Every night, like clockwork, they would start. It usually started off as mumbling disagreements – I could barely hear them through the dusty floorboards of my bedroom; but it still kept me awake. Every nerve in my body was preparing for the inevitable as my heart jumped into my throat. The mumbling would soon escalate to full-scale screaming matches. The dust on my floor would move and rise gently as the voices escalated. My mother was quieter but shriller, my father was louder and angrier – these are the things you notice after the first few months. I used to weep as they fought, barely listening to the words as the screams echoes through the house. My sobs muddled up the sentences, as if I were listening to them from the bottom of a pool. Sometimes I wished that I were at the bottom of a pool. I no longer cry, I have almost become numb, and yet I still lay awake through each fight. The deeper the bags under my eyes, the louder their screams have been the night before.
Occasionally, but now more often than not, I hear my father throwing things (most likely at my mother). Glasses, plates, ornaments, TV remotes…anything he can get his hands on. The vibrations from the smashes and my mother’s screams shake the glass in the windows. It was terrifying, but I was frozen with fear. And every time I ask my mother if I can do anything, she says, “No dear, you’re father just gets a bit stressed. It’s better him shouting at me than you.” This was usually when I would be helping her clean up whatever he had smashed. He would be asleep in bed and I would sneak down to help my mother. I loved and cared for her deeply but didn’t know what to do.
Even when I returned to my bed at night, I would fall asleep to the sounds of my mother’s muffled cries. They weren’t just muffled because of the thick layer of dust in my room; they were muffled because she did not want him hearing and getting angry again. They were muffled because she did not want me to know how broken our family really was, how broken she was. It was never silent in this house.
Then, one night, the usually sequence of events had occurred; mumbling, shouting, screaming, and then I waited for the smash or thud of an object being hurled across the room to happen. Surely enough, the thud came, but no scream. I heard another smaller thud as the object fell to the ground. But then another thud resonated through the dusty floors, heavier than I had ever heard before. These noises were unfamiliar which worried me. The front door creaked as it opened and slammed as it closed. Silence rang out through the house. Usually I could hear my mother sniffling or shuffling about but there was nothing. I ran down the stairs, my footsteps the only noises in the house. As I entered the living room my eyes were drawn to the heavy mirror that would usually hang on the small. The newfound cracks stained with crimson. Moving slightly further into the room I saw my mother lying there, surrounded by a growing pool of red. Time seemed to slow as I leapt to her side and held my hand against the indent in her head where the mirror had hit. Her eyes were already empty, the heat leaving her skin even as I held her under me. I screamed for help but no one came. After a while I gave up and the silence engulfed the house once again.
That was the night when I finally understood why people fear silence.