Girl

when i was 14 or 15. i can’t remember exactly. but i was with my friend. Girl (i will call her). she was cool. she accepted me for whatever i was and i think she just appreciated me for being nice and understanding. most people looked at her as poor, white trash. or a slut. she was friendly, outgoing and immediately liked by boys. she had a slim figure and a pleasant smile. she knew how to flirt, but probably because she had been sexually abused. she had a boyfriend, and as far as i knew, was never unfaithful to him. he protected her. and she loved him for that.

my sister, my own sister…told me to stay away from Girl. “Why???” I asked. there was only a shoulder shrug and another head shake of no, telling me to stay away from her. funny, i would rather hang out with Girl than my own sister, that’s for sure. and i wasn’t going to take any advice from my sister who had her own questionable relationships with people of ill repute. whatever! can you say whatever and repute together? that sounds stupid, huh?

whatever.

so, Girl and i hung out. those were fun times.

i never knew though. i never knew in all the time that we hung out that she was being abused. i was being abused too. physically. verbally. but i didn’t tell anyone. i guess she was the same.

when i tried to kill myself, she was there for me. she comforted me as much as another teen can. and when she had problems, i tried to be there for her. at least to listen. but there were things that she didn’t tell me. those were the real things that mattered. and she didn’t share them. there was too much shame in what she had to tell me. i might have seen her in a different light. that’s what she feared. but i wouldn’t have. i really wouldn’t have. i would have fiercely protected her, as her boyfriend did. and i would have gotten her the hell out. Boyfriend must have known. and he loved her anyway. something in him loved her brokenness. he had probably seen it before in his own family.

but we did get her the hell out. eventually.

a day like any other day that i got to hang out with Girl, we went to the mall. i think. i can’t remember now. we went somewhere to hang out. mall, movies, something. and then we came home. we went with Boyfriend. someone other than our parents took us because when we came back, we stayed at Boyfriend’s house. hung out, ate snacks, smoked cigarettes (not me), and drank pop. Boyfriend’s mom was not home and that was the holy grail of hangouts. no parents! there was another boy there. someone from school who would never speak to me at school, but was willing to be kind in this environment. it was a fun time. just talking and being cool teenagers. but then things went bad really quickly.

as the evening came and darkness rose, Girl started talking about leaving. leaving and running away from home. i had heard this before from other friends, so i figured it was because her mother did not approve of Boyfriend. i didn’t realize it was to escape the abuse. she knew all day that today would be the day that she ran away, but she didn’t let on til now. she started talking about how her stepdad had sexually abused her. she said these things in front of the other boy.

my mind was exploding in anger, shock and repulsion. this is a man that i sat at a breakfast table with, that i was polite to, a man that i respected because he was the head of the house. had i known, i would have told someone, hounded someone, punched this worthless human being in the nose. i was bigger than him at 15 and 5’9″. and he was a puny, little pervert. or i could have just hit him over the head with a frying pan in his sleep. a girl can dream.

or i could have simply stood up for my friend when her mother wouldn’t stop contacting him. i could have NOT encouraged Girl to see and reconcile with her stepdad after he had to leave the house because he was abusing the other girls too. i actually encouraged her to see him. being a Xian and knowing the power of forgiveness, i told her to see her stepdad when he tried to make amends. she really didn’t want to. but i didn’t know about the abuse. NOW i understand! i thought she was just being stubborn. if i had known what he was doing, i would never have told her to see him, speak to him, ever have contact with him.

but i didn’t say a word in Boyfriend’s living room when she told me about the abuse. and when she asked me, “you knew didn’t you?” i just nodded my head yes. i couldn’t speak. why??? why didn’t i scream, “NO! you never told me! how could i know??!” but i nodded yes. that must have broken her heart. because now she thought i was another person who knew and didn’t do anything. but i was too afraid to make her say any more about the abuse. i could tell that she wanted to stop talking about this subject that she brought up. she was simply trying to justify to us and the other boy why she was leaving and why we should help her. no justification needed.

we stopped talking altogether. we started preparing for her to leave. our good time came to a close. we started helping her get things together, we all understood, there was no going back. we were all in. the other boy left.

finally, after talking about a plan and believable lies, we were downstairs and ready to leave. then. there was a knock at the door. Girl panicked. she thought it might be her stepdad looking for her. she was right.

Boyfriend went to the door. to make up another lie about Girl and where she might be. Girl and i hid downstairs in the garage behind a car. she was that scared. she knew if she was discovered, that would mean going back to this hell of a life and not making it out. we hid in silence and i prayed that this horrible man would believe the lie and go away without further incident. i prayed for a lie. that feels weird to type. but he did go away. without further incident.

Girl and Boyfriend got in his truck, i said my goodbyes and they drove away. then i walked down to her house, just 2 houses away. the plan was to tell Stepdad and Mom, Girl ran away. that Girl and another person that wasn’t Boyfriend had dropped me off. that i walked home by myself. that they didn’t tell me where they were going and that i didn’t see where they headed other than out of the neighborhood. half truth, half lie. i lied. to protect her. and they believed me.

i was in tears when i said these words. so the tears made it seem like truth. but i was crying for the whole mess. being in the presence of this monster. looking at him and pretending that i didn’t know what he did. how he touched all the girls. crying because i lied to my mother. she was there when i told Girl’s parents the lie.

Girl and I had been missing for hours and my mother was very worried. i told her the truth later that night, after we left Girl’s house. she didn’t rat us out.

i cried for not knowing. for not protecting my friend. for living a day of lies. i never saw that house again. or those people.

i never saw Girl again. she never came back to school. she made it out. i hope.

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God Did This

Hitting
Hurting
Burning
Scratching
Fighting
Scarring

Dad did this.

Spitting
Teasing
Twisting
Lying
Strangling
Harming

The world did this.

Eating
Cutting
Crying
Choking
Drowning
Dying

I did this.

Healing. Teaching. Helping.
Holding. Waiting. Loving.

Resurrecting.

God did this.

Thank God.

UR in Ruin

You’re in ruin.
Not from your doing.
Rejected, brokenhearted, beaten, betrayed
By brutal behavior–reckless and unstaid.

You don’t deserve that.

Rise from your ash.
Emerge from the crash.
Carefully remove the plunged-in knife.
Take control of your internal life.

No one else can.

Dig out the buried artifact
What was your heart, not just an act.
Discover the soul of who you are.
Soon you’ll erase that fading scar.

I believe in you.

#Metoo

Grabbed in a corner.
Held without permission.
I am someone’s daughter,
But you won’t even listen.

I said no!
I don’t want to.
If this was your wife,
What would YOU do?

What turns you on
About fear and disgust?
What about sex
Makes abuse a must?

I don’t like this.
You need to stop!
Touch me again
And YOU’ll need the cop.

#Metoo

Pussytrap.

I was caught in a pussytrap once. That’s what my friend and I called it. We laughed about it later. Because it was so horrific and nothing to be done. No agency to report it to and no officer to tell.

Plus, when you’re young? You think the world is the way it is. And to squawk about it? Is unnecessary and useless. So laugh. So you don’t cry.

My friends and I went to a dance club in a university town. It was on a street with other clubs. Alcohol was served, but only to those with the over-21 stamp. I had the under-21 stamp.

We went to the bar to dance. Not to drink. We loved listening to music, dancing and laughing.

About 20 minutes in, we lined up to use the bathroom. The line stretched back to the bar and two young men started chatting us up.

We were young. Naive. We were friendly, inviting, charming, silly, laughing. We wanted boys to think we were cute. We wanted attention.

After a few moments, the line was going nowhere, and the boys started grabbing. First, my friend.

I was always the protector. The NO-sayer. The “Hey, watch it!” girl. So, I was laughing, but I said, “Hey! No!” Then they grabbed me.

First, my breasts. Quick, pinching, playful swipes and pokes. Then, my crotch. You can imagine that when someone grabs your breasts or tries to, you pull back. But that only presents your lower body for them to grab.

While all this was happening, another young man had positioned himself behind us. He would grab our butts when we tried to move away. Thus, the pussytrap. No way out. A vicious game of unwanted touching.

After a few moments of arms and punches and shuffling and finally just leaving without the use of the bathroom, we got away. We weren’t laughing any more. Just wide eyes and nothing to say.

That was it.

“Hey, why you leavin’?” They called after us.

No one ever taught me to stand up for myself. In fact, the lesson I learned was, “Take it.” But to be fair, my mother didn’t grow up in a time when young men acted this way. She didn’t know. And everyone else acted like it was no big deal. That this behavior was just “boys being boys”. Or locker room antics. Isn’t that what the president said to excuse his own behavior?

That should never happen. To anyone. It’s humilating. Not titillating. It’s meant to objectify and demean. It’s not foreplay. It’s degradation.

Especially to an actress. Especially to anyone who ever worked for or with the current POTUS.

These are your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your fellow human beings. Your equals. Keep your hands to yourself. Or when we grab you back, you won’t like it.

If any man or boy ever touched my daughter like that, he’d be sorry. So would his balls.

Have I ever told you about the balltrap? LOL I’m older and wiser now.

December 11th, 1992

The day I lost my dad.


I am kneeling beside my father. He’s dead.

I look at him for a long time. I’ve never seen a dead body before.

I want to memorize his face and hands before he is in the ground.

His mouth is open. His eyes are fixed and wide. He is frozen with a look of surprise. I reach out to touch the back of his neck. My fingers barely land when I feel the prickle of shorn hair and cold, firm flesh.

I immediately withdraw my hand.

I am devastated that he’s gone. I never thought I would feel bad on this day.

My face is numb and tight from the departed tears that I didn’t bother to stop, catch or dry.

His hair is stiff and sharp. It’s cut so close and damaged from the radiation. It’s seems almost burnt.

His nose is pronounced and pointed. When he was healthy, it was round and red, but he’s lost so much weight. It’s chiseled bare.

His cheeks are waxy melting mounds. Smooth and brown.

His hands are large; dangerous. They are still, yet frightening. The monster strength is gone, but they summon the fear of what was possible, what was done.

He is a mechanic. But he has the cleanest, longest nails I’ve ever seen on a man. The palms are soft and tender, amazingly so.

My hands are close to his. The backs of my hands are rough, pale and dry. White with flakes. My nails are short and torn. Red and sore like my eyes.

I can sense that whatever lights the eye and warms the blood is gone from him. There is no recognition, not even a grimace.

His spirit has sighed away and what is left is just a heap of tumors, bones and bile. He will never talk, kiss, threaten, smoke, curse, drink, hit, hate, love, work, sacrifice, shame or wrestle on this earth again. He can’t hurt any more, but he also can’t fix a thing.

I have lost him. I. Am. Lost.

Exorcism

I’ve got many demons.

Food addiction. PTSD. Depression. Self-esteem issues. Trust issues. Pride. Over-blown sense of fairness. Fear of people. Fear of intimacy.

These are all residuals from abuse, triggers or coping mechanisms. Haunting ghosts. My demons were born of circumstance and pain. Called upon before the age of 5. Schooled in my weakness. Summoned as experts of how to tempt, specifically, me. These are the things that will cause me to stumble and hold me back from fulfilling my purpose and destiny.

I imagine each demon:
black, faceless, with their name written across their chest, written across my existence, swirling, whispering, flowing around my body.

Floating me down some river of negativity. Holding me under from God’s intention for my life. Drowning me in doubt.

Or will they drive me to my purpose? Will I kick and spit and fight until I fly?


To my demons: Yes. I will overcome you. And in doing so, fulfill prophecy and promise. You have no idea who you’re dealing with–God.

Black Stove, Purple Lamp

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


We are standing in the living room. We are moving our belongings out of the house because my parents are fighting again. My brother is now married and lives in a nearby town with his wife. He is helping us move.

My father confronts my brother in the living room with a baseball bat and threatens to hurt each of us if we do not leave the house immediately.
My father swings the bat to show his intention. Lands a blow on the free-standing wood-burning stove. He leaves quite a dent in the black sheet metal exterior. A dent that will live with us for all time.
He then swings again to assert his presence and smashes my mother’s favorite lamp. It was a beautiful purple lamp. Two lights, beautiful hand-painted designs on the glass shades and delicate gold filigree edging. Gone with one blow.
He smashes the lamp, I imagine, to see the pained look of surprise on her face. He wants to see her hurt.

Tiny little shards embedded in the carpet. Gouges torn in the wood of the end table. Hearts shattered at the violence, but not for things. Splinters of feelings scattered and strewn.


This would not be the last time I would see this house. It should have been.
The house is gone now. Swallowed up in time. Rotted with weather and neglect and turmoil. But it housed our violent, chaotic family for nearly 20 years. It existed and so did we. A new house stands in its place.
So long now. But the violence persists in my mind.
Sometimes, I wish my mind or memories would rot, but they are rock solid. The negativity built on unshaken cliffs of time-battered trauma.

Memories can be swept away like sand on the shore, but this bedrock is immovable. Formed in liquid lava and cooled to stone for all time.


We moved back very soon after this incident. Perhaps 1-2 months later. We left several times, but never for very long. Unfortunately.

’66 Chevelle

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense.


I am 14 or 15 years old. Saturday morning. I’m lying down, but awake. I am in my bedroom with the door closed. There is one loud voice and one scared voice in the next room.
“Where is she?”
He is choking my sister. He is pulling her hair. He is threatening her. He is hurting my sister because my mother isn’t there to hurt.
He leaves her bedroom. I stop moving, thinking, inhaling in the hope that I will not be next. Not quickly enough, I hear the back door bang.
I hear my sister stir. I hear her muffled, wet breaths. She is crying.
I hear my father opening the hood of my sister’s car, the car that she shares with my mother.


’66 Chevelle Malibu. The one with the rusted-out hole in the floor board. The one with white paint and blue vinyl seats. The one with jagged rear window posts that cut your hand when you’re not careful. The one that an old lady drove to church and the store and only had several thousand miles when we bought it almost 20 years after it was made. The classic. The sweet-ass sportster. The muscle car from Malibu. The one that will take a beating.


I look out the window of my bedroom and see my father ripping wires out of the engine. He slams the hood closed and now takes a hammer he must have grabbed on the way out. He pounds the metal repeatedly with quick, powerful blasts and leaves at least two dozen or more marks.
These are not dings. These are not dimples. These are deep, hate-filled holes.
“Get out of here.”
My sister calls my brother and we leave. We wait at the end of our driveway for my brother to pick us up. We don’t speak to one another. I am powerless to change what is happening. I can only follow, obey and relinquish any hope of being normal.


Every time I tell this story, it makes me afraid all over again. But. I lived. So I am thankful for this story. It reminds me that I can survive. And that I never have to live that way again.

Let’s All Go To the Movies.

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


My mother and father have lost the will to parent. I am sitting in a dark movie theatre with Mom, Dad and my sister. I am five, almost six.
Alien.
Oh, God. That man’s face has just been attacked by an octopus egg.
Oh, God. The android’s head is decapitated from his body and milky fluid is shooting out from his neck.
I am screaming. I am crying. I am being ushered quickly to the lobby by my mother.

We lounge for about a minute.
“Ready to go back?”
Okay, there are no more bodiless robots. Popcorn.
I have to have my legs in my seat. I am sitting cross-legged. No aliens can possibly eat my dangling legs if they are safely tucked up, away from their snotty teeth.
Oh, God. There’s spaghetti exploding from that guy’s open stomach.
Oh, God. It’s a baby alien. I am screaming. I am crying. I am being ushered.
A minute.
“Ready to go back?”
My parents also let me watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Deliverance (ABC Presentation of the Week). Also, A Thief in the Night.
This 1972 (made before I was even born) Christian classic talks about end times. Christians are taken to heaven in the rapture and non-believers are left behind. Everyone has to take the 666-Mark of the Beast tattoo or they can’t buy eggs and butter. People who just want a little breakfast are arrested for trying to buy groceries, and a girl with a balloon gets beheaded on a guillotine. There’s a fun song at the end, too.
I wish we’d all been ready…

The synopsis of this movie may be slightly inaccurate. It’s what I remember and the impression that remains.


I lived through what seemed like a very real threat of nuclear annihilation during the height of the Cold War and was constantly worried about being microwaved to oblivion by a nuke. These movie nights and paranoid world destruction fantasies could be considered the bright, sunny moments of my childhood with an abusive father. My prayer, as I got older, became this:

If I have to die–God, just don’t let me die a virgin.