CHLOE CRAWFORD LA VADA
There is darkness everywhere I look, except for the faint glow of a cracked Care Bear nightlight.
(You can’t sleep with a light on, it’ll keep you awake. Now face the wall, be quiet.)
The static of the nightmares sizzles in my temples –
a physical, emotional quaking that trembles along bone
and nerve, along skin, raising goosebumps and hair
like exclamation marks of flesh.
I pull myself from my bed, sheets plastered to my limbs with sweat and tears.
Run, run, run from the dark – it’s hiding in the shadows –
that gigantic caricature of Daddy’s rage.
(There’s nothing there, don’t be such a pansy.)
I rush so fast that I stub my toes on the frame of Mommy and Daddy’s bed. Raw, metallic ache
in my bones.
I dive into bed with my parents and pull the comforter off them,
exposing their limbs to the cold air, my eager slapping palms.
My father rounds on me with a lion’s roar. Am I still dreaming?
(You’re too old for this, god damn it!)
He is carrying me to my room, his big hands clenching my small limbs.
His teeth are gnashing, the vein is his rosy forehead pulsing.
Nightmare terror seizes me. What did I do, Daddy?
Why are you so mad at me?
His anger frightens me more than I was. I begin to cry harder, gasping for air. Wanting to
Ropes of snot run from my nose like polished peridot and Daddy is
shaking me, screaming, spit frothing on his lips, hitting my face. (You need to grow up stop being such a sissy it’s only a dream only a nightmare when will you learn!)
My sobs blur with his screams and Grandma is yelling down the stairs what’s going on down there and Mommy is shouting,
pulling Daddy’s shoulders – leave him alone just stop calm down I’ll put him to bed just stop!
Suddenly, I am flying through the air - no longer in Daddy’s rough hands, and all I can see
is the wide, silent scream of panic from Mommy.
I collide with my bedroom wall and pain ruptures through my back, makes me numb for a split second.
The drywall bows, shifts, crumbles under me and I sink into it, like a hunter’s mounted kill. My father’s.
He excavates me from the caved-in wall
(See what you made me do why can’t you just learn to be normal!)
and tosses me, shaking and weeping, onto my 101 Dalmatians bedspread.
Mommy holds me, rocking me until I fall asleep. I feel safe from Daddy when she is hugging me.
(Stop coddling him! You’re going to turn him into a queer. He needs to learn to be a man!)
My father hides the me-sized hole in the wall with a Lion King poster.
We never talk about what happened that night.
I fall back to sleep. I wake up a few hours later to something on my face. Mommy is gone.
I am wet. Soaked. As I move, the blankets squish beneath me. Saturated.
I hope I have not wet the bed again. My father was furious last time.
(Don’t wake Daddy.)
I look up. He is standing over me with an empty bucket of water, the rim dripping a few drops
down onto my comforter. Plop. Plop. Plop.
He is smiling – a rare sight. Mommy stands behind him, head in her hands.
(Now you know what it feels like to get woken up.)
I never go to him when I have nightmares again. The nightmares scare me less than Daddy.