Cougar Corner

Tingling Palm

 

My palms perspire immediately as I hear the garage door slam shut, an eerie silence. A moment where I can feel my heart accelerate and mentally try to slow it down…anxiety refuses, climbing so far up my throat I can taste it. It’s silent, but the house groans under the tension. The friction builds around me as I wait for something; an argument or silence, I never know. I hear his breathing outside my door, labored and unhinged, as his dense footsteps come closer through the hallway.

I hear his footsteps edge closer, he’s getting ready for a fight, as the breathing becomes labored. Enclosed and hidden, he cannot see me, but his eyes land on his target outside. I hear silence again as he steps away from my hiding spot, heavily walking away. I crouch down and look under the door hinge; between the gaps I can see his feet slowly moving away. I feel my knees crack under pressure as I leave my body enclosed and compacted to the ground. The silence becomes extremely loud, as the tension builds, I hear one intake of breath as my mom gets ready for a battle.

My bruises and body aches from a week before, remembering him stumbling home drunk. He caught me at a vulnerable moment, sleeping on the couch, but when I heard the door slam I was caught in his headlights. The dull bruises under his eyes along with the dark shadow on his face resembled something out of a Stephen King novel. As he shuffled towards me, his foot caught on the tile, dropping his bottle on the ground with a crack. I choked on the air that was trying to escape my lungs, but his body angled towards me, no way out.

“Will you sleep…in bed tonight?” Although posed as a question, my father doesn’t make it optional.

My mother quietly answers, unrecognizable.

“But you…last night…” their conversation is hard to hear, so I move to get closer.

I feel my body shake as adrenaline pushes through, hitting every spot and every nerve it could reach. My hands physically shake as I hold on to the door and press my ear closer. I feel my knees crack and pop under the pressure, but I must listen… I need to listen.

“We have one …child …speaking to you, but…been…respectful…refuses to speak. We have another…never wants to be here…not okay…figure out a solution…meet with a realtor…sell the house… split the money… we can figure – ” she cuts off and I imagine him inching closer, hungry.

“…you move money…we share…a few hundred dollars…account, why did you do that?”

He sounds further away, more muffled, closer and closer to her. His wife, the one who cleans up after him, babies him, and enables him. Through sickness and in health, death do they part. As he changes the subject quickly it almost causes me whiplash…money, of course.

He weaves his words like a spider, spinning the web as his lies spiral out, creating elaborate schemes and manipulation…money. Of course, it’s now about money. I can feel my neck become red and hot, as the pressure builds. I notice certain parts of my body ache as I strain to hear more.

“I would rather you… sleep in my bed,” he snarled, “with me.”

Glass breaks, I hear it, and can taste the blood from my mouth being clamped shut. Afraid of being heard or noticed, I have been clenching my jaw as tight as possible, and I can finally taste the blood as it pools around my gums and tongue. My eyes water as I watch under the door hinge, but, as a coward I stay hidden and alone. His breathing becomes accelerated as the aftershock wears off and walks further away from me, to his wife. Down the hallway with heavy steps. Softly he repeats “but you did last night… but you did last night…but you did last night”.

I hear sighs and shallow breathing as the glass is picked up, scraping across the tile. I hold my breath and see shadows under the door hinge. The blood is potent and hard in my mouth, almost as if I’m swallowing pennies. They stand up together and their breathing is labored, the voices echo now, but it’s all mumbled… cohesive. I stay there as I force my heart to slow down and feel my hands unclasp, I am slicked with sweat. I don’t hear the knocking at first, but the violent banging revives me, pulling me back to where I am… then all I hear is silence.

His presence is deafening, his actions are atrocious, yet he wasn’t always like this.

It wasn’t always like this, in fact, it was much better when he was on a binge and out of town. Jumping and moving away from me, like a frog, hopping from lily pad to lily pad, sucking and licking flies. Using metal spoons as they would squirm and burn from the heat of his lighter, suckling them through a straw.

Now he fixates on glass bottles, turning left at the red light to the liquor store instead of coming straight home. A natural born addict, his breath is always tainted with tequila and his fists are clenched twenty-four-seven. I hold my breath behind the bathroom door, hoping he passes by me and forgets I exist like when I was younger, just as he jumped through lily pads, consuming flies. The banging is loud as it echo’s behind the bathroom door, I am brought back to reality as my joints ache, my neck cracks, and I realize the copper taste in my mouth is from blood. Suddenly his feet start shuffling, and I feel the ache in my throat as I attempt to loosen the chokehold around my throat. He steps behind the door, and I hear his voice now, loud and clear.

“Can you come out here? You and I have something to talk about.” Although his words seem calm, I can smell the alcohol and sweat dripping from his pores. My father bangs again on the door but says nothing. There is no hesitation, you do as he says. My body shakes with adrenaline, as I feel it course through me. I get up and my joints creek in pain, and I clench my teeth, remembering, there is blood there. I flush the toilet and start the sink, grabbing a handful of water with shaky hands, sweat drips down my forearms. I sneak in a deep breath and wince at the pain, it’s time.

I inhale… I grab the doorknob and twist it, coming face to face with him. I finally see my mother in the corner, holding her mouth as she attempts to hold in sobs, but I can feel them, as they tighten her chest and echo through the muffled tension.

“Hey… don’t look at her, you should be looking at me… she’s fine,” he turns slightly toward her and she freezes. She looks at me and forces a smile, but we all know she’s faking it. My father turns back to me and holds me by the neck, an endearing thing when I was little, but now almost eighteen, it’s a trick to make me feel small.

“Your mom told me something, you see, that you’re upset with me. Something about us not communicating, now maybe I can fix that, right… we can fix this,” his grip tightens on my neck and I struggle for a second, losing my footing. I hear him chuckle lazily as he easily moves me around, I am doll-like, I am small. My father relishes in moving and shoving me, and I don’t resist.

I let him bump and push me as he laughs, and I trip over my feet, a marionette as I try to find the strings that hold me in place. As always, he shoves me a little too hard, and I fall down.

“Oh, get up!… Get up! I was only joking… you’re just faking it, such a stupid girl,” he mutters, bending down to my eye level. We are now the same height and the alcohol smell is stronger, patrón… the smell makes my throat thicken with bile, and I clench every bone in my body to suppress it. Forcing my eyes to be blank, my arms to remain at my sides, and my legs crouched down; don’t move, he can’t see you… if you don’t move. His eyes go back and forth as his tongue flips and licks his bottom lip, just like a frog, slimy.

He stands back up and laughs, petting my hair, pulling on the braids, “you look younger today… why is that? Are you going out? Meeting a boy?” His fist becomes flat and twitchy, moving slightly away from me, but only to come forward with more force as his hand makes impact with my already bloody teeth. The pain is sharp for a second – lightning and white. It sparks and is out suddenly, and the thundering pain echoes in my ears, I can hear my mom’s muffled screaming, but that ends shortly. I must blink a few times for my vision to come back, and spit a little blood out of my mouth, instinctively racing down my chin. I feel it, just like I feel my cheek and mouth pulsing, but I can’t see. The echoing is too loud, and I lean my body back as far as it can go and close my eyes.

The blood feels thicker this time, as it races from my gums into my throat. I struggle to swallow but the gulps I manage keep me from choking. The less you struggle the better, playing dead makes it easier, this lesson came to me after the sixteenth time. My head pounds and I can barely form a thought. My eyes stay closed and I drift off a little, feeling sublime in the darkness and pain. My mom’s muffled screaming is gone and so are her sobs. My father’s ragged heart is slowing, and his palms have calmed, as the alcohol wears off, he leaves to go find another bottle to calm his shaking hands.

The tremors become out of control and he reins himself in. The remains of the decapitated flies are etched in his memory, and he swats them away. He swats at them as hard as he can, remembering the taste of liquid bliss and crunchy morsels. The smile he wears is of satisfaction as he remembers he bat the flies away with sheer willpower and strength as he grabs a cold beer. His eyes glaze over as he passes me, pretending to be unconscious. I know he can see me, but for now I am on the floor, with a throbbing cheek and bloody teeth.

Writer bio: Kennedy Kriso is graduating in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing studies. She likes to write because it takes her out of her head space and helps her calm down during rough moments.

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