There Is Always Something To Sing

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It’ll be autumn. The summer will be missed, but you’ll forget about those sweltering vacation days when you see the changing of the leaves, how the warm brown and orange hues that deepen in the soak of sunlight remind you that you are alive. No one’s picked you up from school, so you’ll walk home- but when you enter your house, by no means should you open that door. The yelling from inside the room will make your teeth vibrate, fear will clutch your stomach and close in tight like a clenched fist.

If you do end up opening that door, you will see a trail of clothes leading from your parents’ bed to their closet in the bathroom, and you will follow it like breadcrumbs because this is what children like to do: discover. There will be no treasure at the end. Your mother will be packing a bag, screaming at your father (“I’m leaving!”) and Daddy will not fight back, the words caught somewhere between his tongue and his teeth.

Grandma--Puna, you call her--will scoop you up in her cradle arms, but you will not want to leave. You know your crying moves people. As your face wrinkles into a frown, mouth open to release your high-pitched shriek, you will notice that your parents will not be looking at you. Your mother will flutter her fingers through a pair of ready-to-pack socks, folding them into each other: tight, nervous bundles. And your father will stare at Mama’s hands, at the heavy crimson painted on her nails: the color she’d picked for their nine-year anniversary only two weeks ago. And you will cry again, but this time you’ll know that no one is watching.

To get to your school and his work, Dad always drives and Mama is always the front passenger. The next morning you will bustle into the backseat and throw your bag to the ground. You will not like how the car is filled with silence, so you’ll hum, waiting for Dad to turn on the radio. Space is something you like to fill.

But your dad will not turn on the music. He will not play "Don’t Stop Believing" and lift one arm through the sunroof and scream over the sounds of wind slapping against the speeding car: “Do you feel free?” he normally asks, but he will not ask this today. He will not laugh like a child when he brings his arm back down, or squeeze your mother’s hands after giving her his most loving gaze. Dad will sit in silence, and you will hum for the length of that thirty-minute ride without being able to place exactly what it is that’s missing.

That night, you’ll have a nightmare- but do not try to comfort yourself by running to your parents’ room, no matter how much solace you find in sleeping with the two people who love you most.

Because they will still be watching TV, late into the night’s darkness, and it will be just barely silent; the voice of the pretty newscaster will waft between the tight screams of your house’s broken fire alarm and the whistles of wind rushing through small cracks in the room’s glass windows. Your father will be eating a plum. Juice will run down his forearm and pool at the napkin he clutches by his elbow.

“I know you’re lying to me,” your mother will mutter, her words chosen purposefully enough so that to you they are a cipher. You will continue to watch the pretty news lady sit with her hands folded on the table, her golden hair propped against her doll shoulders.

“She’s nobody,” your father will respond, except more forcefully this time around, and you’ll burrow your head under the sheets because of the edge in his tone. Then he will get up, swing his heavy plaid legs off and to the ground, and walk to the foot of the bed with his plum held tightly in the center of his palm, the ooze of the fruit’s orange flesh breaking its thick purple skin. You will immediately feel his absence-- the impression your father’s weight has made in your parents' spongy mattress disappears as it jumps back to turgidity.

“I know she is somebody, and I know you are wrong,” your mother will say- she talks in run-on sentences when she is upset. Suddenly you will hear a smack, the sound of something thrown reaching impact as it hits its target, and something will spill onto your hair from above: it will be the fruit, the plum now reduced to mush against the finely carved wood of your parents’ headboard, and your eyes will be closed so tightly that you won’t see your father leave.

You’ll wake up with ants all over you: scalp, neck, back. Your sticky skin, coated in the glue of sweat and fruit juice, will cling to your favorite pajama shirt, now ruined, and you will cry for it in mourning. Your mother will watch you for a while, and so will the sunlight as it gazes through the window behind her. But they’ll both disappear: Mama to a locked bathroom, the sun behind moving layers of thick city fog. You’ll glance at the cracks in the window’s glass, and smile at the memory of their music.

In a week you will forget the oddities and continue your ABCD ways, routine, routine, moving, moving, living, living, autumn. And in a week your parents will sit you down in front of them, their eyes holding a nothingness that somehow feels like something at the same time, and they will tell you, as you stare at your mother’s hair, smooth like water: “We are getting a divorce.”

At first only your dad will hug you, and then your mother, and then both of them, and then your dad again. You will have the biggest smile on your face as they cling to your body, an anchor preventing them from falling off the earth. Divorce, like “song”, is a pretty word: so pretty that you won’t notice the tears dripping from your parents’ cheeks and onto the warm skin of your neck, or the ant that your father picks out of your hair before he retreats and leaves alone the sounds of your mother, quietly weeping. Puna will watch quietly from afar, her gasps muted by the cupped hand around her lips, and the sky will turn gray, the room dark. You will hear glass crack from your parents’ room upstairs, where your dad has gone, a sharp “Ow” and “Fuck” echoing through dim halls. But still you will not notice. Still you will smile.

Divorce, like “song”, is a pretty word. From here on out, pain will be a mere stranger.