Everything was a dead end. We pursued our own distorted will o’ the wisp, while hope flickered and fizzled, if happiness or stability was the goal then it was most certainly impossible for the three of us to reach.
We walked in circles under the night sky, loitering around busted payphones with a purse full of dirty coins, and not a person in the world to call. A woman, broken and exhausted with two small children, equally exhausted, all with swollen eyes and hoarse voices, waiting for the bastard of a sun to rise.
“Get the fuck out of my house,” he demanded, his face reddened with anger and scotch.
It happened so many times I lost count. Pick a number between twenty and a hundred. Okay, got one? That’s it. You’re getting good at this.
They fought constantly. It was war all the time. Hattie, a sourpuss in her old clothes and outdated hairstyle, and him, in a stained three button collared shirt tucked into a pair of sweatpants, spitting and cursing at each other. Fashionistas. Real pioneers of the industry. My parents argued about the next season’s trend. Well, not really, they just didn’t like one another. I would like to address the use of the word parent, I mean it as loosely as his pants.
Hattie and her current husband, devoted to unkind words, wedded to altercation, and bound by degradation. Were there any normal people in this world? There had to be some out there. Catherine and I just didn’t live with any.
“Take your fucking piece of shit kids and get the fuck out of my house. This is my house. My fucking house,” said Hattie’s current husband, thumbing himself forcefully into his chest before prodding her repeatedly into her forehead with his index and middle fingers. “Not yours. Not my fucking bastard kids. Your bastard kids.” We shifted between rooms, rooms that belonged to him and not us, to avoid them but it was impossible. He slammed things: phones, glasses, doors, Hattie… “This is not your home.” I never thought it was, not for a second.
If I wanted to or not, I could close my eyes and see Hattie opening the door, in different eighties attire, in different shoes, with mascara running seven minute miles down her sad face. My mind had a surplus of traumatic super 8 home movie reels spinning in heavy rotation. It was always the same. It would start out seemingly normal then spiral into violence and lunacy. The witching hour. The small of stale booze. A display of pot-valiancy. Cowardice. Bruises. Screaming and pleading then a lull where Hattie would say, “We have to leave.”
Catherine looked tiny and beleaguered in her pajamas. We were handed thirty gallon plastic garbage bags and directed to pack. We would go through our meager belongings and stuff them into the garbage bags, when we were through we left his house. We would always leave, but it would be years before it was definitive, before it was finally for good.
“Fuck you, you fat fuck.” Hattie said as she slammed the door behind her. The last word doesn’t always work or carry any real weight. It would only reignite him and he would launch curses at us from a window or toss more things inside his house. His house.
Hattie led the two of us into the darkness with impaired physical and mental faculties under the waning moon. We walked around Whitestone for hours, looking for a place to camp out and kill time. I followed Hattie’s sways and observed the height difference between her and Catherine. I thought about murdering her current husband, how good a grilled cheese would taste right now, and the pull out couch in the office that never got pulled out. I was too big for the couch but it was designated as my bed, and though I never slept well on his couch or in his house, I’m ashamed to admit that in those early morning hours the exhaustion got to me and I briefly felt comfortable on that couch, but a bed of nails would have sufficed on those mornings as well.
When we were in motion, walking aimlessly, my mind was all over the place. I wanted the three of us to never return to that house. Arbitrarily we would lock down a corner. Hattie expected to be found, to be exposed, to be caught. The fact that no one we knew ever drove by us or saw us on a random corner in the neighborhood was miraculous. Where was Hattie’s brightside? No added humiliation by being spotted. Where was her pride? What happened to her maternal instincts? Maybe I had it wrong, and her returning to him was her idea of saving us. I thought she was choosing addiction over us. I couldn’t comprehend why she would go back to him. Why couldn’t release herself from this abuse? Her role was the mascot and it steeped my animosity for Hattie and increased my worry for my sister.
On a corner in my section of Queens, on any given night, I sat with my mother and my little sister, and while they cried I looked at the stars and thought there was no point to life. I knew we were nothing. We would always be nothing. Unloved trash thrown to the curb.
I wanted to know about the stars. I wanted a better understanding, a keen knowledge of the zodiacs, so I could recognize constellations. I wanted to be able to navigate myself under the helm of the cosmos, so I could walk Catherine safely away from this place.
I despised the rising sun. It only meant it was time to return like little battered vampires cast back into the shadows. All the conversations about what we were going to do and where we were going to go were bullshit. All those words were nothing but wasted breath. Once the sun snuck up we cowardly crept back into the house. His house. We pathetically resumed our worthless lives as her current husband snored on the living room floor in the middle of the debris.
I wondered where our father was, and what star he was under. Nights like these shaped Catherine and myself, molded us into the fucked up individuals we became. There was never any mention of those long nights the morning after. It’s possible he never remembered what happened at all, and funny cause Catherine and I couldn’t forget it if we tried and trust me, we have tried.
Hattie lumped them in the same folder with all the other traumatic events that she couldn’t come to terms with. I almost never cried and after a while I stopped packing my shit knowing how it would play out. I didn’t cry because I wanted to leave, and I always wanted to leave. I never wanted to be there in the first place. Each time her current husband berated us and threw us out on the street my eyes were arid deserts, pick any one, Sahara, Gobi, Mojave or Sonoran, any one, I don’t care which. I only hoped that when it happened, and it did again and again, that when he threatened us to never return, I only hoped that we would actually listen.