The enemy within

Some of my older siblings tell me it had not always been so. They tell me of bygone years when the discordant sounds of conflict did not live with us; when the differences that arose between our parents were few and very quickly and easily resolved. They tell me of brighter times when there was more laughter within our house; when there was no apprehension about our father arriving home at the end of the day. Then something happened, they say—something that changed the normal environment of our home into a tense, emotional minefield, where a wrong step or word could trigger an explosion.

What was it? What dreadful circumstance had conspired to cause this grim metamorphosis? It was no secret. Our father had descended into the dark abyss of alcohol abuse. Why? His drunken accusations against his wife, inspired by unproven suspicions about marital misconduct, provided a clue. Then the name “Jayral”―a Creole mispronunciation of Gerald―would further poison the alcohol-corrupted household air. It was a name uttered with near-crazy intensity for many years, forcing the faceless, voiceless, mystery man just below our consciousness to be conjured up whenever the alcohol demons possessed our father.

And the demonic rages were legion. And frightening. Like the night we had to run out of our house and seek refuge beneath a neighbor’s own. That night, in the dark, the bedeviling uncertainty, and feeling of numbness, my younger brother softly asked, “Why daddy bad?” And the poignant innocence of his question tore at my sister’s heart, and she wept wretchedly. My mother, who up till then had maintained stoical control of her emotions, became infected with my sister’s pain, and she, too, wept.

We treasured the good times. Those were days when we sat together, the pain and hurt temporarily forgotten; when my father would cook his favorite one-pot meal―which he called “braff”―of seasoned fish atop green figs which we would all enjoy. Then he would regale us with stories of some of his boyhood exploits while we listened with rapt attention and everyone else would share some of their own experiences to make those sessions truly participatory. And we would laugh long and hard while the clock ticked away the remaining time before our next encounter with my father’s demons.

Author’s note: The preceding is an excerpt from the story The enemy within from the novella House of Tears, now on Amazon kindle.



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