Before anything else, you said, but I guess the meaning was lost in the colloquialism, distorted in the evolution of language, because Before seemed to mean after, the back of a queue, An endless loading screen, a screensaver, I didn’t come before, but instead in between, When there was empty time and blank spaces to fill, Then you called on me and whispered in my ear “before anything else.”
I watched you fall and break, like the shattering of vases, the breaking of sticks. You did not rise as easily as I had seen in films. You did not bounce back with youthful vigor. I watched as the colour faded, slowly, from your face only to be covered with rivulets of red. I wish that it were a trick of the light, an illusion, that I was incorrect when I saw the pain in your eyes, the desperation. You looked up and saw your children, your child, staring back at you; panic and desperation in their glance. I watched as the ideal family slipped away into the darkness, seeping into the floorboards beneath our feet.
I heard you try not to cry out, your voice was muffled and you didn’t want to scream. The sound drilled into my skull, my memory, to be everlasting in the back of my mind. Your voice was suppressed in the back of your throat, a tiny murmur masquerading what should have been a splitting scream. Your near silence was more frightening than any crying I have ever heard; it resonated louder in my ear drums than anything. It resonates, even now, in every silence- in every moment.
I wish that I could forget or erase it, the smell, sight, taste, feel and sound of your breaking bones, flowing blood and quivering body. If I could forget the image of the beast above you, ready to strike, fingers in fists, I would cast it aside. Yet it remains, stationary within my mind; touching at every event- overshadowing every moment. Never will I forget your silent pain and panicked face. My memory will hold forever the image of a mother too ashamed to call for her children; the smell of a father too drowned in alcohol to see and comprehend his acts.
Those moments will be there, always, in all of my life. Every man is the shadow of my father, a risk to avoid, a potential danger. Every woman is the image of you, stronger than I could ever imagine, staring back at me. But what scares me the most is not that my father may be present in those around me, towering above me. I do not fear that I will be struck or hit down, left bloodied and bruised as you were, too considerate to scream out, to weak to fight back. What scares me the most is the image of my father reflected back in my mirror.
I have his hair, people tell me, and a similar chin; colourless eyes. Is it so far to stretch that I could be him? I do not imagine he intended to be the monster he became, it was a transformation I saw; subtle and uncontrolled, a descent from warm happiness to a crazed lack of control. What scares me the most is not fists on my body, or cracks of my bones; but my fists on others. I am the shadow of my father, and that terrifies me.