“Did you hear that scream?”
“Yes, I’m the one that screamed.”
“Why’d you scream? Is everything ok?”
“Yeah, I was just trying to see if the house echoes.”
We were standing in the middle of a cavernous, empty room – our soon-to-be living room. Mom and Dad had stepped outside to see if the moving trucks were arriving, and Davie had been scoping out the backyard for cool rocks. And I’d been screaming.
I was only half-lying about testing for echoes. The truth was – and I hadn’t expressed this to anyone yet – the truth was that I thought this whole move was a horrible idea. I missed our old house, with the wrap-around porch and the gossipy post man. I missed our long, winding driveway with the huge hole that we would step around without thinking (but strangers would lightly trip and curse under their breath).
It was no secret that Mom wanted to leave our old neighborhood because it wasn’t “gentrified” enough, while wrinkling her perfect nose and gesturing toward the neighbor’s house with her immaculate head. I was tired of yelling at her; after attempting to get her to see how horrible she was, day after day, I resigned myself to just leaving the room when she’d begin her tirades. Dad put up with her racism with his “grownup grape juice” – a cringe-worthy concoction of grape soda, gin and vodka. Davie remained oblivious, looking for rocks. I sometimes wished I had his childlike spaciness. I’d occasionally call him my little space cadet, which made him chuckle. That little guy chuckled like a 70 year old man, I swear.
“That sounds like fun!” He looked at me with sparkly eyes, that chuckle dancing around his voice, almost ready to emerge. “Can I do it, too?”
I shrugged, and nodded. He opened his mouth wide, so wide that I could see the holes where his adult teeth would come in soon. He roared like a lion for 5 seconds before erupting in giggles.
Our parents walked in as he was doubled over with self-amusement. My mom’s brow was furrowed as she marched in, my dad meekly following in her wake.
“Don’t get used to this place, kids,” she scowled. “I just saw our new neighbors and they invited us over for tacos tomorrow. Tacos, can you imagine? As if we’re the type of people to eat ethnic food. I’m calling our realtor, we’re gonna stay at our old home until I get this sorted out.” She continued walking through the house till she reached the back door, and stepped outside to the backyard. While my dad smiled awkwardly and tried to distract us, I heard her yelling on the phone saying things like “this is America” and “my parents didn’t send me to private schools all my life just to end up in a neighborhood like this.”
I walked to the front stoop and looked around at “a neighborhood like this.” The lawns were impeccably manicured, the homes looked to be no less than a million each. I felt something stirring in my chest, and tried to quell it. I was so tired of her moving us from school to school, tired of her crossing the street when a person of color was on our side of it, tired of her ignoring the lovely good mornings of anyone who wasn’t exactly like her.
As I turned to go back into the house, she walked into the living room from the other side and hissed, “I saw a “Love is love” sign on a lawn nearby, with one of those rainbow flags on it. That settles it, we’re not living here.”
Something snapped inside me. That thing holding my exhaustion and anger together, the thing that urged me to keep the peace. I opened my mouth to let her have it, to finally bring that racist, homophobic bitch down.
But no words came out. I tried to form something coherent, but a wordless howl erupted from deep within me, an almost primal sound. I screamed till the whole house echoed, till my ears were ringing, till I almost went blind, until I felt a hand on mine. I closed my mouth and looked down.
“Why are you screaming?” Davie asked.
I paused. Looked at my parents who stood there staring at me like I was insane, eyes wide and shocked. Speechless. I sighed.
“To see if the house echoes.”