I realized that my mom and dad weren’t meant to be together on my 9th birthday. They had plenty of arguments before that age, but I would always think that maybe I had caused their stress.
Whenever they would bicker, I’d run up to my small, closet of a bedroom and blame it all on myself, thinking that maybe something I did was the cause of the fight. It didn’t matter what I thought I did, they were arguing about me and nothing could change my mind.
The next day, things would usually be normal. My mom would be calm and my dad and I would sometimes play “Hide and Seek”. I usually hid in one of the cupboards in my room. My dad never found me there, and I never told him.
However, for every game of “Hide and Seek”, there was always some sort of fight. My 9th birthday was the day I found out that not everything can be solved by a game of “Hide and Seek”.
My 9th birthday started out pretty well. I woke up that morning, eager eyed and excited for what my parents may have bought for me this year. I quickly put on some pajamas, ran out of my room, and walked down the steps of my wooden stairs into the hallway below.
I expected my parents to be there, greeting me with a loving smile and exclaiming, “Happy birthday, Thomas!” Then, they would happily go down to the basement and bring back up piles upon piles of presents as I watched with joy.
However, when I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw that only mom was waiting for me. My dad was nowhere to be seen. I started to wonder where he was, but then I noticed my mom’s face.
She was trying to smile, but it was very weak. Her mouth just wouldn’t stay still, and tears began to form in her eyes. She went up to me as I stood, grabbed me, and hugged me as tight as she could.
This time, I knew that I didn’t cause it. All my previous birthdays had been very cheerful and full of celebration, and there was nothing different about this one. For the first time in my life, I realized that my parents didn’t have a perfect marriage.
My mom looked at me and attempted once more to curve her lips into a smile. “H-Happy birthday,” she said as I looked at her pale face, tears streaming down from her dark brown eyes.
My mother went and gave me my presents, but there was a certain silence around all of it. I would normally be in suspense when I looked at the bright, colorful wrapping paper, but this time, it felt much gloomier. It was a feeling of emptiness, that I was missing something.
My dad didn’t appear until late at night. I heard the garage door creak open and walked down to where my dad stood.
Something was very off about him. I said, “Hi, dad!” in a very upbeat tone, but he just kind of mumbled something under his breath. His clothes appeared all tattered, he kept slowly shuffling around, and all of his words were slurred. I repeated my greeting, but dad simply stumbled over to the couch and fell down, unconscious.
That was the first time I ever saw my father drunk. It certainly wasn’t the last time. As time passed, my mom and dad seemed to grow further apart. My dad was gone much more often, and my mother would often spend more time locked in the bathroom. Sometimes, I would knock on the door only to receive no reply. If I listened close enough, I could hear her sobbing.
While my father would come home incredibly intoxicated, I never realized what was going on until it started happening more and more. My mom would stay shut up, almost in solitude, as my dad would come home and ignore everything (and everyone) around him.
At age 11, I was aware that my father had an addiction to alcohol. While I didn’t know how that was a bad thing, I slowly discovered that my dad’s personality was developing into something much more disturbing.
Whenever he ate dinner, he always had some sort of drink near him, whether it be a shot of liquor or a glass of red wine. This was very common and not abnormal at all, but as time went on, he kept pouring more and more drinks. One shot quickly grew into more than five. A single glass of wine became at least three.
The climax happened on the final day we ate dinner as a family. My mother had cooked some store-bought chicken for our meal, and my dad walked in and went to the cabinet that kept the wine.
He opened it to find nothing but glasses inside.
At first, he looked around all the other cabinets to find some sort of alcohol to drink, to no avail. After checking one final section, he flipped out.
“Where the fuck did you put it!?” my dad screamed as he glared over at my mother.
“It’s for your own good, Pete,” my mother muttered under her breath.
My father stood there quietly for a second. I noticed his face becoming redder, as though he was bulging with anger.
Dad took a deep breath before screaming something completely unintelligible and smacking my mother in the face. She fell to the ground as he yelled, “Just tell me where in the hell it is or I’ll hit you again, bitch!”
I ran up to my room at that moment, hoping that my mom would be alright and praying that dad might finally snap out of whatever dependence he had and apologize.
I listened as I heard nothing but loud, angry footsteps stomping around. After a few more moments, I listened to the sound of the garage door creak open before looking out the window to see my father’s car driving away, probably to go back to one of the popular bars in town to drink his problems away.
From then on, my parents never ate together. My mom would cook dinner, but they would eat in separate rooms. My mom would always drag me to where she was so I could eat with her. Every now and then I would see my dad glance over at me with a melancholy expression on his face.
I can only assume now that the thoughts that my dad would divorce and lose his only child would be the ideas that drove him to insanity.
Less than a year after he stopped eating with us, he came home not too late at night to find mom standing there. I was upstairs in my room, playing videogames when I heard him step inside.
My dad was drunk as usual, and mumbled some sort of swear under his breath upon seeing mom. That started constant bickering and yelling from downstairs. The sounds only intensified as the screaming went on, and I started to cover my ears in hopes that it would just stop.
Much to my relief, it finally did stop.
Seconds later, it cued back in with my mother exclaiming the words my dad dreaded but knew that they were inevitable.
“I WANT A DIVORCE!”
It was at that moment when my dad finally snapped.
I heard him slap my mother as hard as he could before apparently shuffling over to the kitchen. Once the sound of a steel knife rang through the air, I realized what was going on.
I opened up the door from my bedroom and ran down to grab the phone sitting on the hallway dresser. I heard the screams of my dying mother as I dialed the police.
I reported the situation as fast as I could, unable to concentrate due to the horrible sounds I heard going on from just downstairs.
I held on to the phone as the person over the line gave advice on what to do, telling me to find the best possible place to hide. Remembering the constant games of “Hide and Seek” my dad and I used to play, my eyes welled up and I went back into my room.
I noticed the old cupboard and just barely squeezed inside it, closing the door just in time to hear my dad start walking up the steps.
I heard him muttering under his breath as he got closer before finally picking up the words he was saying.
“Tommy, j-just come out. I-I’m your dad, and I p-promise not to hurt you.” He was definitely drunk, but he also seemed truthful. I almost believed him.
A minute or so passed, and I listened as my father’s speech started to seem more honest the longer I listened. He chatted about all the times we spent together and the games we used to play while I sat in the cupboard, my heart breaking.
Finally, the police arrived, broke through the door, and ran upstairs to find my dad on the floor in silence.
They handcuffed him and read him his rights as I exited from the cupboard. The last thing I saw of my dad was him glancing up at me with a tear in his eye.
Written by AGrimAuxiliatrix1