I’ve never seen him so vulnerable. It hurts, it breaks my heart into millions of tiny pieces, fragments that nestle themselves deep within my bones, only reappearing when I begin to forget the pain. Selective memory, some say. My psychology teacher would probably have a fancy term to describe this phenomenon, but could he explain the science behind a breaking heart that isn’t really broken?
I’m listening to Clair de Lune and for some inexplicable reason it, of all the things that have happened tonight, this month, this year, this lifetime, it is the one thing that makes me want to cry. The piano notes, the black and white, the simplicity. I want to go back to being a little girl, tucked in a bunkbed with the sheets pulled up to my chin. Listening to Bach and Beethoven and Mozart as I drifted to sleep, floating on clouds that actually felt solid.
Now in my room, my brother cries. The same mistakes, over and over, are haunting him again. He’s fourteen and lonely-but-not-alone and he feels worthless, worth less than air. I tell him that air is essential to life; he tells me that he is our parents’ biggest disappointment, that he’s the reason they might be getting a divorce, that he makes them unhappy unhappy so unhappy. I sit in a pink chair, the paint chipping off the sides from all the times I’ve twirled in it and hit my desk, which also has dents in it and all I’m thinking is how? How can a parent do that to a child, how could a father do that to a son, make him feel unloved, unlovable, unworthy of loving? How could a mother let him?
These were questions I had not yet thought of, not yet had to, as I floated through my childhood. I never questioned it, the subtle abuse; this was simply the way things were, c’est la vie and all that. But now Mozart doesn’t leak through the cracks the sheets leave as they cover my head. I bundle up not so I can pretend that my father came in and kissed me goodnight but because I’m tired and life has frozen my bones and I can’t remember the last time I felt “snug as a bug in a rug.” All I know is that I’m angry. Angry at my dad for his warpath, angry at my mom for staying. Angry at my brother for forgiving so easily, too easily. Angry at myself because I watched from the sidelines as the light faded from his eyes and his mind ran away, only stepping in when it was too late; the damage was done long ago. Angry at God, if he even exists, for letting His children grow up without parents and for allowing children with parents to grow up feeling unloved anyway.
I have three tests tomorrow that I’m supposed to study for, but the world is too much for me right now and I’d rather sleep than think about this pain. I can grab the Christmas blankets, the fuzzy blankets, all the blankets I can find and curl up inside them and weather the storm but I tried that before and the storm never ended. So I braved it and won but my brother didn’t and he doesn’t want to curl up in blankets and listen to classical music because he’s already empty. Maybe I’ll fall asleep to Clair de Lune but I don’t have a CD player anymore or even a bunkbed. Instead I have this pink chipping chair and dented desk and a sadness that I used to be too young and naive to know.
Tonight I’ll sleep, but I won’t pray to God or tell my stuffed animals “I love you” or wake up crying for my mother. The clouds won’t hold me. They’ll let my innocence seep through and land in wisps at His feet, saying “here you go, are you happy now?” It’s funny how the things we take for solid truths when we’re young are the most fragile lies. As if clouds – large collections of very tiny water droplets, according to Google – could hold up my heavy weight, my burdens to bear. As if the sins of humanity could be washed away by a Savior and a cross. As if a father could love a son unconditionally and irrevocably.