The recording was done in a few takes. I don't know how right it or the writing felt.
I have a feeling no matter the times I worked on either, they wouldn't feel right.
Imagination protects us.
It shields us against chaotic sights and dissonant sounds, bits of hard reality we can't face. We become courageous against the frightful, righteous before the wicked. It's not because of any intrinsic element that we change, no greatness or boldness attached to our person. It's the mere belief that we can be, that we have to be, the transformative capacity of disassociation that proves so powerful.
Dad was hitting Mom again. The reason didn't really matter. When he was drunk, any reason worked. Maybe she had gone out shopping too long without telling him. Maybe some money had gone missing, whether by his hand or her's. The reason wasn't so important as the fact that he had one.
I had suffered that before, a perceived slight outside my control. I couldn't remember what I had made on my spelling test. That's why I pulled down my pants and he raised up the belt. "What did you make?!" he would scream, and I would shakingly murmur the same sad defense.
"I don't know!" It wasn't enough. The closer his belt loomed, the more scrambled my thoughts became. My chubby body strained and my little fingers shook, trying desperately to find the answer he wanted so badly. It didn't even occur to me to lie. Lying would have been easier. It would have given me a letter grade, a number, something to appease my father and that strap of leather in his hand. I was struggling so hard because I wanted to give my father the truth.
But then, the truth didn't matter, either. Facts were never really that important to my father. He only wanted the answer he was looking for and nothing else would do. It was only with seconds to spare that I remembered the result, relief flooding my little body. I told him him the grade. He listened quietly. Down went the belt. Up went my pants. The situation was resolved.
It wasn't so easy here.
Dad screamed and Mom sobbed, her back to the closet door, her front to his bearded face. There was barely an inch between them, so close they could have kissed. They never kissed anymore. Instead bits of his spittle mixed with the tears running down her face, the only intimacy they still shared. She plead with him, but her words had limited effect. His temper kept flaring, building, building, like a thundercloud. We had already heard the thunder. Now we waited to see the tornado.
It didn't take long. His hands started to work their way up her shoulders, mean squeezes that translated into sharp shakes. The wood of the closet door rocked with the motion of her body, small hands moving to shield herself. She knew it was no use. He had beaten her so many times before that she knew hands couldn't help. I watched it all from the doorway with big, curious eyes. Perhaps I should have cared more.
But I didn't. Not really. I felt nothing beyond a removed interest, taking in the site of another scene. I didn't fear for my mother, nor did I cower before my father. Why would I? I was a child weaned in a failed marriage, raised around shouting and striking. It only took a few years for such sights to become normal to me. I had faced them, my mother had faced them, and we would face them again. It was like rain falling from the sky or wind whipping through the air. They were forces of nature that simply couldn't be controlled. Why sob at a rain cloud? Why weep at the wind?
And yet, I moved to stop it all. I took a step forward and stood inside the door frame. My hands tightened and nostrils flared. I would save my mother. But it wasn't nobility that prompted me to act.
It was mass marketing. In my chubby arm was a box of cereal, gold and blue, the image of a brown bear smiling lazily from it. Sugar Bear cut a heroic figure, a cereal mascot who was constantly under threat. Alligators, boa constrictors and the occasional grandma always sought to take what was his, the cereal that bore his image. Any bear would have been hard pressed to defeat such an extensive list of enemies.
Thankfully, he wasn't alone. With a few bites of his syrupy sweet Golden Crisp, Sugar Bear could defeat any foe. After all, it had essential, if unspecified number of, vitamins and minerals that prepared him for punishment. At that age, I didn't know much, but of one thing I was sure:
If the cereal could help a cartoon bear, it sure as hell could help me. So I dug my hand into the box and shoved a handful of the kernels into my mouth, chewing away. The change was almost instantaneous. I could feel the power surging up my arms, through my shoulders, granting a kindergartener the power of a bear.
"I'm coming to save you!" I chirped as I charged.
All it took was a swat of my father's hand and I hit the floor. The cereal spilled. I sprawled. I let out harsh, broken sobs. My parent's attention went from the violence and to me. My father fumed while my mother rushed over to me. For at least a few moments, the fight was forgotten. But none of it really mattered.
I was so certain that I would save the day. I knew that I would be her champion. Hard reality settled over me me as I lay on the floor in my mother's arms. I wasn't a hero. I wasn't even a bear. I was just a little boy in a bad situation, shattered of his illusions. I cried harder, burying my face into my mother's arms, a poor hiding spot from the truth.
Imagination protects us.
That is, until we learn better.