I took the hint and leaned silently against the door with him. I barely came to his waist as I pushed to hold the door closed. Dad grinned lopsidedly at me. Mom would pound on the door until she got tired, then go into their room and lock the door. Then dad would open my door, and go back to watching TV, or make some crummy sandwich from whatever was in the fridge.
Other times it was mom who ran into the room. She’d lock the door like dad, then push my bed against the door. My bed being the futon mom and dad got for me to lay on. One side smelled like smoke and vomit, making me want to throw up too. If I turned it over, then it smelled moldy. I snuck a blanket into my room and put that on top of the moldy side. I wasn’t moldy then, just damp and moldy smelling.
Mom, toward that last day I saw them, began taking medicine earlier and more often. She needed it, she said, because the management said that the dancers (entertainers, mom said) had to show customers a real good time if they got asked. Mom said she didn’t like it because it made her feel icky all over, and the medicine made the icky not bother her so much.
In crude adult language, mom was supposed to go have sex with men who paid the manager for the privilege. That’s what I found out later. I knew mom felt bad whenever she had to be ‘friendly’. She’d come home, throw her purse and dancer’s bag on the floor, then run into the bathroom and throw up in the toilet.
Dad would get upset that mom was sick. He’d yell that she should stop working that ‘shirthole’ of a place. Mom said he couldn’t get a job, so she had to work there. They would start arguing about everything. I would go to bed, falling asleep to the shouts. I would wake up in the morning and hold my tummy because I knew they were unhappy. It was like the moldy spot on the futon. Mom and dad felt moldy. Dad started taking medicine a lot more too. He would drink until he giggled, then get the needle medicine and stick it in his toe. He bit down on a sock or a pencil because that hurt more.
It was then that the scary man came to the house. Mom and dad looked scared when he showed up. They sent me into my room. He watched me walk all the way to the door. I knew this because I watched him. I looked back over my shoulder all the way. He scared me that I didn’t want to turn my back to him. His eyes reminded me of the monsters dad giggled at when he was drinking. The red eyes scared me more than anything. I kept waking up thinking he was in the room with me. Mom and dad didn’t like that and I had to stand outside until they let me back in after the sun came up.
But, despite all the troubles, I felt loved. My parents paid attention to me. Not always kind and friendly, they sometimes punished me for things I didn’t understand, but they gave me attention all the time. At the age I was, attention was always welcome, even if pain was part of it. Mom and Dad were gods. They fed me, housed me, and, on occasion, actually loved me. It was a place I knew I belonged. The troubles went away after the scary man came.