You are born into life and have to deal with whatever circumstances that you have been dealt. This story is about how one girl learned how to navigate her life in a way that was both beneficial and detrimental simultaneously.
I had abruptly woken up to the banging on the door. My sister was perched at the bedroom window, looking down. Her hands were pressed against the glass with her face close enough to touch it. The moonlight shone down, making her dark hair glow with a bluish hue. The street lamp dimly lit her face almost entirely; the rest of her body blended into the darkness and faded away. I gasped, causing my sister to focus in my direction instead of outside of the window. I could hear the muffled Spanish coming from the street. The voice was all too familiar and displeasing to me.
That spring had been unseasonably warm in Lynn, a neighborhood in Boston. It wasn’t even May, and the weather was already steadily climbing in the 70’s. There were no cold breezes during the day to warn you it was still spring. Instead, it was humid like the summers, making the adjustment from winter unnecessary. Before going to sleep that night, we had cracked the window to let the cool breeze blow through our window. Silvia must have closed it once she heard the commotion outside. My body trembled violently, and I was frozen in fear, unable to move from under my sheets. My sister rushed over to my bedside. She stroked my head, trying to calm my fright.
Again, yet another night to be visited by our drunk father in the wee hours of the morning.
"Shhhh! Mari, it will be okay." My sister consoled, stroking my hair and the sides of my face. She first pressed her forehead into mine, allowing me some solace in the situation. Then she rolled her face to mine until we were cheek to cheek—our image repeats of the same porcelain doll. A mirror image relayed as a twin. Our heads rested together, continuing to comfort the other, and the knots twisted inside of my stomach began to loosen slightly. I unballed myself and began to relax; that is when my sister loosened her grip.
"He just got here." She softly spoke as if whispering would keep us secure in our bedroom. From what he said, I could hear that this would be a night when Silvia would take it upon herself to insert herself into the situation. He sounded at the height of his intoxication, a night when we would have to take my father's attention away from my mother inadvertently on purpose. Some nights he would last most of the night and be hard to settle in, but I hoped tonight wasn't one of them. The wish was far-fetched but still something I wholeheartedly craved.
Our bedroom window was right above the front door. My family's unit was almost at the midway point, so any of the adjoining row houses directly viewed our front stoop. If a visitor backed up enough from the front step, you could tell who it was, but it wasn't necessary in this case. Knowing for sure didn't matter because it was obvious who it was just by the words spewed at the house. There was always a combination of affirmations, condemnation, songs, and sobs. It wasn't the first time or the last time my father would make such displays outside of our rowhouse. It was my breaking point, though. It made me wish that he never came to visit. Tonight there were more screams of obscenities than anything else. It made my body cringe.
The neighbors' lights began to come on one by one in the windows lined up alongside ours. People awakened from their slumber for another night of unwanted entertainment. It wasn't always our house, but it was enough to cause me to be embarrassed more than slightly. He wouldn't be the only entertainment for Curwin Circle, but he was the first in the spring of 1988. The weather had been exceptionally warm during the days, but the nights cooled significantly to remind you that summer had not arrived quite yet. A few male neighbors opened their windows to join in his foolishness by hollering out of their windows.
"Shut your trap, people trying to sleep!"
"Take your ass inside with that nonsense!" Etc.
It made me wonder why my mom put up with such antics. Why didn't she let him stay out there until someone called the police? Whenever he did this, she would eventually open the door and allow him inside to cause more of a ruckus indoors. Ever so often, after being away, dad acted like he had a young family to worry about. After a night out on the town, it seemed like our house was the one he came to as if he still lived with us. He couldn't come as other kids' fathers in the neighborhood would. Early afternoon or evening, dads would drive up to pick their kids up for the weekend or grab a quick bite to eat, clothes, etc. Instead, my dad would wake the entire neighborhood with his drunkenness in the dead of night.
Eventually, my mom would cover herself with a housecoat and open the door for my father to take his show indoors. If their home weren't next to ours, everyone else could go back to sleep. Nobody ever considered my sister and I's feelings during these tirades, especially dad. Showing up drunk early Monday morning after his night of drinking at whatever random bar he found himself kicked out of. My sister and I had school in the morning, but we would be up listening to the yelling, arguing, singing, and begging. It wasn't until he passed out on the couch at 3 or 4 in the morning, before we could settle in, to turn around and go to school a few hours later.
My father came in the door immediately, professing his love and adoration for my mother. My sister and I went to the landing to get a better ear for what was happening. On cue, if it got too volatile, we would intercede and change the direction of the conversation. The curtain's opened for another variation of "Woe is me the Juan edition." Enter stage left my father tramping through the door, face dampened with tears. Then he loudly asked her why he wasn't good enough to love. Before my mother could reply, he put her down because his love was undying, but she treated him as if he wasn't worthy of her love. He began to grab my mother, which made my sister get up and walk down the stairs as I followed.
"Oh, hey. There's my girls. Come here, daddy miss you!" My sister would go towards his embrace, and I would stand with my arms folded, walking reluctantly in his direction. He would pour out his false professions of love for us, and my sister responded as my mother had. They would sympathetically listen to get him to settle down and go to sleep. There was no sympathy from me. I just wanted to return to sleep as soon as possible.
I wasn't falling for it. If he missed us, my dad would see us, and he would be more aware of our existence. We needed and desired certain things, and he was never there for anything. So why should I lose sleep over it? I felt like this was just an act he put on when he was drunk out of his mind. He never called to check up on us or visit. To this day, I have no idea where my father lived in Boston because I had never been to his place as a child. His charade was tiring, and I was over it. It didn't matter what he did as long as he did it quietly. He wouldn't complete his professions of love before he returned to his sob story about the woes at work. That his cousin was taking advantage of his "good nature." Then back to wondering why my mother wouldn't give him another chance. In the same breath, he would claim how unfaithful she was and that he wasn't interested in being used by her any longer.
At some point, my mother would try and get my father to calm down enough to rest on the couch. She would tell him that she had to go to work in the morning, and they could talk about it later in more detail. She would offer him the couch to sleep it off, and he would eventually comply from drunken exhaustion. My mother would dismiss us to our room and settle him in on the living room couch. He would sing until the wee hours of the morning, lulling himself and the rest of us back to sleep several hours too late. I slept unsettled and woke up in the same manner. After dressing and heading down the stairs, we saw our dad still passed out on the couch. I hoped he would be gone by the time we came home from school, but it was always a toss of dice with how long he would stay around.