Pieces of a Childhood: 3. Hiding
The door bell woke me up. It rang several times. I heard Mother get up, turn the lights on and walk down the stairs. When she opened the door, somebody delivered him.
The day before, he had left home dressed up in his Sunday suit, white shirt and tie. He had bathed, shaved, manicured his hands and carefully combed his hair. The carpet factory, where he had been working as long as I could remember, had invited all their employees for a celebration.
From downstairs, I heard some loud moaning and heavy bumps that made the house shake. Like a scared rabbit hiding in its hole, I stayed in bed. My stomach tied up in knots when I heard Mother screaming, out of control.
* * *
Next morning, I couldn’t avoid him. He was lying on the wooden kitchen sofa, fast asleep, with his mouth wide open. His pants were dirty, his shirt ripped open, with several buttons missing. Sobbing, I hurried to school.
* * *
In the evening, after having slept all day, he showed up for dinner. He asked if he had scared us. I sat quiet, unable to translate my despair into words.
Then, he almost made a speech, “OK, that’s it,” he said. “No more of that stuff. Enough.” I glanced up, relieved and thankful that he had understood. Never again? We would become a normal family!?
* * *
A few weeks later, we went to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday and meet his family. A bit into the evening, I sat unseen, hiding in a corner, and watched as the men took out bottles and glasses.
This was the big moment when Father would smile confidently, shake his head and say, “No, thanks, guys. I promised my kids.”
But when a filled glass was handed him, he accepted it. Next moment, somebody screamed: “Cheers, everybody!” and they drank. Soon, I could hear his tongue slurring and his eyes turning foggy.
Nothing had changed.
* * *
But one thing did change. A subconscious and invisible intelligence gently pulled a semi-transparent screen between the physical, outer world and my awareness of it. Like a protective shock-absorber.