At first read this doesn’t seem to match with the prompt, but hear me out. In abusive relationships one is often made to feel irrelevant. They don’t matter, their feelings, their thoughts, etc are of no concern to the abuser. So while the piece itself may not directly seem to go with the prompt, overall it hits a theme.
Tell me your earliest memory of your father.
All around me stories are shared of picnics and lakes and beautiful afternoons spent tossing a ball.
A gaze fixed directly on my downcast eyes.
My earliest memory you ask?
Well, that would be when I was about five?
The house is dark but not like its night,
It’s the type of dark you sit in when your paranoid father has you hiding out from his imaginary buddies.
The ones that he always says served in the mercenary with him,
Or the ones who are always about to come to collect on some unspeakable debt.
Except that’s not true.
Like the times he left us to care for our newborn sister;
While he ‘ran to the gas station’.
He always returned, hours later, a cigarette and the smell of stale alcohol on his breath.
But no job and not the least bit impressed
At our daring skills of keeping the newborn alive and well.
I’m standing at the end of the hall, just between our living room and dining room watching him,
But he doesn’t see me.
Because he’s too busy watching from between the closed wood paneled blinds
While chain smoking menthols …
Or maybe it’s lights.
The smoke floats into the steepled ceilings,
Curling and smiling,
As he mumbles about drug lords and gangsters.
I dare not make a noise,
Because at five I already know what disturbing him will bring.
It comes with a sore body and red eyes,
And the kind of cry that racks you until another round of hits forces it to stop.
I trace my steps back, as quietly as possible,
To the room where I’m supposed to be taking a nap.
But my sister and I, we never nap …
Instead we lie awake and dare each other to play quietly.
The first person to make too much noise,
To rustle their paper too loudly or inch the volume up on the small TV just a tad too far,
To bring down the paranoid wrath …
Well there’s no prize in this game,
But we won’t dare them again,
Not for a few days anyway.