This is the fifth story in Pain of the Prison System, a series proudly presented by Narratively, written by high school students for POPS the Club – a nonprofit dedicated to providing a safe space for high schoolers whose lives have been impacted by incarceration.
I remember this day perfectly. There’s not a day I don’t think about it or see flashbacks about it in my head. I don’t talk about it much because I hate the memories it brings back. It reminds me of how broken my family is.
Whenever I get home, home doesn’t really feel like home. Being home should feel relaxing and peaceful so you can just forget about the day. For me it’s the opposite. Before that day I was used to coming home to a perfect family and a home-cooked meal.
It was July 5, 2012, just days before my sixteenth birthday. Around ten p.m. I was in my room video chatting with my friend, and my mom was in her room getting ready to go to sleep. I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and thought it must be my sister, but I looked up and saw my dad walking up the stairs. I didn’t know he was coming because he didn’t live with us anymore, so I just thought maybe my mom had invited him over for the night. He used to live with us, but it had been a year since their divorce, and I didn’t really see him. We arranged days we would hang out. But we hadn’t arranged this. He smiled as he walked by my room and then headed towards my mom’s room. He smelled like too much alcohol and his eyes were red, and I got a bad feeling in my stomach.
About five minutes later, my mom came into my room and lay down on my bed. My mom never did that so it was weird for me, but I didn’t ask why, I just kept video chatting with my friend. Then I turned my laptop so my friend could see my mom, and they said “hi” to each other. My dad appeared at my door and started asking my mom why she had come in there. She ignored him. She told him to get away from her.
She kept repeating, “Get away from me,” and “leave me alone,” but he wouldn’t listen. I said, “Leave her alone, she doesn’t want to talk to you.” He yelled back, “This is none of your business, Alison.”
I looked at him and said, “This is my business because she’s my mom and you’re in my room.”
He got furious. His face changed quickly. I’d never seen my dad’s face like this – it was different and scary. He slammed my laptop shut and threw it on the floor, and I was suddenly afraid and angry at the same time. He started getting closer and closer to my mom, but I stood in front of her to protect her. He told me to move, but I didn’t. He reached around me and tried to push my mom. I was trying to push him away but he was way too strong. He started screaming and cursing at us.
He told me to get out of my room, but I didn’t. He told me all he wanted to do was talk to my mom, but I knew he didn’t want to talk. I knew he would try to hit her because he was already trying to push her. He had hit her before, and I wasn’t going to let him hit her again. But he grabbed me by my wrist and pulled me to the living room while I yelled to him to let me go. He sat me down in a chair and told me to stay there and not to move.
As he walked away, I ran back towards my room, and he yelled, telling me how disrespectful I was for not listening to him, for not staying where he had put me.
He went on yelling and cussing at me and my mom. My mom covered my eyes and hugged me and told me everything would be okay. I was crying, trying to ignore everything my dad was saying. Then he ran out of my room and headed towards the kitchen. I heard him open a kitchen drawer, and I knew he was getting a knife. I grabbed my mom and told her to run outside. I ran outside and down the front steps and waited for her to follow me. I turned and saw her running down the steps, but then I saw my dad was just a few steps behind her, a knife in his hand. I had a feeling he was going to throw the knife at her back, so I yelled, “Mom, hurry, run faster!”
Our neighbors were outside, and they began to yell at my dad to calm down. That only frustrated him. He walked away from us, towards the other people, and he yelled at them to stay out of it. “It’s none of your business!” he yelled.
While his back was turned, I grabbed my mom’s hand and ran with her back up the stairs. When we were inside, I closed and locked the front door and ran to the back to make sure it was locked too. My mom was in shock, sitting on the living room chair not moving. I called 911 and told them what was happening, and the operator told me the police were on the way.
We live two blocks from the Southwest Community police station, so I thought they would arrive fast, but ten minutes passed and the police still weren’t there. As my mom and I waited impatiently, we kept looking out the living room window. We were scared, but we were also strong. My mom was hugging me and telling me how sorry she was.
I called 911 again, “What’s taking so long?” I asked the operator. “We live only two blocks away.”
“I know, ma’am,” she said, “the police are on their way,” she said, and a couple of minutes later I finally hear the police sirens and saw the helicopter hovering over our house, shining their lights down on us.
That’s when I knew my mom and I were safe. From the living room window I watched the cops arrest my dad. Afterwards, my mom and I walked outside and sat on the front steps. A police officer walked over to talk to us. He asked us what had happened. I don’t remember what my mom told the officer because I was making eye contact with my dad through the police car window. He just nodded his head in disappointment, and for some reason I couldn’t turn my face away from him. I couldn’t look away until they drove away.
That night my dad went to jail.
I don’t miss him at all. I wanted him to stay in jail for as long as he could. I hated the way he treated my mom. I hated what he did that night. I still haven’t forgiven him, and I don’t think I ever will.
My mom has forgiven him, and that makes me angry. How can she forgive the man who treated her badly and made us lose everything? How can she forgive him after everything he has put our family through? She knows how I feel about my dad, and she accepts it. But we don’t talk about it. I would just like to move to a new house so my dad doesn’t know where we live.
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Alison Urbina graduated in 2014 from Venice High School, and her motto is: Stay golden.
Alison Rutsch is an artist and educator living in New York.