by Damien Marquess
There was something almost masochistic in Eamon revisiting this scene over and over again. It was always the same dream; the foster home he had spent only months in when he was fourteen, walking through the bedroom he had shared with the other two boys; Barry and Kevin.
In the dream the room seemed abandoned, unlived in for years. Looking around he could see a couple of bed frames, peeling and discoloured wallpaper, some scattered books. But then, as always, he found himself moving - against his will - towards the far side of the room. Towards the bathroom door.
Eamon knew exactly what he would find as he entered the room: black shapes flittering wildly around and about the shadowed presence that stood at the centre of the dark storm. Someone he couldn’t look at directly, who scared him. Who judged him and found him wanting; no matter how many times he had this dream he could never look directly at that figure. All he ever made out was an indistinct shape and the blackness swarming about.
Standing frozen, the swarm surrounding the figure roiling and lashing and reaching out, lashing him with voices from the past, “’Nice’ is just another word for boring, you loser. Did ‘nice’ work out for your mum when your dad came at her with his fists? I’m sure she thanked God for her son who did nothing!” With those remembered words Eamon was a child again, listening to Barry mumbling a reply to Kevin, trying to say he’d only been nine, there was nothing he could have done.
He should have stopped it, he knew, but with Barry stammering and crying he found himself getting angrier and angrier, reminded of a weakness in himself he tried to ignore; that disgusted him. He had joined Kevin, taking his anger at himself out on Barry. “Look at you; you’re no use to anyone. I doubt your mom even wants you back”, his own secret fear.
Again the swarm swelled, “pathetic!”, “loser!”, “unloved, and unwanted”; as Eamon remembered being out of control; all the rage at himself, his family and the world for being taken from home directed at the easiest target.
This is how the dream always went. Each night he was confronted with what he had done. He and Kevin had broken Barry, helped offload their own demons and left him in tears. It had happened more than once. There was a rhythm, as if he and Kevin could sense each others’ anger rising and automatically fell into torturing “the runt”, and Barry would keep trying to keep them happy, stop them getting angry; and it fuelled them all the more. Maybe they hit him once or twice, he couldn’t remember. All he remembered with clarity was the night they had found Barry bleeding in the bathroom, unconscious, his blood smearing the cold, tiled floor. They had discovered him in time though; the Reed’s, their foster parents, had wrapped Barry’s wrists and rang for an ambulance.
Soon after Eamon had been moved to another home and he later heard that Kevin had blamed him for starting the bullying; which was only fair, he supposed, seeing as he had blamed Kevin.
He could never let that time, that memory, go. He found himself pre-occupied with it, worrying at it like a partly healed scab, during even the most important times. Counselling only told him what he wanted to hear, that he’d been young, it wasn’t his fault. That everyone was a victim in some way. The lie never worked, though; the more he tried to absolve himself the more frequent the dreams had become.
Tonight though Eamon felt a difference, years of sleepwalking through his life, exhausted and worn down from it, had finally forced a change on him. He slowly raised his gaze to the dark figure at the centre, the figure filled with hate and contempt, “loser”, “pathetic”, “scum” all came swarming out in his own voice from all those years ago. He knew the truth now; had tried to avoid responsibility, tried to make the guilt go away, told himself he was a victim too, he hadn’t been that bad, had only been a child himself; but he had avoided the most important fact. He had made a choice to hurt someone else to make himself feel better.
Eamon raised his eyes and finally accepted the truth. He walked towards the centre of that black storm and confronted that figure of hate and bile at the centre. He finally looked directly at the figure and the mask fell. He stared at his own anger and violence given form, saw his own face twisted in hate looking back, his own contempt. He’d been unable to accept that side of himself, couldn’t believe that there wasn’t some excuse that made it all ok. Listening to all the abuse, feeling all the guilt, he didn’t hide this time. Maybe he deserved this. He hadn’t been able to live his life because deep down he had hated himself. But in the home where he had made the worst choice of his life, he made another hopefully better one. Eamon looked at the worst thing he had done, accepted responsibility; his choice and no others.
He woke up crying that night, racking sobs, for what he had helped do to Barry but also for what he had done to himself, what he had allowed himself to become. He looked again at his life, accepting both the good and the bad now, taking responsibility, resolving to do better from now on.
Occasionally he is still haunted by dreams of the home again, sometimes senses the darkness there behind the door at the end of the room; sometimes it’s good to be reminded.
Recently married and hoping to start doing again all the creative things I loved when I was younger, including but not limited to writing and acting!
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Ghost of the Powder Room'
'My Secret Savior'