Voices in the Dark

“STOP CHASTISING ME!”

“I SAID STOP CHASTISING ME! I DON’T CARE WHETHER YOU’RE A DOCTOR OR A LAWYER…YOU DON’T SCARE ME!”

“I’LL TELL YOU WHERE TO GO! I KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU!”

“I’LL COME AFTER YOU!”

“I WILL COME AFTER YOU! STOP CHASTISING ME! I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU ARE!”

*

When I was 16, most of my weekday mornings started off by hearing these terrifying words repeated over and over again. I hid sheepishly in my bedroom, in the dark and alone in the house with Him. I could hear every syllable and every pounding word emanating from somewhere downstairs. The angry words resonated through the entire house like echoes in a cave. I remained hidden underneath my blanket trembling and listening to every word shouted and every incoherent sentence mindlessly stacked together. I held my breath for as long as I could in hopes that it would end or for the sound of a closing bedroom door. I also hoped that the voice would not get any louder or closer to my room. Minute by minute, I stayed hidden in solitude with the sound of my racing heartbeat. Maybe he won’t even notice that I’m home. Or maybe he already knows I’m home. Or maybe he simply doesn’t care.

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Why did they all leave so early? Why couldn’t any of them be there to hear all this? Why didn’t they do anything about it when I spoke up? Why did they tell me not to tell anyone? Didn’t they know that the silence and shame would have an effect on me throughout my adult life? Didn’t they know the shame that I would bury until I would turn 42 years old when I would finally find the courage to tell someone about this? Weren’t they even thinking about me? Didn’t they know how frightened I’d be or how sad I’d feel or how angry I’d be towards my loved ones?

And so I waited. I waited helplessly until the shouting stopped. I exhaled and slowly peeked over my blanket. I gingerly crept out of bed and tippy-toed towards my bedroom door hoping that the creek in the floorboards would go unnoticed. I slowly reached my hand towards the doorknob and carefully turned it like it was made out of thin glass. I pulled the door open and poked my head outside. I could still see that sunrise hasn’t touched our home yet with the blackness still surrounding me. I heard faint sounds coming from the downstairs family room as I slowly made my way towards it. A voice…but an unfamiliar one. It was a woman’s voice speaking to an audience of some sort but I couldn’t quite make out the details. I pressed my ear closer to the wall as I inched my way down the stairs. Was it finally over? Did I make it through? Can I breathe again and get ready for school?

Relieved, I dropped my shoulders and quickened my pace down the stairs. Suddenly like a bullet from the barrel of a gun, the wailing cries started up again. “STOOOOP CHAAASTISING ME! I DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE! I WILL COME FOR YOU!”

I swallowed and courageously turned my head around the corner into the family room. On the 24” television screen was a blonde haired lady. Her name was Shirley Solomon. She was a Canadian talk show host in 1989. I didn’t even pay any attention to what she was talking about because I was too fixated and paralyzed by the fact that my 23 year old brother Joseph was pacing endlessly around the entire family room yelling irately in the general direction of the television set. He kept pacing back and forth and fiercely raged on and on as if he was actually speaking to another person standing beside him until he turned his head up and glanced at me. I staggered back with fear when his eyes met mine, but like magic, he momentarily snapped out of it and fled to his room without a single word. My day had just begun. Mom and Dad had already gone to work by 6am and my older sister had already gone off to college. I quickly brushed my teeth, got changed and waited silently alone in my room until it was time to head off to school. This became my daily routine for what seemed like an eternity.

*

Several years later after countless violent outbreaks at home, I tearfully found the courage to call 911. Despite resistance from my parents it was the turning point in our lives. Joseph was later diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, a mental illness that plagues him to this day and a million painful memories that will forever haunt me.

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