I think adults underestimate how much children can perceive. 

When I was little, I adored my aunts and uncles, both biological and those who married in.They were like spinoffs of Mommy and Daddy, kinda the same as my parents but more fun. 

There were a few, however, that I always felt uneasy around. It was something intangible that I could never name. The uneasiness and discomfort zoomed in whenever I was around them and it zoomed away whenever they left. In my little mind, I would scold myself for feeling that way. I never voiced any of this to my parents because I felt they wouldn’t believe me. I was just a little girl  and it was just a feeling. 

But it wasn’t. 

 I was 7 when my aunt Hadassah married my uncle Mac. My aunt is saucy and statuesque with deep brown skin. She has the ability to draw people to her without much effort. He’s a burly bearded sand colored man, a former chain smoker. I remember being scared for him every time he laughed because he would always cough violently afterwards. Their common ground must have been their skill at spinning life into joy. Both were consummate jokesters, provoking laughs from any and everyone. 

But after they married,the disquiet in me began. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my new uncle. But the air around him seemed…less than peaceful, less than healthy. 

Then skeletons tumbled out of the closet. Abuse. Infidelity. Possible mental instability. When I was 10, I wrote in my diary that he hit her. When I was older, I found out that that was the least of it. In one instance, he placed a pillow over her head to try to suffocate her. When I was 19, they separated due to another woman. He’s now married to his former mistress. 

I was 8 when my aunt Spiral married my uncle Nick. I saw then that he was colorless. He walks and speaks with a disturbingly passive gait. Attempts to inject humor or life into his conversation were never successfully executed. They didn’t fit him. My aunt was especially beautiful with clear caramel skin and a black waterfall of hair that cascaded from her scalp. 

She was gorgeous and exacting.

No one was allowed to wear shoes in the house. When my sister and I would visit them, we were not allowed to drink anything until we finished our dinner. Then we could have a beverage. We  even were not to wear underwear when we slept. I remember doing that reluctantly and looking towards the bedroom door where my uncle had retreated. 

When they married, their wedding was joyless. The smiles, the interactions were tightly performed with no real ease, genuineness, or delight. She gave birth to their only daughter 2 years later. I was 10 and I remember thinking how would she behave as a mother.  

Fast forward to present day where their family is one thrown punch, one lit match, one needle shot away from breaking news. My uncle and aunt have both emotionally left the marriage. They instead race to see who can/will die first. Their daughter, my cousin, seeks solace in deviant behavior that will eventually consume and possibly kill her too. 

All I was was a child with a feeling. I wonder if the adults in my life had those feelings, too. 

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