When did i first realize i lived in a virtual trailer park? The recent family reunion afforded an opportunity to spend time with two of my siblings and my niece. On Saturday night, after we’d returned to our rented vacation home, we spent several hours in conversation. Tossing back a few beers and burning lungs with cigarettes, we stayed on that patio for several hours.
The Genesis moment materialized in my head when my brother, T, asked me if i had known that his first wife used to beat him… Something i hadn’t thought about in years.
i was twelve years old, and my sister, T, was fourteen. We were spending a summer night at the small apartment of my brother and his first wife, D. Joining us was D’s youngest sister, J, also fourteen. T and D were twenty year old newlyweds, and were enjoying life on their own. Bringing the three little sisters over for an evening offered the chance to swagger with independence in front of an awestruck audience.
The five of us got completely obliterated on cheap beer and skunk weed. The night ended with my brother crying and passing out in the bathtub, feeling sorry for himself. The three girls slept in the living room. As the youngest, i drew the short straw, and simply bundled on the floor in a pile of old blankets. i was awakened the next morning to the sounds of angry voices from the kitchen.
Through my hangover, i was able to discern that T was trying to get ready for work, despite a raging hangover of his own. D had fixed him a sandwich, and unable to find a suitable lunch bag she had placed his lunch in an empty plastic bread bag. My brother found this lunch somewhat undignified and slammed the offending baggie against the kitchen wall, causing it to blow out at the seam.
Hearing them arguing in the kitchen, the three of us hunkered down in the small living room – straining to hear what was going on. Through the argument, D adjusted the bag, sliding the sandwich to the center, and tying off the other end, making the lunch bag resemble a small square head with a pair of plastic ponytails*. Rather than laugh through this, the argument escalated.
Hearing crashing from the kitchen, i scooted commando-style toward the center of the room and looked in the kitchen from my place on the floor. i watched D pound my brother with her fists while he ducked and covered to avoid the blows. He didn’t hit her back, or even raise his arms to stop her, only to block her wild thrashing.
Not getting the reaction she was looking for, D took a heavy curtain rod from the kitchen window, and broke it over his head. Finally reaching his limit, T stood up and deliberately slammed his fist through two windows, and the scene exploded in a torrent of blood and glass.
Faced with a serious problem, D calmed down and the fight was over. She grabbed a towel from the sink and wrapped T’s bleeding hand and arm. The young peanut gallery was now fully awake and terrified. Taking my sister with them, D and T mobilized and headed quickly out the door to the emergency room.
J and i stayed at the apartment for what seemed like decades. We rooted through overflowing ashtrays, and smoked half-finished cigarettes as we attempted to sweep up the glass and mop the blood in the kitchen. We retrieved the pony-tailed lunch bag lying abandoned in a corner of the room, and placed it in the refrigerator.
As i recounted this tale to my siblings on the patio of the lovely rental home, my brother was apologetic. He has mastered the art of strategic amnesia as a survival technique, and simply didn’t recall the presence of the three young sisters at his apartment that morning, about thirty five years ago.
He still has the scars on his knuckles.
* My sister, T, and i later referred to this event as “The Ponytail Lunch Bag Incident”.