The first time I realized I was fucked up I was five. I knew that I wasn’t just a little screwed up. I was fucked. For life. I remember looking around the classroom at the other kids and thinking that I would really enjoy spanking them. I would enjoy doing to them what my Daddy did to me. The whole ritual. I would enjoy making them pull their pants down and then their underwear. I would enjoy making them bend over the bed. Seeing their bare bottoms exposed as they cowered in fear. Waiting. I would enjoy bringing my hand down again and again. I would enjoy their humiliation. Their shame at having no power. At being exposed, their pants and underwear around their ankles. I could feel the smile through my whole body and it felt good.
Looking back, I now know I was feeling sexual arousal at the idea of spanking those kids. At the power I would have over them. And I knew this was bad. Very bad. I shouldn’t think these thoughts. I shouldn’t feel these feelings. I was a bad person. No one would want to play with me if they knew what I was thinking. I would never have any friends. I would be a pariah. I pushed those thoughts away. I didn’t allow myself that fantasy again or even the hint of those feelings of power. I wouldn’t even say the word bottom for butt or acknowledge how babies were born. I pushed it all down. Deep. But the shame? That was still there. It was always there. I was forever tainted. A disgusting person.
The next level? I was in the fifth grade. Torturing our cat. Me. The one who loves animals, especially our cats. They were there for me—always. I was full of rage. I wanted to punch. To break. Instead I shoved the cat into a small suitcase. I was upset and I’d wanted to hold him and he resisted. He pulled away and accidently scratched me. All of my rage turned on him. This would be his punishment. The suitcase. A small boxy thing used for toiletries and makeup that people don’t use anymore. A vanity case? A travel case? It’s funny how we lose these words. It was tan leather and had a long strap. I shoved the cat inside, pushing to make sure that he was all in, that his fluffy tail wasn’t caught. It was hard. He kept trying to escape. Looking at me with big green eyes. Eyes that trusted me. Finally, I pushed him in hard, snapped the lid closed and locked it. I lifted up the suitcase by the strap and then started spinning him round and round and round. We went faster and faster. Me in the middle. The suitcase flying strait out in a circle around me. I could hear him howling and it felt good to hear his screams. I was powerful. All of my anger flowed into swinging that suitcase.
Then I put the suitcase down and opened it. My black and gray and white kitty who I loved cowered away from me. I pulled him out. Set him on the floor. He could barely walk, but he was trying to get away from me. Drunkenly making his way to the door. I scooped him up, crying. How could I hurt my kitty this way? How could I be so mean? I am sorry. I am so, so sorry I cried into his fur as he tried to pull away.
All anger was gone. What was left was shame.
Same house, but this time the summer between 5th and 6th grade. I am looking at the bulletin board in the bedroom that I share with my beautiful oldest sister. It’s covered with pictures of her. She’s smiling. Blond hair blowing in the wind. I look at the pictures and I feel rage. My body is going to explode from all the mad. I hate her. She who acts as a parent to all of us while my Dad is gone on a ship and my mom is working as a maid at the hotel down the road and going to school at night. She who yanks me out of bed early on summer days to a laundry basket, telling me to fold. She who has terrified me since we began sharing a room when I was four. I want to get a pin and poke out my big sister’s eyes. All of those pictures with her beautiful blue/green eyes. Stab them out.
A few days later I am looking at the bulletin board. All of the eyes are gone. There are hollow spaces where before there were eyes the color of a tropical ocean. It’s eerie. Did I do that? I don’t remember doing that. Could someone else have had the same idea? I take comfort in that idea and wonder who did this. Then I realize that someone else couldn’t have had the same idea at the same time. That’s too much of a coincidence.
I must have done this.
Now I am not only gross. I am also evil and I don’t even remember being evil.
Was this a psychotic break? Who knows. We never talked about it.
A few months later. Summer’s almost over. It’s early morning. My sister asks me what was I doing last night.
“What are you talking about,” I ask her.
“The knife,” she answers. “You were climbing into my bed with a butcher knife. I woke up and you were at the bottom of my bed staring at me with a knife in your hand. The look on your face was terrifying. You looked like you were coming for me. I jumped out of bed and helped you down. You let me take the knife and you got back into bed.”
I don’t know what she’s talking about. I climbed into her bunkbed with a knife? I shrug my shoulder. I don’t remember.
So, now I’m really scary. I am a potential killer. I hate her, but I would never kill her. Or would I?
I get insomnia and sleep only for a couple of hours every night. I can’t trust myself to sleep. What kind of monster will I become in the night?
Early sixth grade. It was a Saturday morning. I am wearing my yellow quilted nightgown with a zipper down the front. Someone is in the hallway bathroom, so I go into Mom and Dad’s room to use their bathroom. The room is dark. Dad is still sleeping. He did that a lot on weekends. When we got loud, he would put on his shooting mufflers for quiet.
I come out of the bathroom after peeing and Dad asks me if I want to lay down with him. Of course I want to lay down with him. My Daddy had been gone for six months on a ship, the Enterprise. It was so great to have him home. His ship had been sailing near Vietnam. When he was gone, I wrote to him and he wrote me back. It was great getting letters from the USS Enterprise addressed to me. I felt big. I felt loved.
I lay down beside him and he is holding me in his arms when I feel his hand slip into the gap in the front of my nightgown. He is holding my breast in his hand. My 32Cs that seemed to grow overnight.
“You’re starting to get big, aren’t you?” he says.
I don’t answer.
I go rigid.
He fondles my breasts for a while.
I don’t know how I get out of there.
Afterward, shame. And then the stalking. He is always there, ready to fondle my breasts. In the laundry room. On the stairs. I am gross. Disgusting and I have a disgusting body.
Seventh grade. How old was I in the 7th grade? It was late in the year. Almost summer, so I was either 13 or almost 13. My big sister harassing me in the kitchen. Mocking me. Trying to get a response. This is something she’s done for years. Taunting. Pushing. Wanting me to respond. Usually, I meet her with silence, but sometimes I explode and it’s vicious. I grab the sprayer nozzle from the sink and soak her with freezing cold water. She attacks. Sixteen, almost seventeen. We’re about the same height, but she’s bigger. Stronger. She’s screaming at me and hitting me. I try to claw her and pull her hair. We’re locked in a death struggle. The nozzle is wedged between us. Icy water is flying all around. Onto us. It’s cold, but that doesn’t stop us. I have the nozzle one minute. My sister the next. We are both soaked. The floor is slippery. I am pure emotion. Action. No thought. Just attack.
My sister’s boyfriend pulls us apart and I take a fistful of my sister’s long blond hair with me.
I run to our room.
My sister and her boyfried are yelling in the kitchen and then I can hear her running down the hallway.
I am sitting on my bed. Soaked. My back to the wall. Staring straight ahead. My head banging into the wall over and over again. My sister is standing in front of me.
“Are you okay,” she asks.
I ignore her.
My head bangs over and over. It doesn’t hurt.
I am there, but not there.
My sister begs me to stop, but I don’t.
Then a thought. I can pretend to be crazy. I can make my sister think that that she’s finally driven me crazy.
My head bangs over and over again.
My sister sits with me. Petting my hand.
My sister is crying and inside I am laughing at her pain. Then I am laughing out loud. A crazy laugh. My sister jumps away. She looks at me and I know she’s afraid. I smirk at her and I laugh and laugh, while my head obeys another master and continues to bang against the wall. She runs from the room. I sit there banging my head and laughing.
Like I said, fucked, but quietly fucked. A sneaky fucked up little kid. Smart enough not to tell anyone about my fantasies and the feelings they gave me. Smart enough to torture the cat in private. Only the explosions with my oldest sister shared that there was a deeper problem. A crazy on the inside, but she never said anything. Not about the pictures or the knife. Not about the head banging and crazy laugh. Not a word. None of it was ever mentioned again.
The next summer. Between 8th and 9th grade. All of this time, my Dad is still touching me. Still catching me on the stairs and fondling me. Then it gets worse. Mom is gone a lot. She doesn’t think we know, but we do. She’s off in San Diego having an affair with a guy named Denny. He plays a piano in a piano bar. She fell in love with him when he sang to her, “Tie a yellow ribbon.” How pathetic. Oh, and her Mom is dying, so she spends a lot of time in New Jersey with this Grandma that we’ve never met.
There are six of us kids in the house. My big sister moved out even though she was only sixteen. I was the responsible one. The one who put out kitchen fires and answered the door and lied about Mom and Dad being gone to work rather than gone for days on end.
I was a good liar.
Anyway, it’s gotten worse with Dad. He still stops me on the stairs. Comes up behind me and puts both of his hands on my boobs and squeezes. Caresses. I feel like I want to throw up. I am trapped and angry. So angry. I want to punch him, but I can’t. Now grabbing my breasts on the stairs and in the laundry room isn’t enough. One night he came into my room and woke me up. It was dark. Really late. He told me that I needed to sleep with him so that when the alarm clock when off, he would get up. I would be his backup alarm clock. I went with him and fell asleep.
I woke up and I was feeling good feelings in my body. Someone is touching me down there and it feels really good. Am I dreaming. Then I wake up. I’m in bed with my Dad and he’s touching me and it feels good and I am ashamed and panicking.
I say I have to go to the bathroom.
Dad says, “who are you?”
I answer with my name and I rush to the bathroom.
I sit in there in the bright light for a few minutes. Panicking. I am safe right now, but if I go out there, I might not be, but I can’t stay here all night. I turn the light off and then slowly open the door and run to my room.
The next morning Dad says that I was sleepwalking.
Bullshit, I think inside, but I am willing to accept that lie so that we don’t ever have to talk about this again.
A little later that day the sister who I share a room with says that she saw Dad come in and get me in the middle of the night. Where did I go?I don’t answer.
I just feel shame. My Dad touched me and it felt good. I am truly disgusting.
Around the same time. My older brother has a friend named Bill who spends lots of time at our house. He like me. My sister a year younger than me likes him.
Somehow we’re making out on the couch in the dark in our living room. He’s pinning me against the refrigerator, dry humping me. And, it doesn’t all feel bad. I don’t really like him, though. I just haven’t learned how to say no. Do I even have no in me?
It’s the middle of the night. Someone is touching me and it feels good. I think I’m dreaming. Then he’s on top of me and I wake up. It’s Bill. I don’t want this. I don’t want him to touch me. I want him to leave, but I liked what he was doing earlier when I was sleeping. I don’t have the right to scream. To say no, because my body responded to him. He tries to get his whole body under the covers and I pretend to turn in my sleep. To get away. He gives up and leaves.
I am humiliated, but happy that I stopped him.
Even though it’s summer. I develop a serious case of bronchitis. I cough so hard that I vomit.
I attack the few pimples I have on my face. I have scabs. I am turning myself ugly. I stay up all night reading with the lights on and I wear shorts to bed. No one is going to creep into my bedroom at night.
I work hard to stay away from Dad. I can’t let him catch me alone.
I am being hunted in my own home.
My older brother his friends hang out at our house and stay up late watching Saturday Night Live and partying. I stay awake, but I don’t join them. They scare me.
9th grade. We’ve moved. No more Bill always being around, but he’s close enough to visit. I avoid him when he’s there. He plays Led Zepplin, Black Dog over and over again, while staring at me. “Say Hey Momma Like the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” I feel like I am his prey, but I am stronger. I treat him with contempt and I try to stay in my room as much as possible.
Dad is still groping me at every chance. Usually the stairs or the laundry room.
He also creeps into my room whenever my sister has a sleepover. I wear armor to bed when she is gone. Thick shorts. My bra. Long sleeved t-shirts. He still comes in his white under wear. I pretend to be asleep. I am so scared when that door opens in the night. I want mom to hear and come rescue me, but she’s nearly deaf. She can’t hear him.
I pretend to be asleep as his hands roam over my body. I turn and pull away as if in a dream. I act like I am about to wake up from a nightmare, tossing and turning. That’s when he leaves. I spend those nights starting at the door hoping that he won’t return. Sometimes he does, usually he doesn’t.
Then, early 10th grade, I am in the hallway upstairs and he comes up behind me. Reaching for my breasts. I don’t think. I am burning with anger. Years of suppressed fury. I turn and growl out in a low voice that scares even me, “Don’t ever touch me again.” He drops his hands and turns away.
Now I know that if I had just told him to leave me alone, he would have. I am even worse than I thought.
Or am I?
I spend months reading on incest (there’s a word for this!) and how kids react. I even write a term paper on the topic for a psychology class. Maybe I thought I was protecting someone. I don’t know. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up again.
It’s the only way to escape the shame.