i was always a heavy sleeper, although that habit slowly changed later in life, but before nothing could wake me in the middle of the night and i do mean nothing. sometimes mum would have to come into my room and roll me off my bed and onto the floor before i’d wake up to go to school. even then after the fall to the floor i’d sometimes roll back over on the floor and face my bed only to resume sleeping once more. no one ever really understood why i was like that though. apparently it wasn’t from either side of my parent’s family, although they often liked to argue that point in a joking manner. at least as joking as they could be. it sometimes got in the way. i’d miss important things, or at least what my mum considered important. missing some of school wasn’t so bad when i was forgotten about nor was missing one of tal’s amazing performances. so long as i was up and ready for what i needed and wanted to do that was quite all right. i remember one night though, i want to say tal and i were about seven and ten, i woke up from a dead sleep. i was out cold as usual but suddenly i was jolted awake. i expected to find myself on the floor but instead i found myself sitting up in my bed. there was a blasted storm outside with rain pouring, thunder booming, and lightning dancing from the sky into my room. that wasn’t what woke me up though, even i knew that. i had slept through plenty of storms far worse than that. i only remember because mum would explain that it sounded like elephants were dancing on the roof of our house as she tried to sleep but i couldn’t recall a thing in the morning other than sleeping quite well.
i looked around my room though and spotted one thing out of place, tal was missing. he wasn’t bundled up in his bed hidden under the covers to keep himself safe from the storm outside. his blankets were strewn onto the floor, which was out of character for him. with spending so much time with mum he usually made his bed perfectly, sometimes mine too just so mum would have one less thing to complain about. i got out of my bed and went to the top of the staircase, because there were some lights on downstairs. i could hear my mum and dad’s voices. they were saying something about tal having run off into the storm. it was all my dad’s fault apparently but no one could find him. they’d been searching for more than an hour and my mum was frantic. even as a kid tal was tiny and frail. in my groggy mindset i had to think where tal would have run off to, especially in the middle of a storm. they frightened him of course. i’d sometimes wake up the morning after a storm to find him snuggled in bed with me. we were both kids and i didn’t care so much. sometimes he’d try to tell me that i told him that he could sleep with me because i’d protect him. for my being so asleep i don’t know how i could talk in my sleep, but i didn’t care so much. the action alone didn’t bother me so i let it slide. as i stood at the top of the stairs my mum’s sobs broke my concentration as my dad said tal would be just fine because he was a smart boy. yes, tal was smart when it came to books but he wasn’t that great when it came to knowing what to do. even all of his reading couldn’t prepare him for the world outside.
i don’t know why it took so long for the hideout to come to mind but it finally did! the only place tal would feel safe enough to run off to was our hideout. it was a simple place really, just a large tree in the middle of the park that had been there for ages. i’m not exaggerating that bit. the tree’s trunk was large enough that someone had been able to hollow some of it out in order to make a cave of sorts. others were working on making a tree house in it’s large limbs but that was proving to be harder than at first imagined. i hurried back into my room, throwing on my coat and shoes and then grabbing tal’s coat as well. he was probably frozen solid, or at least that’s what i thought. i ran downstairs past my crying mum and my dad, who continued to read the paper. right as they realized it was i who was running by my mum tried to cry out, but the slam of the front door was the only reply she got. i ran through the soaked streets and sidewalks, occasionally splashing through a puddle whose water seeped into my shoes. that didn’t matter though, i needed to find tal and that was the only thing on my mind. i don’t recall what time it was that night, but it was late enough that no one was on the streets and the streetlights were dimly glowing through the rain. as soon as i reached the park i had to stop outside the gates which were closed. i had never known the park to have been closed and my mind immediately began racing once more, thinking of a place that tal could have run off to. that tree was the only spot that came to mind though. as i stood there my eyes searched the area, trying to think of how tal with all his “smarts” would have gotten into the park even with it being locked. that’s when i spotted it. a little ways away from the gate one of the many bars had been bent only enough for a kid to slide through. i hurried over to it and slid my way between the bars and into the park. when i finally did reach that massive tree i slid into it’s hollowed trunk if only because of all the rain on the ground and the fact that my shoes were probably all water at that point. i ended up knocking right into tal, who was a complete mess.
tal was crying of course. i couldn’t make out his face as well with the only light coming from the lightning but i could hear him choking on his own cries. he was surprised by my being there which was obvious with the next flash of lightning. without saying a word i offered him his coat. he had to be as drenched as i was and freezing. even my own coat was barely keeping me warm.
"wha… what are you doing here?
"i’m here to get you."
"did mum… or dad… send you?"
"but… you were completely asleep."
"i know. i just sort of, woke up. like something was wrong and i knew it. what are you doing out here anyways?"
he was lying and i knew it. nothing would drive him from his safe warm bed at home in the middle of this storm except for something severe.
"just spit it out. i’m not stupid."
"it was dad."
that wasn’t a surprise. what could dad have done though? all he ever did was read the paper anyways. had tal messed with his paper in some way? not likely. tal wasn’t that stupid. he was too smart for that. what he said next bothered me though.
"he got home a little while ago… from the pub. he’d been drinking. i was downstairs with mum. she was trying to tell me a story so i could fall back asleep because the thunder woke me up. she was in the kitchen though when dad walked in. as soon as he saw me he just went loose."
"did he hit you?"
"no… no… nothing like that."
"then what’d he do?"
"he said… he said i was useless. there was no point in my being alive even, because i wasn’t you. i would never be able to do all the things that you can do but i know that. we’re not the same. he went on saying how i’d never amount to anything. all i’d ever do was be a thorn in his side, too stubborn to come out."
i knew that dad enjoyed going to the pub every so often but i was never awake when he came home. i didn’t know what my dad was like when he was drunk but what tal had just described didn’t sound so out of character for our dad. he never did much of anything, so him telling tal those things seemed to fit just right. no wonder tal was so upset. all his hanging around with mum had made him so emotional that he actually took dad’s words to heart. he believed them if anything. i knew better than to heed what others thought of me. if anything i sometimes listened to mum when it was needed, other than that i didn’t care.
"don’t listen to dad. he’s being a stupid drunk you know? you know we’ll never be the exact same and that’s fine. who else would i have to help me with my assignments? you’re good at that kind of stuff. you have those book smarts. that’s why you do so well in school and i don’t. dad just doesn’t know what he’s talking about is all."
another flash of lightning revealed tal’s face, showing that he had some faith or hope in the words i spoke. in all honesty, even now, i don’t know where they came from but i knew i meant them because they were true. it took some coaxing, along with some hugging and crying on tal’s part, to finally get him to come home that night. as soon as we arrived my mum was still waiting up in the kitchen while my dad had gone to bed. apparently he “felt guilty” about what he said. i knew better than to buy that though. mum was just trying to cover for him because even she couldn’t protect her own son from her husband, his father.