The basement is my sanctuary. Nobody comes down here. Damp and dark I seek refuge in the confinement. Hours on end I play Final Fantasy 7 and talk on HOL, Hogwarts Online, on the first edition iMac Mom bought when you were recovering from your stroke. I think she needed us to be distracted. My brain is filled with hundreds of Harry Potter trivia questions and answers that are used to play on HOL’s quidditch team during their chatroom games. This is the only place a feel safe.
Down here I hear the yelling, the screaming, the intense shrieks of outrage, but I am not a part of it. The anger does not exist. My fear does not exist. They can all forget about me. At eleven, late nights in front of a glaring computer screen are all that keep me going. I stay up until dawn because she won’t make me go to school. The kids there know something is amiss with me and they do what any normal eleven year old would do, and treat me differently because of it. On the computer with my fake friends of different ages, I can immerse myself in a made-up world. I can forget the conversations I’ve had with her boyfriend. I can forget that you told us you would chop us all up in a blender. I know it’s your stroke that makes you say things like this. I remember reading the pamphlets when I was seven. “Your father may come home and not make sense. He’ll want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but ask for a rock. Do not be alarmed.” But I am alarmed. There is too much inconsistency. I don’t know when you will be the dad that teaches me poker and plays catch or the dad that screams profanities I do not yet understand and has anger bulging from his temples.
These feelings, these fears, may be why I told you to leave. You came back that night, with mom wanting to give you a place to stay. You had been with us before, taking up residence in our basement, while mom is upstairs with boyfriend number two. I had to return to my bedroom, up there, with my sister and mom and all of the beer and cigarette smoke and endless depression. I couldn’t do it. I needed my escape. Nevertheless, I am sorry. I was looking for a way to control my surroundings. So when you walked into our kitchen and I screamed “I don’t want you here! Mom, make him leave!” the hurt in your eyes did not register with me. I don’t know where you went back to that night or if you had food to eat. I didn’t think that you would actually leave.
Now I know that the pain you must have felt when I turned against you was real. At twenty-five I have spoken to you a few times, each time giving you the same phone number I’ve had for seven years. It is understandable that you are closer with Tiffany. Sometimes I forget why and question your distance, but then I remember how I rejected you.