Five Hours

The backdoor slammed as you stormed out. The loud strike of blinds hit the door and caught up to the slam – the last noticeable telling of your previous presence. I sat on the floor. The others joined afterwards. We had just finished eating. The blasting AC latched onto my skin as my goosebumps created a delicate rise. I stared at our kitchen wall for five hours.

The day you painted the kitchen walls you yelled because we got the wrong color and you laughed because we got the wrong color even after repeating it to us five times. I was eight at the time and it was my first note at your inconsistency.

The four of us were silent during those five hours. It frightened me. We were used to the roars of music through a radio, a heightened volume of television, and the occasional yell from your mouth or mom's. But silence increased my heartbeat with every second, a fear of the possibilities of what was going to happen next. Maybe you would come back 10 minutes later apologizing for your lack of anger management, or maybe you would come back 10 days later with a thought-out bargain as you reevaluated your priorities.

These five hours were filled with a cycle of every thought I could imagine circling back. You told us you were leaving for good, but our silence screamed otherwise. You would come back, like you always do. The question in the air was when you were coming back, and how much of an impact this night of silence would have on us.

By the end of the third hour, I decided to lay my back on the floor. The persistent stench of leftover cold pizza continued to punch through my nostrils. Above me was the lemon-colored ceiling. You painted the kitchen ceiling a year before this, and we spent that day tip toeing over the fight you and I had the day beforehand. That was the day I hyperventilated from crying so much; it was the day I poured every hateful thought about you onto the floor.

You blamed my mother for every inconvenience. You slut-shamed me when I was 12 for wearing shorts. You told my sisters and I that our only job was to clean and cook for our future husbands. You made me hate myself and the world. You made me hate you. And when I told you this, you sat there in our living room staring at me. You turned your head and pressed play on the television.

The chirps of the crickets outside filled the kitchen with its first linger of noise. The floorboards creaked in the hallway as my younger sister went back to her room to grab her phone. The tension in the air wasn't enough to stop her from scrolling endlessly. She was used to it after all, we all were.

And by hour five, you walked in.