once upon a time, 30 years ago

The horn of the old yellow car honked. I grabbed my bag and ran out the door, down the steps, and to the car.

“Wanna go eat?” Papa asked after I kissed his cheek Hello.


We drove to a nearby restaurant and I asked why we weren’t stopping at a place closer to his apartment, but he didn’t answer.

“You finished?” he asked before I was done.


We got back into the car and instead of driving toward his place in the city for the weekend, he drove back toward the house I lived in with Mama, Marco, and Melinda.

“Why are we back here?” I asked.

“I need to get some stuff,” he answered getting out of the car. “Stay here.”

I looked around and noticed how desolate things looked—not a lot of cars, nobody walking down the sidewalk.

I suddenly felt all alone.

I looked toward the house to see Papa standing on the front porch just outside the front door which opened and quickly closed. Papa started pounding on the door.

I bolted from the car and up the front stairs trying to get Papa to stop.

He started throwing his body onto the door.

Sparky, the dog we’d recently gotten from one of Mama’s friends, was incessantly barking from inside as Marco screamed and cussed at us to leave or he would call the police.

Papa threw himself onto the door over and over again until he slammed so hard onto it that it popped open. Ripping off the side of doorframe where the chain was once secured, Papa started using it as a sword to guard off Sparky. Marco was at the other end of the house on the phone, pacing back and forth with the yellow chord tapping the floor and wall.

Sparky wouldn’t stop barking and trying to attack Papa.

Marco slammed the phone down onto the wall so hard it rang, and cussed at Papa that the police were on their way.

Everything seemed to happen all at once; I felt like I was dreaming, like it wasn’t real life.

I stood there screaming and crying while everything went on around me: red and blue lights danced on the living room walls; cops came in and lead Papa outside and down the front steps before turning him around to face the house and handcuffing him; Mama suddenly stood nearby me; Marco screamed and cussed non-stop as Sparky barked; the cops held Papa’s head down a bit as they sat him in the backseat of the car with the rotating lights; a cop asked Marco and Mama to stop cussing and to put the dog away.

I remember feeling like I was floating around watching and taking everything in.

I remember feeling like I was so incredibly alone.

I remember being told it would be a while before I’d see Papa again.

I remember realizing that there was no way my family would ever be one again.

I remember any trust I had in anybody withering away to nearly nothing.

I remember being not even 11 years old.





20 thoughts on “once upon a time, 30 years ago

  1. Wow. I am speexhless, just imagining how scary and sad and emotiomal of an experience this had to have been. It is hard to see parents defeated, to see a fatherly figure led away in cuffs. However, your story was moving and interesting and I pictured it in my mind and want to read more! Hope writing heals as surely even if this was years or decades ago, there has to be some hurt, but I hope it is just a very faint scar.

  2. What a horrible experience. How scary for you – and not a picture any parent should give their child to remember. I’m struggling trying to figure out what motivated the choice to bring you along.

  3. What a scary, confusing and heartbreaking memory. You did this so well. I feel like I was in the car with you…on the porch as if I too was a witness to this. I am sorry this happened to you.

  4. Powerful. And oh so scary for a young child. I’m sorry you had to experience this and have a part of your childhood die at that moment. Hope things are healed now that everyone is older and has more perspective. On whatever was happening back then.

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