My home was broken.
But I was used to it. For years, my parents clumsily taped up the holes with transparent truces, sucked-in offenses and alcoholic avoidance. Still, the anger and disappointment always leaked through, pumping like contaminated air through the vents, infiltrating every aspect of our house.
Their fights played like music in the background of my life. When the end officially came no one was surprised or sad, certainly not me.
My father moved out, but still hung around, taking me and my brother out for a movie or to his racquetball club. It was only when I passed my parents' room and took notice that there was no lump in the center of the bed; no giant bowl of salad with smelly dressing on the night side table that I realized he was gone.
I was 10 when they divorced, by the time I was 12 my mother had remarried.
It was December and the wedding was a small affair at my new step-father's house. It came up quick, somewhat of a surprise, although my mother will jokingly remind me how if anything, the whole thing was my fault, she asked me if she should marry him.
He lived in a big house and had a pool. I was 11.
I was given the option to finish out my sixth grade year and live with my grandparents in Brooklyn or move mid-year to Long Island. My science midterm was coming up and it terrified me. I was averaging a 75 in the class when all my other grades were up where they should be in the 90s. I couldn't handle the thought of flunking a test. In a half a second I jumped on the move, deserting my friends, my grandparents, my life, all in the name of science.
We moved into our new home unceremoniously and awkwardly. None of us knew what we were doing; certainly not my mother or new stepfather -- certainly not my younger brother or my two new younger step-brothers. The only person who rallied with contrived enthusiasm was the live-in housekeeper who showed off the house like it was her own.
I was shuffled off to my room and left with another young girl whose name was Gia. She was the housekeeper's daughter who had apparently come to visit months back and never left. She was a year younger and I was a year shyer, but we still didn't even out.
"This is my room," She said. "You can sleep there." She pointed to the second bed. "Don't touch my stuff," She commanded and huffed out.
My brother and new stepbrothers were also trying to find their way in this new dynamic, while my mother and step father circled each uncertainly, and the housekeeper kept us all in a tight divided line of us against them.
I looked out the window into the backyard. The pool was covered for the winter. It looked dark and dangerous.
My home was broken.
A revised version of this essay and many other happier ones can be found on Ice Scream Mama.