Never Standing StillBy: Anie Michaels
This wasn’t how I’d imagined my seventh birthday would turn out. The balloons were great, the Rainbow Brite birthday cake was just how it looked in the book at the grocery store, and even some of my friends showed up to my party.
That part was awesome.
But as I lay in my bed, listening to my parents argue, their yelling only getting louder and angrier, I tried to keep my tears in. They didn’t need to hear me crying. I didn’t want to cry, either. I’d cried a lot lately and it never seemed to do any good. I startled when I heard a cabinet slam shut as my father’s shouts floated down the hallway.
“I just couldn’t be here,” he said in a growly voice. I imagined him braced against the kitchen counter, elbows locked, head bowed. “The house was filled with kids I don’t know and their parents. It just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my day.”
“It’s her birthday, Kevin.”
“A father should be with his daughter on her birthday.”
“It doesn’t matter, Alli. She didn’t notice that I wasn’t here.”
I had noticed. But he was right, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t there. I wasn’t surprised. He never seemed to be around, so I didn’t think my birthday party would be any different.
I heard a frustrated grunt leave my father and I could picture his hands coming to his hair, scraping it back, leaving it sticking up in all directions. It was what he always did when he fought with Mommy; he pulled his own hair.
“I’m so sick of the same fight. I can’t keep having the same stupid argument with you, Alli. I’m not the person you want me to be. I never was.”
“So change! You don’t have to do it for me, but you should do it for that little girl. She’s your flesh and blood.”
“I didn’t ask for this!” He screamed. “I didn’t want to be a father. I didn’t want to be tied down for the rest of my life. I didn’t want this kind of responsibility.”
“She’s your daughter! Not some obligation! Don’t you feel any kind of pull to be good for her? To be the kind of man she can look up to?”
“Honestly Alli, all I feel is like I’m tied down, like I’m standing still and can’t move. I don’t want to stand still anymore.”
The arguments weren’t new. They fought all the time. I usually didn’t have trouble sleeping through it; the rhythm of their voices yelling at each other usually lulled me to sleep. But tonight, for some reason, I heard everything he said. His words shot down the darkened hallway like an arrow and found its way through the crack in my door and hit its target right in my chest.
I held the tears in as long as I could, but when I heard the back door slam shut, my mom yelling at him to never come back, I couldn’t keep the tears from falling. They soaked through my pillowcase, but I didn’t care. I pressed my face into my pillow so my mom wouldn’t hear me crying.
Eventually I stopped crying and listened to the frogs, which lived outside my window in the wet months, when the water would pool outside my bedroom from all the rain. I listened to the frogs and waited to hear the back door open again, signaling that my father had returned. But the door stayed closed, and I never heard him come home.
“No, listen to me. I can’t just make a coffee stain disappear, Ron. I can replace the shirt and have it dry cleaned, but I can’t magically make the stain disappear this instant.” I rolled my eyes only because Ron was on the phone and not standing in front of me. “Let me grab an extra shirt and I’ll bring it out.” I walked through the costume trailer, looking for the rack that held the wardrobe for the leading actor. “Okay, I’ll be five minutes.” I reached up to my ear and pressed the button on the earpiece to disconnect the call.
This job was one of the worst I’d ever lived through. Ron, the director, seemed to always have unrealistic expectations of everyone—not just me. He was always chewing someone out for something completely uncontrollable. It made for a stressful work environment, but the flip side was the cast and crew seemed to bond over his tirades. There was a lot of eye rolling and snide comments going on behind his back, and the fact that no one was spared from his evil wrath meant that everyone could bond over his erratic behavior.
I found the shirt I was looking for and quickly made my way to the set. We were shooting a scene in the park blocks of Portland and the beauty of the area was never lost on me. It was like a little haven in the middle of the city. A place for children. A place for dogs. A place for families and couples. It was the eye of the storm that was Portland. You could come here for a moment to mentally reset or relax. Or, usually you could. Today we’d closed down the majority of the park blocks for filming.