by Noise Pollution

When I was a young child, a man whose name I can no longer remember, who used to be married to my mother, would punish me for wrongdoings by holding my face up to a showerhead and turning it on at full blast. I don’t remember if the water was all the way hot or all the way cold. It felt like I was drowning, but I wasn’t.

This was because my mom wouldn’t let him hit me. She let him hit her, though.

I don’t remember his name because we don’t speak it in our home. It’s not something I’m supposed to have coherent memories of, I think. I do, though. I can still remember.

I’m the only one in my house who remembers this besides my mother. I’m the only one in my house who even knows this happened besides my mother and probably my stepdad. It makes me feel a little distant from my siblings, sometimes. They cower and worry when my mother and stepdad are fighting, but I have a hard time having a conversation with them about it. I have a hard time empathizing with them. No amount of our parents yelling at each other really equals the thing I remember from before.

At the same time, it’s not their fault they didn’t experience that… And it is frightening, seeing adults yell at each other when you’re young. It’s just hard. When something relatively crazy happens at my house, such as my autism-spectrum brother losing control and throwing a very loud and aggressive tantrum, my sister will sometimes leave the house. When she comes back, I can see her looking for a sympathetic ear. I can see her saying, “Man, our house. Things sure are crazy here. What I wouldn’t give for us to be normal.” I can see it on her face, but she doesn’t say it. I’m kind of glad she doesn’t, because I wouldn’t know how to respond. This is all so tame compared to what it could be, and even my experiences are tame compared to the abuse my mother went through as a child. I would probably just tell her, “You don’t know the half of it,” and that would be the end of the conversation. Our family has been so much crazier in the past.

I wish I could be a bit more of a shoulder for my siblings to lean on. I just don’t feel qualified. I can’t… I can’t give their worries the proper attention. None of it seems real to me. Everything in my house, it all seems so calm and peaceful an normal compared to what it used to be. And yet we still have me, a severely depressed adult living with his parents, my brother, a severely depressed young adult on a religious mission, my other brother, a severely depressed teen on the autism spectrum who is dealing with some other issues I don’t feel at liberty to discuss, and my sister who… who completely alludes me. I can’t tell if she’s happy or not. She’s very different from the rest of us, and she’s probably seen the least amount of shit, relatively speaking. But I know my family, and I know there’s got to be something. I mean, fuck, for all I know, her finding out about my drug history has traumatized her. I don’t know. I do know that there’s a distance between us, and I worry it’s because I lack empathy towards her.