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I never saw my dad hit my mom, but his words landed on her heart as hard as a punch thrown by Mike Tyson. Maybe if he stuck around, I would have seen it. He left when I was eight and I never saw him again. All I remember about him is the shouting, the name-calling, the viscous words thrown at her. And her. Taking it, not responding or reacting, looking down at her feet, looking out the kitchen window with wet eyes as he berated on the meal, or a comment, or a dream she shared. She stayed silent.

One time, I must have been five or so and I was in bed in my Batman pjs. My mom was reading me my favorite book, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel. She finished the book, kissed my forehead, and turned off the lamp next to my bed. The room went dark except for the night light that was by the window. She got off the bed and stood next to the door. “Can you stay a minute Mom?” I asked. I always asked her to stay. I was scared of the dark and having her standing in the shadow let me close my eyes and hopefully fall asleep.
A door slammed downstairs and then heavy footsteps and then my father, a large man, was in the dark room. I see him in silhouette asking for the hallway light and looking at my Mom, he says,
“Did you not pay the phone bill? They are cutting it off tomorrow!” He was inches from her face, his square jaw, huge like a tiger’s.
“Yes, I paid it, I paid it today,” she said.
“Today? Today? it was due last week. What the fuck do you do all day?” he said.
“I am sorry Tom, let’s go downstairs and talk”
“And where the fuck is the cream for my coffee? Did you not pick any up?” he said.
My mom says softly, “I am sorry, I forgot. Please let’s go downstairs.”
“No, your son needs to hear what a lousy wife you are so he won’t make the same mistake and marry the wrong person like I did. I work all day, taking shit from people who aren’t worth the time of day and then come how to the same shit.”
I push myself closer to the wall, and my mattress slides away a little and my body slides down between the wall and the mattress, I am stuck there, I am wrapped in the blankets and my arms are pinned to my side.
My father stares at my mom. She is looking down, not making eye contact. I want to yell for help, but I don’t. I stay silent.
“What else have you forgotten?” he says.
“Nothing Tom, everything is ok, let me make you some eggs,” she says.
My father moves close to her face, again, almost nose to nose, and breaths heavy like a beast from the jungle.
“Whatever,” he says and walks out of the room. My mom comes over to me and without a word pulls me into the middle of the bed, touches my cheek, and whispers,
“I love you, I will always love you.” As she kisses my cheek, I feel the wetness on her face.
She leaves the room, pulling the door halfway closed and I listen to the silence as it rolls over the room like a heavy fog coming in from the ocean.

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