It was June, 1980 and it was my fifth birthday. We had just moved into a tiny, shiny metal trailer that could be described less as a home and more like a can of sardines. The kitchen was so tiny that an adult person could hardly turn around in it without jabbing their hip into a cabinet door. It had a white speckled counter top and a tiny little sink that overlooked the living space that was thankfully much roomier and comfortable. It sported mustard-yellow carpeting with a flower pattern running through it.
Our large, plaid sofa was far from cozy because the cushions were thin and flat and when you sat down on it, you could feel the metal parts of the fold-away sofa poking into your thighs. My step-dad usually sat there every night, drinking beer and watching a 19 inch television propped atop a metal television cart with a shelf on the bottom where my mother proudly displayed her collection of porcelain elephants. A picture of my Grandpa Albert hung on the only wall without a window.
Besides that, the metal shack had two tiny bedrooms and an even tinier bathroom. A twin sized bed was squished between the walls in my bedroom and the width between it and my closet was barely enough space for me to lay a pair of my shoes. My parent’s room wasn’t much better. While it was big enough to hold a full sized bed, there was no room for anything besides the bed, in fact, part of the bed was partially in the door frame. My dad’s side of the bed was closest to the door and when he was lying down; he could easily reach his arm out and close the pocket door. There was nowhere to dress so we had to do it either standing in the hallway or while precariously perched atop a bed.
The tin can was nestled between a dilapidated house on the left and a much larger and more inhabitable trailer on the right where my best friend Margarita lived with her family. We were excited to move in and my mother decided to throw a party and celebrate both my birthday and our house warming. We didn’t know many people but she wanted to invite anyone who would come. The men would roast a pig outside and the women would make heaping bowls of rice and beans with chile and fresh patted tortillas.
When the night started this little home was full of hope and happiness but by the end of the night, it would be a crime scene. The walls would be drenched in blood and tears. In quiet whispers they would tell the story of how in the throes of a jealous rage, my dad bludgeoned my mother within an inch of her life. Everything would be recorded in those walls; the screams that came from my mother when she lay on the floor clutching her pregnant belly from the vicious kicks, the smell of my dad’s drunken breath and the nauseating smell of iron.
The walls absorbed those sights, smells and sounds like a sponge and from then on, would be a constant reminder of pain that lived within.