Walking on glass

Revision

The car fills with our
fragile tension.
My dad repeats his words,
like children
often do
and I tell him to
scream into a pillow,
but my eleven-year-old suggestions
are not enough.
And when I’m around him
it’s like sliding my feet
across a mirror,
tiptoeing
just so I don’t crack it and set him off.
Fear swirls within me like when
an unpleasant perfume is sprayed.
It chokes the air.

***

The car was filling up
with the fragile tension between Dad and I.
He was adamant, angry, repeating his words
like children often do
when they want to ensure they are heard.
I felt the familiar tingling
that spreads throughout the tips of my fingers
when I’m afraid or about to cry.
It stays there, a persistent reminder
of the emotions that rule me.

We waited in the car, him tense
and me frightened for what was to come.
It’s like I have to slide my feet across a mirror
when I’m around him, tiptoeing
just so I don’t crack it
and set him off.
I tried to quietly breathe in
while he read the letter I had written in my sloppy handwriting.
I watched him read my words, my argument, my feelings,
what I had to say but couldn’t speak aloud,
and fear swirled within me,
like when someone sprays an unpleasant perfume
and it chokes the air.

The letter was written earlier that week
while Mom stood over me, encouraging
me to get my feelings out,
to talk to my Dad through writing,
since I couldn’t speak to him
when he was screaming.
I wanted the letter to teach him that
yelling is not the way
to get his point across or
reprimand his daughter.
The repetitive, raising volumes
that always come with his screaming
don’t teach me anything, but
to fear him.

“Can’t you find another way
to let out your anger?”
My small plea, almost inaudible, almost not there at all.
“That’s just how I let it out,” he said.
I noticed the frustration in his voice,
but told him how he scares my sister and me.
“You don’t have to yell.  You could go into a different room, scream into a pillow—”
My eleven-year-old suggestions for his anger management
were not enough and he interrupted,
“That’s how I let it out.”
“But mom says you shouldn’t—”
He said my mom had nothing to do with it,
that she yells too.

I looked out the windshield,
the yellow school bus slowly pulled up
and expelled its children.
My sister scrambled down the steps, smiled reluctantly
as she saw the car waiting for her.
I wanted to wave to her,
but I kept my tingling hand in my lap.
The entire ride to his house
the feeling wouldn’t go away.

***

The car was filling up
with the fragile tension between her and dad.
He was adamant, angry, repeating his words like children often do
when they want to ensure they are heard.
She felt the familiar tingling.
The tickling sensation spreads
throughout the tips of her fingers
when she’s afraid or about to cry.
It stays there, a persistent reminder of the emotions that rule her.

They waited in the car, him tense
and her frightened for what was to come.
It’s like she has to slide her feet across a mirror
when she’s around him, tiptoeing
just so she doesn’t crack it
and set him off.
She tried to quietly breathe in
while he read the letter she had written in her sloppy handwriting.
She watched him read her words, her argument, her feelings,
what she had to say but couldn’t speak aloud,
and fear swirled within her,
like when someone sprays an unpleasant perfume
and it chokes the air.

“Can’t you find another way
to let out your anger?”
Her small plea, almost inaudible, almost not there at all.
“That’s just how I let it out,” he said.
She noticed the frustration in his voice,
but told him how he scares her and her sister.
“You don’t have to yell. You could go into a different room, scream into a pillow—”
Her eleven-year-old suggestions for his anger management
were not enough and he interrupted,
“That’s how I let it out.”

She looked out the windshield,
the yellow school bus slowly pulled up and expelled its children.
Her sister scrambled down the steps, smiled reluctantly as she saw the car waiting for her.
She wanted to wave to her sister,
but she kept her tingling hand in her lap.
The entire ride back to his house the feeling wouldn’t go away.

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