I was two weeks into my last year of high school. I had the coolest, hippiest friends in the world, and I finally, FINALLY had a boyfriend.
I had tolerably annoying parents, a jocky asshole of a slightly younger brother and another, littler brother. It was his birthday, the littlest one. He was thirteen.
While the birthday boy did his homework, my other brother and I were watching television, arguing about who got to choose what to watch. It was probably something like Facts of Life versus Cheers.
Give me the remote control, fuck you, loser, asshole, I hate you, I don't care, you chose the last show, fuck you, loser, asshole. Something along those lines.
These fights, of course, happened all the time.
One fight, a year or two earlier, had also ended badly, with a couple of blows to my left temple, and a mild concussion that meant I couldn't open my mouth wide enough to eat normally for a month. Accused of faking it when I was eating and chewing strangely, my mom insisted I go to the hospital to prove that something was wrong. We went, I was offended, she got her proof.
This fight, on my little brother's 13th birthday, started with a call to turn off the TV and set the table for our birthday dinner. I stomped around angrily, into the kitchen to get the plates, into the dining room to set them around the table.
On the way through the narrow arch that separated the kitchen and the dining room, my brother and I collided. Then he shoved me hard, with both arms, and I reeled backward. I was M-A-D. Outraged.
In my memory this part is silent, all action. But I'm sure I was not keeping quiet. I'm sure I was yelling or crying or both. That was my thing. Not pushing or hitting or wanting to. My thing was yelling and crying (still is).
I tried to get past him again, my hands holding a pile of plates, my shoulder and elbow and hip prepared to help get me through the narrow space.
I don't know if it was an open hand or a closed fist, but I remember it being like a karate chop. To that same left temple. Twice. Hard.
Yelling and crying my way through, I made it to the table to set down the plates, made it to the telephone, and ran into the living room to call my boyfriend. Tears and snot streaming down my face, trying to catch my breath, I told him that my brother, the asshole, had just hit me in the head.
Coming to see what the fuss was all about, my mother overheard me on the phone.
"Oh come on. He did not hit you. You two were just fighting."
Even now, when I think about this moment, I feel a tight ball grow in my stomach and push its way up through my chest into my throat. I feel the most uncontrollable shriek in my throat, pure disbelief, and I feel how it gathers steam and incoherence and rage as it bubbles out, struggling to get past the tight ball that blocks its path. I carried that tight ball, and that shriek, for so long.
I can't think of any other memory, of any other moment in my life, that I recall so physically.
I remember screaming at my mother that it was true, that he had hit me and that it wasn't okay. She asked my brother what had happened, and he shrugged and said that I had shoved him first. And that satisfied my mom.
I had an uncontrollable urge to hurl the cordless phone in my hand against the wall. Uncontrollable, except that I controlled it, absurdly worried about the consequences. Instead, I told my boyfriend that I was headed across the city to his place, that I couldn't stay home any longer.
A minute later I was out the door, my backpack full of my school stuff and a change of clothes. I walked quickly, crying hysterically, unable to catch my breath.
I didn't even think about the fact that I was leaving home. I didn't hesitate, and I didn't look back.
We were in the middle of a transit strike. I walked and walked. It was Rosh Hashanah, with the whole neighbourhood—all of my childhood bullies and their families—walking home from synagogue, showing off their outfits.
Standing on a busy corner, tears streaming down my face, looking impossibly for a taxi, a man pulled up and asked me if I needed a ride. I stepped into his car and told him I would pay him $20 if he would take me downtown to my boyfriend's house.
"I just left home," I told him.
He wouldn't take my money. He told me my brother was an idiot to hit a girl with such nice legs. A hero and a creep. He took me downtown, and I walked a few blocks to my boyfriend's house. I walked up the steps, bawling again, and my boyfriend's mom gave me a big hug and made me a cup of tea.
There was so much anger, and hurt, and loss, for so long.
And two regrets: not having smashed that phone against the wall, and taking a year to reach out to my littlest brother after I left.
This piece was inspired by the third topic - Memory - in Momalom's Five for Ten blogfest.