won

Whack!

Across my face it swept. Didn't see it coming. But then I rarely did. It was as if there were a draft in the room. Cold air seeping. Energy being sucked out. That is how I remember the bloody wound on my young face. I knew going to look in a mirror was out of the question. I brought my hand up to my face to examine it that way. When I pulled my hand down toward my belly, my eyes focused on the red, oozing blood spattered across my hand.

In her hand, half of the wooden pizza board remained. The other half (minus a few bits still embedded in my face), on the floor in shards. She looked surprised before walking away. When she came back she handed me a cold, wet cloth-instructing me to put it on the bridge of my nose where the majority of the blood was coming from. I tried to listen to her. I always tried to listen to her.

But I could not feel my face where the whack had just landed. The impact had left me numb. I did not manage to place the cloth on the specific spot spewing blood quickly enough for her.

No matter how much I wanted to be a good girl, no matter how I strove for her approval… this time would be no different. I wouldn't have it, never could. Not even as I sat there in that chair wounded. But what she did next surprised even me.

She walked away and I sat there in terror. When she returned, she had a roll of duct tape and scissors. I remember the panic; I knew this could get real scary real fast. Frantically, I searched her face for a clue and all I saw was the all too familiar furrowed brow and angry eyes of this cold woman. She unrolled a fair sized piece of tape before cutting it. She then told me to put the cloth back up to my nose. She had little patience for my fumbling as she guided my hand to the spot before plastering the duct tape horizontally across my face and hair. Now the cloth was where she intended it to be, and it would remain there. It was at that moment my sister came home.

I thought now this might end. She might feel accountable to someone. My sister might question her. Instead, my sister questioned me. Her questions were not ones of my welfare. Her questions were ones of "why is my shirt on you? Did I say you could wear it -- I don't think so!"

"Mom…" she whined next.

And this woman who may have been her mother and may have birthed me, but certainly was not my mother, told her to "go ahead… let me have it." All because I had picked her shirt up and had the audacity to put it on my body that they wanted me to believe was unlovable and unworthy. And with that, I felt another thud.

*

There were many moments before, and many after. This one stands out for me. It felt more like a "two against one" war, crossing the threshold of being an angry mother in an out of control moment. And it was a damn pizza board, you know? Those things don't just break across someone's face without an extra helping of rage and anger. She no remorse. If she had done it and immediately thought a human, motherly thought like "Oh my God, what have I done here?" I would never have had to tell you about the duct tape and my sister. I would never have memories of her beating my head against the wall, or pulling handfuls of my hair out. I would not fight the verbal assaults echoing inside with her comments of "shit for brains, that's all you'll ever have" or similarly degrading comments of "you will never amount to anything!" or the other memories that I just know are there, but in a self protective mode my mind won't even allow me to recall.

That moment I sat there duct taped and bleeding was the moment I began to feel less than. This was the moment she clearly announced to me, to herself and my sister that I was not worthy nor was I lovable. And I struggled with that for many years. Still do. An abuser need only hit you once to leave impressions that last a lifetime. Every time you see or hear something, or connect with the powerful memory stimulator of smell, you can be taken back to the darkness in an instant.

*

I haven't yet mentioned her husband. The moments he bonded with me the most (in his eyes at least), happened in front of only his eyes. I always kept mine shut, pretending to still be sleeping. That way I did not have to face it, literally speaking of course. I'd always have to face it -- silently, alone and in the darkness that made it hard to breathe. I'd cringe as his hands explored my body in ways that are vilely etched in my memory.

What gives one human being the right to inflict their own selfish fetishes or rage against another? It is my body, my space, my place. There is a boundary. There is a limit.

Violence: abusive or unjust exercise of power.

*

Every time her skin violently attacked mine, his skin violently touched mine, her words violently echoed, I reminded myself it was not me who had the problem. It was them. I tried like hell to keep the messages from encroaching upon my soul. Intellectually, I knew better. But in matters such as these, logic becomes secondary and try as I may some of it gets past the filter, past the barrier I'd built to remain strong. On some level I began to believe them, that I was less than.

In moments of clarity, I knew. I knew it was their problem and theirs alone. I reminded myself that whatever they did, I would just do the opposite when I had children one day. Hell yes! I would break this cycle of abuse and insanity. Nobody should have to live like this. Nobody.

I don't think I ever fully got mad until I gave birth. As I watched my newborn daughter lay there helplessly, I began to feel the full gamut of it. How could anyone hurt their own child? Oh I was even more pissed at her then. How could she do the things to me she did? How could she not have protected me?!

I knew two things: if ever someone hurt my child, I would hurt them first and ask questions later. Also, I knew what love was, for the first time ever… as a single mother.

Finally, I knew love.

*

Little did I know in the cruelest blow ever felt in my life, that love would be cut short. As my daughter later lay dying, she mirrored back the love I had given her for the previous 11 years and 49 weeks. She would tell me "Don't worry momma, it'll be okay. Just breathe in the light, and blow out the darkness." The cancer had invaded her brain, but her heart was far too big for it to even try. Her heart, full of love and purity.

As I said about smells and memories, this is one of the reasons I keep breathing. In and out, like my daughter told me. It keeps the smells constantly changing. One memory will not linger too long. Some days, that's all I can do. And some days, that is all I need to do. In and out… slowly, and with intent. In doing so, I stay alive.

I haven't spoken to either one of my abusers in many a years. People ask if it's hard not speaking to them. The answer to that is no. It was hard sticking around, hoping they'd change and allowing them to continue inflicting pain in the process. What happens now is predictable for the most part. Now I have a simple appreciation for the predictability in my day, and that is a blessing.

***

Won blogs at Single, Bereaved, Broken and Tenacious.