It’s not my fault. It’s not like I had time to study, or even do any homework. It’s not like I wanted to fail seven of the ten miserable subjects I’m taking. My father needs to understand that. It’s not my fault.
The white envelope sitting on the table in front of me is torn open. Its contents spill out across the table in every colour of the rainbow. Green and orange, basketball after school. Red and yellow for the school pep rally. Blue, Violet, and Indigo for the bruises that will surely cover my skin once my father lets go of the sheet crumpled in his fist. The very same sheet that holds seven F’s two D’s and a single C. I can already feel the drawbridge in my mind rising, preserving what little self-worth I still have left. Soldiers move in linear formation as they surround the fortress, forming a bullet proof shield to hold back the hail of insults that has already begun. Useless. Worthless. Idiot. I can hear the words playing in my head all over again, like a bad song stuck on loop. Over and over again until they’re not even words anymore, and all I can hear is ringing, as I revert into my sanctuary. My only place of comfort. My mind.
I learned, over the course of my short life that there is not an inch in this house which is safe from my father’s wrath. As a child, I’d always search for nooks and crannies to hide things like drawings, failed tests, father’s day cards which I was forced to make as a result of social convention… It was all useless. He’d find them, no matter what. The drawings turned into a motif of bruises on my chest. The grades were marked into my back with a leather belt, as any of my other failures were. There was no escape.
Until one day I just started storing them in the one place he didn’t have access to. My mind. I had designated rooms for each type of memory. If it was a drawing of the most beautiful tree in front of my school, it went behind the Green door. I suppose photographic memory comes in handy for that.
I spend hours in there, talking to wisps of friends, planning all the things I’d do once I managed to get out of the house. As long as I stayed away from the corner door everything would be fine. The corner door holds all of my worst memories. Sometimes nothing can shake me out, not a smack to the head, not a teacher slamming their hand on my desk. Nothing.
I go there now, as my father towers over me, my shirt in his fist. Drawing down the blinds to block out the sight in front of me. I squeeze my eyes shut, because his fist is raised right above my face and I don’t want to see him hit me. When he does, I stumble back all the way into the counter. I’m at the entrance, making my way into the bunker for shelter. He pulls my shirt and slams me against the counter again. At the foot of the stairs. “Turn around, boy.” My hands shake as he undoes his belt. And I obey. Because really, what choice do I have? Besides, I’ve reached the bunker.
I’m safe here. Nothing can hurt me. As long as the ringing in my ear is louder than the sound of his belt being pulled out, I’m fine. As long as the tears glazing over my eyes can blur out the counter in front of me, I’m fine. Everything is perfectly fine. “This is for your own good.”