I am ten years old. My brother and I are at my father and step mother's home for the weekend. There is always a loosening of my muscles and a brief moment of ecstasy as I unload my bag onto the floor and look around to see how the place has shifted itself, left dishes in the sink, and stretched out and made itself comfortable. After my initial perusal I realize nothing has changed. I will still fight with my brother over who gets the couch and who gets the bean bag chair at bedtime. I will still sit in front of the TV all weekend and watch sports because my dad loves to do that and I want my dad to love me. I will still face the uncertainty of how badly my father will take it that nothing has changed over the last two weeks. I am still a huge disappointment to him.
I am pretty sure he thinks I am retarded. I would too. Every time he tries to talk with me about the affairs of the world, I stare at the floor- lost in some dark woozy place that makes me feel like I have taken cough medicine. I can't make my lips move. I can't make my thoughts form. I cant look him in the eye. We do this every time and I think that my father must be the most stubborn man alive- nothing ever changes. I know what will happen and I am screaming at myself to say something, but my mouth is a line on my face and nothing more.
He sighs. Not the kind of sigh that means he gives up. It's an expulsion of utter disappointment as he shakes his head and stands in front of me for a moment more. My face is a crimson ballon, swollen with held- back tears. How can he know I would do anything to be able to talk? How can he know I want so much to understand his questions and to be able to converse about the world around me? But, what do I know about anything? How can I know what to say when the only time I am allowed into the world is when I go to school and when I visit my dad's home? I don't know anything other than those things and the inside of the house where I live with my mother and step father. I know every corner of the ceilings where the cobwebs are that I clean, I know every piece of furniture that I dust. I know every carpet that I vacuum. I know ever dish that I wash. I know every window that I clean, every toilet, sink, floor, railing, wall. I know the things I have learned from my step father and I know with every cell of my being how to keep my mouth shut.