Sting sang to me through my headphones as my Mom drove our getaway car. The haunting sounds of the song “Fragile” perfectly matched the fresh wound of the argument replaying in my mind.
“Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away, but something in our minds will always stay.”
I clutched my walkman and sunk into the seat, and tried to focus on Sting instead of my father’s rage, which still echoed, distorted and menacing.
“On and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star…”
While Dad was not physically violent, the threat of violence always felt real. Anxiety weighed us down, more oppressive since my older brother left for school. Mom and I retreated each evening to her bedroom. Hiding there, we would eat takeout, watch TV, and pretend that the closed door protected us.
My prayers finally answered, Mom rented a house across town, closer to my school, further away from Dad. He wasn’t supposed to find out until the last possible second, but somehow he knew. He was blisteringly drunk, in a blind rage, and in possession of several serious weapons, but none of those things distinguished that night from many others. But now he was also armed with the news that we were planning to leave him.
“How fragile we are…”
Mom said we needed to leave and hurried up the stairs to pack some things. I didn’t follow. Dad moved toward the staircase and I sat on the bottom step defiantly. I studied his face and worried we weren’t going anywhere. I blocked his path, partially to stall for time and partially because I believed I could calm him.
“Perhaps this final act was meant, to clinch a lifetime’s argument…“
Crying always made me feel weak, but my tears could quiet his rages. The tears dampened his fiery anger and he would slink off, still steaming about some perceived injustice, but knowing he’d gone too far. He’d made his baby girl cry. He was sorry, until next time.
So I looked up at him and managed to cry out “Why are you doing this?” before dissolving into tears. In response, he mocked me. It was chilling. I fled up the stairs and packed as much and as fast as I could. My head hurt and my heart ached while trying to decide what I could leave behind. I didn’t believe I would ever see anything I left behind again.
The drive to Gram’s house took less than five minutes, the soundtrack provided by “Fragile.” The song burned this night into my memory. Defeated, but safe for the moment, I sobbed as quietly as I could until I fell asleep in Mom’s childhood bed.
Mom insisted I go to school the next day even though the sight of my face in the mirror horrified me. The night of sobbing disfigured my eyelids and had nearly swollen them shut. I went to school but I wasn’t really there. My pulse quickened when I thought about what was supposed to happen at home, what might happen.
Indeed, my world transformed while I was at school. But the contrast between the past and walking into my new home after school was like stepping from black and white into the motion picture Oz in Technicolor. While I was away, my Mom made magic. She moved our lives to this new house. All of my things were safe, my room ready for me. My Mom was safe. Her friends were with her. Everyone was smiling. We felt lighter, we were free.
With this move, she rescued my soul and made all things possible.
This was 23 years ago and from the first day of our new life, the dark memories receded. But hearing “Fragile” still transports me to the night we had to flee my Dad. I feel the sting of my father’s mocking and the uncertainty about what the next day will bring.
*The title and italicized lines are from “Fragile” by Sting.
I planned on taking a little break from RemembeRED writing prompts so I could catch up on my considerable backlog of other post ideas. But this prompt resonated with me too much to let it go.
This week’s prompt: “Have you ever heard a song and suddenly you were swept back to a time in your life you had pushed to the back of your memory?…This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!”
I have been writing posts at least partially related to this prompt for several weeks. Earlier this year, I started an iPod shuffle challenge—listening to a complete shuffle of everything on my iPod without skipping any songs. Each week, I write about what I heard, including the random memories that certain songs evoke. The song “Fragile” came up in the shuffle several weeks ago and I wrote about both of the memories this song evokes for me here. This post expands on one of these memories.
Constructive criticism welcome, in particular I found it hard to show rather than tell. Perhaps because this is a critical piece of my life story, I am compelled to tell it.