Mother is screaming at the walls. She’s screaming at the walls even though they never
really did anything wrong to her. I mean, they’re just walls. They’re newer walls, in fact. We just moved to this house. She used to scream at the old walls, too. Everytime we move, I think maybe she will stop screaming at the walls and take a minute to catch her breath, to see the world around her, maybe pay attention to her daughters, but it never takes long before she finds something wrong about the walls and decides to start yelling at them again.
“You’re too plain,” she’ll say to the walls one day, and when I come home from school
the next day, the walls will be red, blue, yellow, and green. Pictures of exotic animals will be
hung up and my sister and I count up to two hundred purple polka dots in the kitchen before giving up. Mother will grab our hands and the three of us will dance and sing throughout the house for maybe now she will love the walls.
For a while, the colorful walls will brighten our mother’s mood, and my sister and I will
relax, hoping with the hope that only children have that things will be this way forever. That we will always eat pancakes for dinner and watch movies at midnight and wear pink feather boas to school.
We’ll find her two days later screaming to the walls, “You’re too much, much too much!
What will the neighbors think? They have normal walls.” My sister will look up at me with blue eyes that are much too big for her little face, and we will know what to do without saying the words. We’ll gather the buckets of paint from the closet along with the paint brushes, and work through the night, covering every inch of red, blue, yellow, and green with white until the walls are normal again.
Before we have a chance to have hope that the white walls will soothe our mother’s soul,
she will come barging into the room, her wild hair flying around her face, screaming, “You think you are so perfect now, with your paint as white as snow, but you are the same as every other
wall, made from the same wood and plaster. I don’t think you’re special.” As if to prove her
point, she’ll throw an apple at the wall, gleaming red against the wall’s pallidness.
The hole in the wall will satisfy some inner need of our mother’s to hurt the walls, to
make them feel a fraction of the pain they cause her. So, once again, she will stop screaming at them for a while. Instead, she will snicker at the hole she created, the apple still lodged into place and slightly bruised, as if to mock the walls for their fragility. She will revel in her own power. This will go on for days.
Eventually, my sister and I will decide to patch up the hole. After all, the cold from
outside will soon start seeping in and we won’t be able to get warm at night. Cardigans pulled close and careful not to step on any loose floorboards, we’ll head back to the closet, pulling out
the wall repair tools.
“Where should we start?” My sister will ask, hushed voice barely louder than our own
heartbeats and the rain outside.
Determined, I’ll say, “We have to get the apple out,” but when the ceiling creaks above
our heads, we will freeze, making panicked eye contact and breathing in and out until we feel it
is safe to start again. Slowly, I’ll raise my hand to remove the apple from the wall.
My sister will hold her breath.
Finally breaking it free of the drywall, I’ll hold the apple up and we will grin, triumphant.
It is in this moment that my mother will rip it from my hand. “What have you done?” She’ll
sneer, appearing out of nowhere, lightning from the storm illuminating her face.
“We were fixing the wall—”
“You’re closing in on me.” She’ll yell at the walls, throwing her hands against them,
hitting them over and over again until they crack, a fracture running its way up to the ceiling. “Stop closing in on me, please.” In her mind, the walls are falling, crumbling before her eyes, slowly crushing her until she can’t breathe.
“You’re suffocating me.” She’ll say, panting through her sobs, clawing at the walls.
“Mother,” My sister and I will cry her name, trying to get her to see the walls are still up,
but she is close to tearing them down herself.