How I Got Trapped in A Cycle of Violent Voices, In 844 Words #HearMeToo
|Image credit: Johannes Plenio, www.pexels.com|
Papa's angry shouts roar back at me whenever I dare to remember him. The picture of him that comes to my mind now is scowled, fierce eyed, with a heavily ridged forehead, staring down at me and trembling with fury. Somehow, this face seems to be able to exist without his voice. I can just about live with this divorce in my head. But when the voice comes, it's violent. It shatters my peace, and drives me into a panic.
He had that look on countless nights, many, many years ago. Those were the nights he came home drunk and staggering, and muttering incomprehensible words in between curses aimed at mother, my sisters and I. He would barge in, collapse into a couch, and spread out with abandon, like an emperor aloof.
That was the last thing I would see of him, as my mother tried to shoo her children. It was my last glimpse of papa subdued, and the first sign of the wretched rage that was certain to come.
The sounds we heard from the safe space of our bolted room still rumble and boil in my mind now. It almost always began with papa rousing from his drowsy state. Or so it seemed to us. He would very quickly go from murmuring obscenities, to shouting them, to aiming them at mother.
"You're a useless, useless parasite!" He would scream, while tumbling in his couch. "You sit at home, doing nothing! You're a curse, a tick, you're a barrier in the way of my progress...."
We would listen from our room, hurdled together, cold and trembling with fear for what was about to happen. We'd seen it unfold all too often.
It always went downhill from that point. Papa would call mama a witch, say that she was just as worthless as other women. He would say that her daughters were already becoming like her- weak, dependent money gobblers.
"You're all very silly!" He would bark, apparently in my mother's face. "If it weren't that you bore me a son, I should have driven you and your daughters out of here!"
He would say that we were at least worth something. Our dowries might offset the cost he was incurring on feeding and sending us to school. Then he'd mutter that it still wasn't going to be enough. And the rants would erupt again.
He said these words to our hearing. It was obvious he wanted us to know that we weren't valued, because we were girls.
I can only imagine what my mother went through on those nights. She stayed silent, perhaps staring down at her feet. I know she shed tears sometimes; my father made mocking comments about her swimming eyes and stained cheeks in between his violent curses and threats. Looking back, I now understand why she always had a dark, depressed ring around her eyes. They were one of the many signs of her unspeakable distress. Back then, we thought she always had them. We thought they were normal.
We believed a lot of things to be normal that weren't normal at all. Our aunts told us that men got more irritable when their businesses hit the rocks.
"You know how these things are now," aunt Grace explained more than once. "Your father is going through hard times, and he's frustrated. Just try to understand his plight."
A few of my cousins even said that their mothers got beat up by their fathers all the time.
"Your situation is even better," they would tell me. "Just thank God he's only saying things!"
We accepted that all men- and boys -were naturally violent (read: abusive), and that it was evidence of their masculinity. We weren't surprised when my brother began to refer to us as mere property to be sold to another man when the time came, or when he started threatening to unleash some undefined terror on us if we ever told mama or papa that he smoked.
When we ran into that seemingly rare species of men who didn't seem to believe that women were things to be had or dominions to be conquered, we derided them. We thought of them as weak, effeminate boys.
Today, I'm married to my father- the sort of man I thought of as strong. In many ways, he's not the same person: he has a different name, complexion, and body build. His eye lashes are thinner than papa's, and his smile (when he does smile) lingers longer than my father's. But in every other respect, he's not changed.
His rough ridged forehead, fiery eyes and quaking lips are still there, always etched on my mind. They come alive at night, when my husband returns from work. They're accompanied by the violent voice that shatters my peace, causes a frenzied panic in me, and plunges me into a depression darker than the black rings around my troubled eyes.
Written on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Sunday 25th November, 2018.
Let's Talk About It...
1. Based on the narrators experience, in what ways does verbal abuse affect a person?
2. Notice the narrators aunts reasons for her fathers behavior,
2a. Have you heard people give similar reasons for someone who verbally abuses his wife or children?
2b.What do you think about these reasons?
3. Considering the narrators experiences, what practical action(s) can individuals take to curb the adverse effects of verbal abuse?