I remember the day I discovered my family was not like every other family on the block; I was 15 years old. We had moved around quite a bit when I was younger, by the time I was in the tenth grade I had already lived in five states and had attended my fifteenth school, so to say I had been around the block was an understatement.
My experience with close friends was limited; I had a sort of “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude when it came to friendships; why bother getting close to somebody when we would probably be moving in the next few months anyway. However, by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was told we were going to “settle down here at least until you kids get out of school.” Where had I heard that song before?
So, I had a rocky start; my cavalier attitude and propensity for dating other girls’ boyfriends made me an unwelcome and unpopular choice of a friend among my school mates in my new high school. As the months wore on and I realized we really were staying, my prospects for friends seemed to diminish; until one day, the new girl came from California.
She was different, sort of quirky; she wore cowboy boots, but had a haircut like one of the guys from Duran Duran. We hit it off instantly; she was the new kid, and so was I. Where she was shy and somewhat nervous around boys, I was outgoing and could talk to anybody about anything. She kept me grounded when I was manic and had crazy ideas, like stealing her dad’s Corvette to cruise the strip; and I pulled her out of her shell.
Soon, we spent every weekend together; either she spent the night at my house, or I spent the night at her house. We watched MTV until the early morning hours, then we would get up and make “Egg McBreads” our version of the Egg McMuffin; egg, cheese, and bacon, on a piece of bread.
She was part of my family and I was part of hers; I had never felt anything like it. I thought I knew everything about her, and she about me.
One weekend, she was with my family as we spent the day in the foothills of a historic mining town just driving around looking at old mines. My parents were drinking as they usually did. They started to banter; they banter turned to fighting; nothing unusual.
By the time we got home it was a full-blown police intervention weekend. It was about time, it had been a few weeks.
My father had been antagonizing my mother; well, everybody actually, by poking her with his cane. She was aggravated and asked him to stop. He would not. By the time we got home it had escalated to the extent that when he walked into the house she walked up behind him and crashed him over the head with a rock.
He never saw what was coming.
He staggered to the side somewhat, but continued into the duplex, his head bleeding profusely. By now, my brother-in-law, both sisters, brother, my friend, and me had gathered on the front lawn and were yelling at them to stop.
My mother followed him inside and the fight continued down the hall as evidenced later on by the trail of blood on the walls. My father walked along a bar of antique glasses and with one fell swoop, wiped them off, crashing them to the floor, breaking them to bits. This enraged my mother, she took a stick that had been holding up a plant and began beating him across the back.
I do not know who hit whom next or the exact chain of events, but there was quite a bit of blood all over the walls and the household contents were in disarray and destroyed. I ran in to use the phone to call the police, but the phone had been ripped from the wall.
So, I ran down the street looking for somebody; luckily, we lived in a bad neighborhood and a policeman was driving down the street a few blocks away. I was able to flag him down and get him to come over to our home. Upon questioning the family, everyone except for me claimed my father had started the melee.
True, his antagonistic attitude had begun the arguing, but if my mother had just let him walk into the house and go to sleep, it would have ended. In my eyes, she had started it by cracking him on the head with the rock. I was outvoted, and my father was arrested and taken to jail.
Of course, back in those days he would only be held for as long as it would take to “sleep it off” and he would be released. It would not have mattered anyway, as my mother would move earth and sea to bail him out anyway. The whole matter was an exercise in futility.
We all got back into my sister’s Bronco and headed to Burger King; we ordered our food, and sat down to eat. It was then that I noticed how stunned my friend looked, she had been so quiet. My brother-in-law broke the silence as he dipped a fry into the ketchup, “Hey, doesn’t this look like Dad’s blood when mom cracked his skull?” He was simply trying to lighten the mood, we all accepted it.
My friend stood up, in the middle of Burger King and screamed, “What is wrong with you people? Are you all nuts? What just happened? You are sick!” Then she just sat back down in the booth and started crying hysterically. It was my turn to look at her, stunned.
Later, when we left the restaurant, my mom said, “Okay, I need somebody to volunteer to sleep at the house,” she went on to explain, “When your dad gets out of jail, he is going to be mad and I don’t want him to come home and destroy the place. I can’t come home until he calms down. You can have a gun.”
I volunteered my friend and me to spend the night; we slept in the living room amongst the broken glass, shadows cast over the bloody walls. As we sat there, I shoved the gun under my pillow and said, “I don’t get it, your parents must have fought. They’re divorced. Isn’t it like this for everybody?”
She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “No, not everybody lives like this.”
That was the first time I knew.