A Clutter of Voices

Author | Jackie Destache

 

“Oh, what a friendly looking house,” I exclaimed as I walked up the curving sidewalk towards the expansive Victorian house standing tall before me. It would be a realtor’s dream come true:  old Victorian house, a play set in the backyard just waiting for children to swing on it and laugh, a safe neighborhood surrounding the house with friendly neighbors behind each door, and a church across the street. But it wasn’t a home; it was simply a house in a yard.  This was where my big journey would begin:  in this sprawling Victorian house, with to room to experiment, my ideas floating from room to room, out onto the porch with no confinement.  I have no idea what to expect; it’s like the house was waiting for me to come in, and see what I could do with my project, my writing, my stories. I couldn’t help but notice the friendly sign posted on the front lawn identifying the house. DAP it said with each letter inside a bright colored block.  It emitted a vibrant aurora; a splash of color against the gray fading evening sky, “a safe, friendly environment, why don’t you come in” is what the sign basically should have said, as that’s what it implied. So I entered, excited to start my project:  an assignment with so much free space, I can explore.

*

Dragged myself through the door. How tiny the entryway was.  The house looked rather large from the outside.  But the smallness of the area.  Led to a sense of security.  The brightly blue colored walls. Were giving me a hug. Promising never to let me go.  I no longer had to stand on my two feet alone.  If I felt like falling. I couldn’t. The room. The walls. Were holding me so tight.

*

“This is 911.  What’s your emergency?”

A silence.

“This is 911. What’s your emergency?”

A pause. “My mommy needs help.”

*

 The old fashioned couch and chairs. Their dull-colored faded floral patterns from the 80’s. Not that comfortable. Or padded.  Seemed to engulf me as I sat down.   Offering a sense of peace. For even just a minute.  The short ceilings. Trapping me here.   Holding me here.  So I did not have to leave. Did not have to go back. To that place.

*

 “Okay, we’re going to help your mommy, but first I’m going to need you to help me by answering a few questions okay?”

“Ok.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jonah.”

“Okay, Jonah and how old are you Jonah?”

“I’m five.”

“Five, alright Jonah, and where are you right now?”

“I’m under my bed upstairs, but I hear my mommy downstairs.  I think she needs help.”

“Okay.  We will be there soon.  But Jonah, please stay under your bed until we get there.”

“Okay…I like it under my bed….It’s safe…no one can reach me…”

*

This is so stupid! Why do I, a grown man have to come to this place, where they tell me how bad of a man I am. That stupid sign out front, all butterflies and rainbows.  I’m not happy to be here.  And now a woman has to come talk to us. I’m not listening.  I’m just trying to think of any place but here.  Honestly, how is this different from prison anyways?  I’m mean, we’re like stuck in this program, judged, and can’t do what me want. WHY is this woman even talking?  Uhhh shut up.

*

“You are not a bad person.  The action was bad, but you are not bad.”

*

And that stupid small couch, covered in itchy velvet stuff- so small, my knee was touching the other loser, who I ain’t going to talk to, here to do the same bullshit program I have to- talk about feelings and shit. I don’t talk.  And the narrow hallways.  And what about all those awkward people, handing me a packet of paper to fill out with a smile on their face when I know, I KNOW they just think I’m scum for hitting a woman, but it wasn’t just me, she pushed my buttons.  Does that lady even understand that? Oh, wait…she’s sayin’ something.

*

“Every relationship quarrel involves two people.  IT’s not just you”

*

Oh my gosh.  What is going on?  This isn’t like Sonia’s feel- good- about- what- you’re- doing, make-a-difference-these-people-are-willing-to-change speech.  Or Konrad’s calm, peaceful demeanor.  This is real scary stuff. There’s a lot going on.  I’m surrounded by men, who smell like smoke and bo,  are wearing sketchy baggy jackets, that seem like the perfect place to hide a gun, and they’re here because they abused their partners. Why am I here? Oh my gosh, why am I judging them.  I feel so bad.  How could it even cross my mind that they might hit me.  This is terrible of me.  Everything’s closing in on me, the people, the smell, the house.  It’s getting harder to breath. I try to make myself as small as possible, because it feels like there’s not enough room for me here.  Admist all the clutter of the people and their stories, I realize this project will not be as open ended as I once thought.  There’s a lot to work through.  I don’t want to be here. There’s no smiles.  What did I get myself into? Okay okay Jackie take a breath.  It’s okay.  I’m fine. Just see it out.

*

It’s like I’m back in drivers ed.  A plain classroom, with ugly carpeted floor and rows of those chair desks things so you can write, and a whiteboard. And no one wants to be here.  No one wants to sit here for 2 hours and be preached at, never hear our side of the story, we have better things to do, but we have to go otherwise my PO will breathing down my neck.  Will this ever stop?  Should I just go jail, is this program even worth it.  WHY is that woman still trying to talk to me.  She don’t know me.  But I mean, she’s not that bad

*

“Domestic abuse is a cycle, and you can choose to break it.”

*

Damn that woman.  Maybe it’s worth it.

*

Upstairs.  This is where I like to be. This is where the therapy takes place.   The white trim, open space, and beige couches. Let me breathe on my own a little.  I no longer need to be held up by the confinement of the downstairs in order to stand.   You have to fall a little further up here before the slanted walls catch.  They’re not straight.  Holding you in place.  Rather, they give a little, let you explore, slant down before they hold out a hand. This attic-like room, with the slanted ceilings, is closer to the sky and seems to be a lighter place.  But maybe it’s me, maybe I’m lighter.  The hodgepodge of pictures in frames spattering the walls interest me, the magazines lying on the table are tempting me to grab them, and the cool thing is, I can if I want to.  The plants in the corner, just where they should be.  A sense of reassurance.  The tall lamps emit the perfect hue of light. That hazy, almost romantic hue that seems to blur out reality. Leaves you just in the moment. Altogether, it’s like the book club meeting that I never got to go to, but now never want to leave.  But instead, I’ll fix myself a cup of coffee. Take my moment to breathe. And then bravely venture towards that freedom the room is offering me.

*

It’s my project.  But it’s not going to be easy. That big expansive Victorian house?  There’s not a whole lot of room for my ideas to float around.  There’s a lot of stuff in that house.  Each woman, each man, each child, fills up that house.  It seems like they leave their issues for the house to handle, to carry for them.   But the house will always be there. It won’t leave the people alone; it won’t let them forget their issues,  but it will never make them carry their issues by themselves . It’s not just a house; it’s a home.  All these emotions are difficult for me to interpret and work through, because I’m just an outsider.  I haven’t left any issues in the house, or ever have had to have been held up by it. So I don’t know what to think, what necessarily to do.  But I will move forward and attempt to tell the stories that the house holds.