live in and the shelter we provide you.”
It slowly dawned on me. I begged him to change his mind.
My heart sank to my stomach. The world was spinning. My face tuned crimson and I fell at his feet. I told him I regretted my actions and held on to him. He yanked me by the hair, threw me out and slammed the door on my face. I sobbed and pleaded for him to let me in.
I heard him turn on the T.V. and increase it to the maximum volume so it would drown out my voice.
I screamed so loud my throat became sore. I banged on the door so hard my hands became red. I frantically looked around for someone to help me but there was no one around. Suddenly, there was a loud thunder. It started raining heavily. I was drenched, helpless, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I sat down. Listening to the sound of the rain. Feeling the water slam against my body.
I closed my eyes and wished there was something I could do.
First I had to calm myself down. My life was in my hands and I had to handle things on my own. I took a few breaths. I realized that the house still had a back door which was always open.
I slowly walked there and opened the door. The roar of thunder muted the sound of me entering. I tiptoed my way back in, leaving a trail of water behind me. I entered the living room and saw him there. Sitting and eating his microwave dinner. I walked towards the television and turned it off. He got up, surprised and aggravated, to beat me again.
I ducked and he accidentally tripped over a chord and fell on a glass shelf next to me, causing it to shatter on him. He just lay there. Motionless.
His stream of blood, diluted by my stream of water.
Counting down really does help bring me peace.
Written by Sanjana Bharadwaj and Cynthia Maria Dsouza for MTTN
Edited by Kaavya Azad for MTTN
Featured image by Ishika Somani for MTTN