Everyone Has to Sleep, She Said
Julie was my friend, but she was also a coward. We had both experienced similar threats, beatings and attacks. But her way was to cower and cry and keep tolerating. Mine was to get out when I could and never return.
But wait, I’m ahead of myself. Really, it began with my mother.
Mother had a number of cherished phrases. There’s another of your mum’s precious precepts, dad would say — though not usually within her hearing. One of her most favoured was “Everyone has to sleep.”
With a sharp gleam of warning in her eyes.
She put up with a lot from my father, though not without robust protest. But she protected us as best she could. When she was physically present he’d never dare lay a hand on us, and was held back from worse excesses by the knowledge of her imminent wrath.
And sometimes, in conversation over endless cups of tea — conversation was the stock in trade back before the internet dissolved our human ties so effectively — there’d be discussion of a man in the news, or some local gossip about a man who had assaulted children.
The rage in the eyes of both my parents was real and immediate on these occasions.
My mother said if anyone hurt her child she’d skin him alive and enjoy his screams.
My father would have held them down for her.
Mother said “To put up with it for yourself is one thing” “But to put up with it for your children makes you a coward. No woman who let’s a man do this to their child deserves to be called a mother” said mother.
I learned some lessons well from mother.
When my mother’s eyes lit up with that azure nuclear furnace, few dared to disagree. But occasionally an aunt, friend or cousin would pathetically sputter “Well, maybe she was scared of him.”