For me, the peace before sleep would sound like a loud conversation, muffled — the occasional thud of the kitchen table with a rattle of uncleared plates — getting louder, falling soft, like a rhythm.
A dog might bark.
I could never catch what was being said.
Back and forth — two distinct voices. One louder, one softer — swapping — shouting — a plate shatters — screaming — me pleading, whispering, stop.
Some nights, I’d hide under the covers.
Other nights, I’d hide under the bed.
I remember a few times, I hid in the box room (which was attached to my room) and buried myself in deep.
Occasionally, a brave 5 or 6 year old me would creep to the bannister and peer down.
I know of at least one time when I went downstairs and peered through the crack in the door and watched.
Thwack, a very fleshy sound.
And then the back door would slam and the crying would start.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently — broken homes and the anger involved — and it’s 30 years later and I’m surprised with how much I remember.
I remember those bannisters. I remember looking down between them at the hallway below. I remember how they felt on my head. Two bars of pressure. Comforting.
I remember listening and hearing. I remember the feel of their shouting — my wince at his rage! I remember cowering, my knees by my chin, confused — are they arguing about me?
I remember comforting my mother if I hadn’t run back to bed.
I remember the sadness that swept me off to sleep.
What I remember most, though, is the feeling that this was normal.
Oh, and of course, my wish to be the child whose parents had died in a tragic accident.