I feel like I need a quiet place to sit down and reflect all that has happened in the short, yet so very long, 24 years I’ve been here. The truth is, a quiet place doesn’t stop the bombardment of memories, the instincts to protect myself, to protect those around me, and to stop looking for clues of abuse and trauma in those I meet.There are a lot of gaps in my childhood, most of which I’m thankful for, but there are moments that are so drastically burned into my memory that I cannot erase them. No matter how hard I try or fight.
I remember the drugs, the nearly being kidnapped and being locked out of the house. Only to find myself beating against my own locked front door, screaming as loud as I possibly could, for my mother to let me in. Inside, an apartment full of people doing drugs, locking me outside was their way of “protecting” me from it. I remember fights, words so explicit I could only imagine at that point what they meant. I remember fists meeting walls and flesh; I remember locking myself in my bedroom trying to keep myself out of reach. Every drunken and drug-fueled rage my stepfather would fly into, I knew I had to stay out of the way. I remember so vividly the pot full of spaghetti sauce slung against a dining room wall, splattered red, the pot lying sideways on the carpet and remembering it looked like blood. I remember every night for a year, hearing my mom scream and protest his advances and him continuing. I remember wanting to turn the small radio on next to my bed so I didn’t have to hear it. Oh, but if he heard it, it would send him into a rage. If I cried, I knew I had to stop; otherwise he would surely give me something TO cry about. I remember my mom disappearing for days on drug binges, leaving me with him. I remember wanting to escape, to run away.
I remember him trying to rape me, I remember fighting him off and telling him that I will tell my grandmother. I remember him almost being too drugged to care. I remember running and locking myself in my bedroom and hiding and him beating on the door. I remember him coming into the bathroom while I was showering, sneaking peeks behind the curtain. I remember being touched and molested by a boy in the same apartment complex, him saying that we were playing doctor or house. His brother wound up molesting one of my friends at the same time. I was seven.
I remember the sounds of the Ferris wheel, the smell of the funnel cakes and cotton candy, and the laughter of those walking around the LA county fair. It's probably one of maybe a handful of memories that are good that I have of him. He promised that he would protect me, that he would be a shoulder and a guiding light in my life. A support structure, as he should have been. Instead he took the trust of an impressionable little girl; he twisted it and abused it, just like he did to his wife. He pulled parts of my childhood that should have been filled with sugarplum fairytales, gum drop play scenes and other things brought about by my imagination, and turned them into nightmares. Nightmares of beatings, threats that no 8-year-old should ever witness, and scars. Scars that, while not visible, lie under the surface causing trust and emotional issues in that once 8-year-old child that has grown into a 24-year-old woman. I sat there as he told my mother matter-of-factly that he was going to blow up her car while I was in it. I stood up for my mom and told him that he wasn’t allowed to threaten her anymore and if he didn’t leave I was going to call the police. I was eight.
I heard a few months ago that he died. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I can only assume with the lifestyle that he lived, it is. My mom was afraid to tell me. She was afraid that I'd actually care, afraid that I may have actually cried at the news. To be completely honest, I was so incredibly relieved that there was going to be no more hoping some unexpected person or family would have to deal with the possibilities of disaster that came along with him. That no child would have to go through nearly being raped by him. That no woman would have to deal with him raping them, beating them or threatening to murder them and then coming close. That no little girl would have to spend a Halloween inside the house in her costume, peering out the front window at him screaming and yelling at her mom. No child should have to go through any of that. Ever. But at the same time, I have to thank him for it. I'm not sure if I'd be the person I am today if those things hadn't happened.
I hope he got what he deserved while he was in prison.
I remember living on the streets out of my mom’s car. I remember sleeping on her friends' couches and floors and empty bedrooms. I remember moving in with my grandparents, giving my mom yet another shot to get on her feet. I remember it not working, her disappearing for days, only to come home in the middle of the night strung out. I remember her moving out of the state with her disgusting, attempting-to-be-intimidating, shell of a man that abused her emotionally, verbally and sexually. I remember telling a children’s lawyer that I wanted my grandparents to have custody of me and her willingly signing the papers. I was nine.
I remember being trapped in a community pool bathroom, after going in to take a piss. Being followed in by him and being held against the cold tile wall. I hadn’t slept for days before this, I was too weak to fight back, not able to scream loud enough. Not that the screams would have done any good, we were the only ones at the pool. I said no, I said stop, I said get off me, I said don’t do that, I said no. He didn’t care. He was older, a bad boy, a friend of a friend. I had already lost my virginity so I guess he thought he wouldn’t be taking much from me. I still cringe or turn around swinging when someone touches my back or grabs my shoulder. I was told he was murdered a year after, and I felt relief. I was fifteen.
I have tried to find validation in every relationship I’ve had. Either by trying to fix the man that I’m with, trying to make him see that he can be better than he is, by telling myself I deserved the shit I put myself through, by justifying a fight. It’s hard for me to trust people, to comprehend the way they function rather than the way that I function. In two relationships, the men had overstepped their boundaries and threw me into a completely defensive mode which resulted in them being thrown into a wall. I question whether I am now becoming the abuser instead of taking the abuse, but then I feel that even though I did physical harm to them, I was put into a bad position and took what action I felt was necessary to remove myself from it. I still don’t like being cornered or pinned against a wall with someone screaming in my face.
I wasn’t supposed to make it through birth or to live after I was born, the doctors said. I lived. My whole life I struggled to not become a statistic, to follow in the footsteps of my mother and her drug habits, to beat the odds. I made it. I’ve made it this far and I will be damned if I’m going to give up now.