The moment before I open my eyes is the most peaceful. It’s when I don’t remember. It’s when I am awake for the first time, and everything feels right. But it is nothing more than a fleeting moment until my mind does remember, and everything crashes through my head. I am awake, and I am alive. Why am I alive? I don’t understand. I don’t want to be. I want to be gone forever where nothing can hurt any more. I don’t want to feel anything.
I curl myself up onto my side, wrapping my arms around my shoulders in the only comfort I know. In a childish move that I taught myself, I hook my feet around each other, and without thinking, I rock myself and push away the tears. I’m not supposed to be here. My chest heaves from the effort of not sobbing, but in a split second, my stomachs flips and my throat contracts; I realise I am going to vomit.
I scramble from the bed, almost falling as the sheets tangle between my feet and I half slip, half run, from the bedroom to the bathroom, as my body heaves and the contents of my stomach rises into my mouth. I try to keep my mouth closed and not let it out onto the floor. I can’t even think as I launch myself into the bathroom, and over the sink, and let everything out until I can’t breathe.
I turn the cold tap on in an effort to clean the stinking mess away, but my body has more. It retches and turns my insides upside down until there is nothing left to come out. I know this. I have been here before, with my mother and her vomit-inducing medication. She made me ill even though I had nothing to bring up other than the burning bile and stomach lining inside. But, she isn’t here. I grasp at the running water with cupped hands and shove it into my mouth, and down my throat, so there is something to bring back up.
I’m cold and shivering as I collapse on the floor of the bathroom, panting from the strain of so much vomiting. I grab one of the t-shirts from the washing pile. I don’t care if it is clean or dirty. It’s an effort to put it on; each movement causes my head to ache and my stomach to threaten another round of trying to escape. I have no idea what time it is or for how long I slept. I don’t even know why I am not dead. I drag myself backwards and manage to sit up and lean against the bath. I can’t stop the shaking, and my body is clammy and tired. I wish I could close my eyes and go away. Why do I never go away?
Joanne comes to the doorway with Colin and Angela behind her. I guess they heard me being ill. I try to look away from them. I don’t want to see them, and I don’t want them to see me, not like this. I’m such a failure in all ways. I can’t even end my own life. I should be dead, not here, and I can’t keep my bottom lip from quivering. I’m so disgusting I don’t understand why they don’t see it. It’s all over my skin. I try to make it go, but it never does. I can’t even make me gone.
“Are you sick?” Joanne asks me, keeping her distance.
I would too if I was her. I don’t answer her though, not that I can. As I try to nod my head, my body crumbles at the movement, and everything spins again inside. I hold my breath, wondering if I should try to get to the sink, to the toilet, or if it will pass.
Colin gets passed Joanne and comes to me. I wipe my watering eyes and mouth. He shouldn’t see me this way. No one should.
“Shall I call work for you?” Joanne asks.
I work behind the bar at a nightclub in town on the weekends.
“What time is it?” I ask her. Perhaps I will make it.
She tells me it is 5 p.m, and I know they I won’t be alright in five hours, not like this, but I hate to lose money. Its two days worth of phet money, but I don’t have a choice. I just nod and ask for my cigarettes. Colin goes to get them, and when he comes back, he takes one from my pack, lights it, and gives it to me to smoke. How pathetic I am, that a seven-year-old boy must light my cigarette for me.
I take it from him, but it tastes bitter in my mouth. The action of inhaling threatens to make me gag once more, but I persist. I hold it all in and keep myself still. I don’t say anything as Colin takes a cigarette for himself from my pack. I don’t approve of him smoking, and he might not be my son, but he is still a child. Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy to argue with him.
“Leave me alone,” I say to them.
They stand, gawping; there is nothing they can do for me. Joanne takes Colin and Angela. She shuts the door behind them and leaves me to it. I lean against the side of the bath as my head swims between awake and asleep. I try to tell myself to get up and secure the bathroom door so no one else can come in.
I click the lock over eventually, but I can’t make it back to the bath. I just lie where I am. I can hear them in the other room, laughing, joking and watching television. I let myself sleep on the bathroom floor until someone knocks on the main door. My heart sinks as I listen Joanne greet my father and invites him in.
I cover my ears with my hands. Perhaps, if I can’t hear him, it is not real, and he is not here. But, Joanne knocks on the bathroom door and tells me my father is here. I mutter something, but I don’t think she hears it. She tells my father I have a stomach virus and have been in there all day.
“I have to nip and get some milk and bread,” she says to him. “Do you mind staying here while I go in case he needs anything?”
My father, the fake Samaritan, says yes, and I try to curl myself into the corner away from him, even though there is a door between us. I wish he would just leave.
Joanne leaves and takes Colin and Angela with her; a chance to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes for them, to. I listen as they all leave and the front door locks behind them, leaving me with my father. I know he is on the other side of the door. I feel him, but he doesn’t move. Maybe he is waiting until he is sure they are gone.
He knocks on the door as I expected him to, and calls my name.
“What are you doing?” He asks me.
I wrap my arms around my head and pull my knees up to my chest. I don’t want to see him.
“I’m sick,” I say, but he tries the handle.
I peek out between my arms, watching it. I hope that it stays, but it’s nothing more than a hook and a loop pushed into rotten wood.
“Open the door,” he tells me, and I am grateful the lock holds.
“I can’t move,” I respond in the hope that it is a strong enough answer and he will leave me alone.
It isn’t. He pushes against the door. Perhaps he will break the lock. It’s small, and if he wants in, he will get in. I try to slide myself back to the door and lie in front of it, but the movement, and the fear of my father causes my stomach to twist in agony. I crawl to the toilet bowl and let out what’s in my stomach once more.
The bathroom door opens, and I swallow like when I was a child, and had to push the vomit back down, or be beaten. I can’t breathe from the effort of it. Vomit stings the inside of my nose and the back of my throat. My eyes water and I cough as my father’s hands grasp onto the back of my t-shirt and pull me away from where I am kneeling. He flings me into the hallway, and my head cracks off a wooden box where we keep the shoes and coats. I don’t know what I have done wrong. It will be something, it always is. I don’t ever do things right. I make everyone hurt me.
He storms out of the bathroom, his heavy feet crashing on the floor. He comes over to me and slams his hand against my already bruised chest. I try not to say anything as he winds me and with no effort, pulls me to standing. He is big and strong, built for the bikes he rides, and I am nothing more than his half-starved junkie son. My legs are weak and don’t want to take my weight; my entire body shakes from the effort and I lean against my father without thinking for support. He pushes me away, making me stumble. The wall catches me, and I let myself sink down and rest on the floor. I know he is going to hurt me. He is angry with me and won’t stop until his temper is satisfied. This is always how it is. His blows will come until his anger is gone. When I was a child, I would pray that I would pass out just so I didn’t feel it any longer.
“Just do it,” I tell him.
I am tired of this game. I want him to hit me and get it over with; my words seem to fuel his anger towards me. He crouches next to me, takes my jaw between his fingers, and digs them in. For a second, I am sure he’s going to punch me in the face. Instead, he grips my jaw tighter to the point it might break. Pain shoots up the side of my face.
“You’re not worth it,” he tells me.