by Ilana Sabban
My fingers tremble as they grasp the dock’s frayed edge with sheer force. I don’t think twice about the splinters piercing my shallow skin. My clench tightens as his hollow cackle resoundsthrough my brain. I rest my eyes on the battling waves, hoping their shared glisten will brightenmy blanket of sorrow. Instead, they angrily smother one another, as if they can hear the yellingcoming from my house and are acting upon it too. The only difference is, no matter how roughthe waves are with one another, in the end they’ll always stay by each other. That’s more than I
can say for my family.
“You’re the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”
A whimper racks up from the small of my ribs, tears running down my plump cheeks, as if eager to join the wave’s brawl. After years of being on the receiving end of the taunting words, I’d hope they would become so imprinted that their effect would be subdued. But that hasn’t happened. They deflect any positivity, not allowing it to come near me. Although really, how positive can a girl be when her own father grabs her by her doubts, entangling her into them until they are all she can see and hear?
“I’d rather be dead than spend another minute with you and this family.”
His strident voice overshadows the wind’s serenity, shattering the enchantment I had tried to enfold myself into. Though I sat seated myself on our house’s dock, I can still hear my father’s voice clearly, as if I am the weeping woman in his grasp. The little hatred I keep firmly tucked away starts to leak out in the open, my fingers white from their harsh gripping. Guilt captures meas I am reminded that the person I direct this intensity towards is my own blood. I release the edge of the dock; my fingers are numb. My head snaps back as I hear autumn’s leaves crunch under heavy footsteps. My brother’s fawn-colored hair glints under the sun’s flare, but it does nothing to conceal the torment occupying his cyan eyes.
“Seems they’re at it again…”
I laugh cynically at Werner’s statement. “When aren’t they?”
He sighs, knowing I am right. After all, he has been going through this suffering longer than I have – seven years, to be exact.
“You know, people have always wondered how it was possible for me to be so mature at thirteen, but how can’t I be? No kid can go through what we do on a daily base and then still be a naïve little middle schooler. I’ve seen the world in its all, dark and light. Any shred of innocence I had disintegrated long before I could live it out.”
Werner wraps his arms around me, our wounded souls seeking to feel whole. “Ilana, you have tostart doing what I do. It goes in one ear, leaves through the other. You can’t listen to what he says, because we both know in a few hours he’ll apologize. Just ignore him and act like youdon’t care.”
I stand up, furiousness entwining with my gloom. “That’s just the thing! Unlike you and Mom, I don’t want to keep pretending. I am sick to my stomach of pretending. I am so tired of everyonethinking we’re perfect. Perfect house, family, luxuries, and so on. We are far from even being okay! The lone thread that has been holding this dysfunctional family together split a long time ago, and I am both mentally and physically exhausted of pretending that there’s still a sturdy rope. The moment people step one foot beyond ten feet of our “perfect” home, they hear a doleful melody not even Mozart could replicate. Yet we keep up our picture perfect smiles and act as if nothing is wrong.” My throat clogs as all my vile frustration comes crawling through. Werner’s eyes widen as he stutters, my rant leaving him at a loss for words.
“He still loves us,” he mumbles, weakly defending our father.
“Yeah, well, I’m not sure if I still love him.” Without waiting for his reaction, I stomp back towards our house. Before opening the door, I turn back to look at his dejected face. “Loving or not, it doesn’t change the suffering he has put this family through. No thirteen-year-old should have to take care of a depressed mother and herself at the same time.” What I see once I open the door only adds to my statement. My mother sits there, a trembling mess, while my father watches the television without regard for his continually sobbing wife. My throat burns as I gather her in my arms, whispering loving words. Tears slide rapidly from her swollen eyes, each landing on my shirt.
‘This is all your fault!” I want to scream at him, slap him with words as he’s done to us so many times before. But my only concern is getting her out. So I stay quiet, knowing it would just cause me a plague of guilt. Soon enough he will follow the second part in his routine: Apologizing.When I was still just a young girl, one bursting with love, I would accept his “sorry” right away,his loving words filling me completely. But now, only the cruel words remain, the apology rolling off his tongue and out into the sweeping air.
My mother, she is too kind. She accepts it each time, although promising it will be his last chance. Oh, how I wished it were true. In reality, her heart still yearns for him and her mind fears the thought of being alone. My mother is a strong-minded woman; she could bring any man to his knees. Yet when it comes to my father, it has taken her nine years just to start standing up for herself. My father, the smart man he is, has built a leash of her doubts and tied it onto her, and no matter how much I tug, it simply refuses to fracture.
“I love you so much, baby. One day, we’ll be happy without him,” my mother pledges, hugging me closer. Tears spring to my eyes. I already know her promise will be broken by tomorrow.Nonetheless, I smile and gently nod my head.
“Baby, you have to understand he’s going through a rough time. It’s not his fault. I already talked things out with him and he agreed to change his ways. I promise, my love, this is the last time.” I want so badly to yell at her, tell her how unfair this all is for me. Instead, I wrap my armsaround her, hiding my face into the crook of her neck. To her it is a loving gesture, but to me it isa means to hide away the tears dripping from my despondent eyes.
And so the routine starts all over again. People say nothing is worse than the marks laid on a child by a parent’s hands. But what about those that are left by words? The ones that will not fade as a bruise will, or covered up under clothes. Wounds that can be tucked away, stitched with a vibrant smile, patched over by a loving laugh, turned into scars like mine.
Author Bio: Ilana Sabban is a pursuing writer based in Miami, Florida. Currently, she is studying at the Miami Arts Charter School and has won multiple awards. Other than her strive and passion for writing, Ilana also has a profound infatuation with yoga and is working on receiving her teacher certification.