The Scream She Couldn’t Forget

Her temples were throbbing and sleep was miles away. She had tried to make herself comfortable but before she knew it she had seen the green digital letters on the clock tick sixty minutes away. There were only three hours left before she would have to drag herself from bed again in preparation for yet another dreaded day.

She tried to sleep with the lights on, with the lights off, with the television on and then off nothing offered solace, there was no comfort to be found. She turned to face her sleeping child, so peaceful in repose, breathing evenly, her stuffed bear snug in the crook of her arm. She worried about dragging her out of bed three hours from now – her eyes shot through with the red of sleeplessness as various wizened voices echoed “kids need ten hours of sleep” in her head.

She felt herself losing touch with reality, little by little, sliding closer to the edge every minute of every day. She felt sure there wasn’t a sane soul around that lived the next day in its entirety the day before. She was living Monday in her mind, each decision crucial, a matter of life and death, or so it seemed in the sleep deprived hours of the night. Perhaps she should take the SUV tomorrow, the road conditions were being forecasted as deadly, with black ice, and the SUV would handle well. But then the SUV was prone to stalling, what if it stalled before she reached her bus stop? As it was she was certain she wasn’t going to be in time for the 9:00 AM meeting. Had her boss scheduled a 9:00 AM meeting on purpose? When the roads were icy the bus was never on time. She would start the day off on a false note and then be unprepared for an interview for a job she wasn’t even sure she wanted.

Before she knew it the day would be over, the bosses would be unhappy at her abrupt exit, the coworkers would make snide remarks or offer up raised eyebrows as they surreptitiously glanced at their watches while her mind ignored them all as it shifted gears to the next few steps in this stark choreography. In the evening the roads would be icier, the traffic stickier with a good chance that her daughter could be stranded at the daycare center. Somehow they’d get home and start worrying about dinner and other nightly chores all over again.

It was only Sunday night, rather early Monday morning, and she had already lived through the horrors that she knew Monday would bring. Why did she feel she needed to do this, why not sleep instead? But sleep wouldn’t come, sleep had been scared away by the scream that rent the air the day before. The scream that her daughter would not let her forget, not anytime soon. It was an outpouring of rage, one she hadn’t thought herself capable of. It left her shaken and her little five year old even more so. It was directed at him. It was aimed at a perception of callousness in the relationship, at all the accusations she felt herself facing. She couldn’t face them anymore, they grated, they seemed to be stripping her skin from her flesh -the words that hinted at carelessness and indifference, the how-could-you’s, the why-didn’t-yous, and any number of miscellaneous fallout from a scattered life.

An expected and important caller had turned around and left at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning when the sleeping family slept right through the ringing doorbell. They weren’t aware they would have a visitor at 8:00 because a voicemail message had gone unheard the night before. The accusations ranged from not caring about voicemail messages, to giving people the wrong number to call, to not keeping her cell phone around, to simply not caring. She tried calling the visitor back to apologize for not answering the door and to try and schedule another appointment. But he continued in the same vein even as she was on the phone, issuing nagging instructions. That’s when the bloodcurdling scream emerged, “SHUT UP, JUST SHUT THE HELL UP! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER WORD FROM YOU! I AM ON THE PHONE, I AM TRYING TO LEAVE SOMEONE A MESSAGE, I CAN’T DO THAT AND LISTEN TO YOU AT THE SAME TIME!!!! STOP IT, GO AWAY, I DON’T WANNA SEE YOUR FACE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!” And then she slammed the phone down on the floor, the message incomplete.

Her daughter started crying then telling her how nasty it was to scream, how she should never yell at her Daddy. She said that the screaming was so loud that her head hurt. Since January 15th, based on what she picked up at school, she has been telling her parents what a great man Martin Luther King Jr. was, how he believed in peace and non-violence and preached calm. She tells her Mom to remember MLK Jr. now and to never scream or throw anything again. Her Mom is thoroughly chastened, apologetic and ashamed at her outburst. She is not prone to such eruptions, she is generally known for an unstressed appearance and a calm demeanor under tense circumstances…except for an astrologer who once told her that she carries around a lot of rage inside. She had laughed that off. She doesn’t recognize herself anymore.

It has been over twenty-four hours since the screaming incident but her daughter has mentioned it several times since then reminding her how the scream really hurt her ears and gave her a headache, that she never wanted to hear it again.

She won’t hear it again, she’s been told, she has been given that promise. But in the meantime her Mom’s temples were still throbbing and sleep was still miles away with only two hours left to the night.


  1. God Almighty! This frightens the bloody wits and a whole lot else out of me!God…I can see it…Strength…strength please!

  2. Don't lose your cool, you have to have inner strength,strong determination and courage to overcome any difficult situation. God will always be with you.

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