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.
The plan was always to release a Vol. 2 of my book Present Tense. But, as with most things, I was unable to complete the final version. I have many stories to publish and I thought, “Life is too short to leave them unread.” So I’m publishing them here. One by one. They are just little snippets of childhood. Sometimes, difficult to read. But all real, all precious. Mainly because they show my heart and where it’s been.
This new house is where I will spend the rest of my adolescence and teenage years. This is the house of sunken tubs and cigarette stains. This is the house of deep divides and dark, fake paneling. This is the house where I decide to kill myself.
I am lying in bed, shaking. I can’t stop shaking. I am some age between 5 and 15. I am scared. For mom and me. My parents are only 10 feet from my bedroom door. The door is shut, but it is cheap and he is screaming.
She is crying. She begs him to leave her alone. He keeps verbally attacking her, calling her a pig, threatening to kill her. I can hear him pushing her down. I can hear her land hard on the sofa. I can hear him hitting her. Spitting words through teeth. Seething, growling, possessed and angry.
I can hear every agonizing detail and only until I am shaking violently do I realize I’m shaking at all. I can’t stand it. I resolve to defend my mother and end the encounter. I walk quickly into the room and I scream at my father to stop. I can’t remember anything that happens after that.
Where am I?
How’d I get here?
This is my worst nightmare–
My greatest fear.
Not just living once,
But experiencing twice
The excruciating anguish
Of my heart in a vise.
I am kidnapped on the ship
That takes me back to Then.
I am rock-bound shipwrecked
Instantly on that When.
The initials on the side of my rocket are P-T-S-D.
Where’s my preserver?
Where’s my rope?
I’m already wrung, hung and dried.
There’s absolutely no hope.
Getting off of this horrible world?
No escape for me.
My map was tossed, pilot jumped clear,
The capsule crashed at sea.
I may never see home again.
I can sit, give up and die.
Or I can make my way back to you
And fashion a means to fly.
Bang out a space.
Write a manual.
Picture your face.
Soaring over the ice,
Breaking the gravity of Past.
Riding out the rocky belts,
To land by you at last.
Sorry I left.
This is not the surface of Mars. But I wish it was. A sci-fi Bradbury story and not my life.
Scared and Scarred
I am 6. Tender. Overly sensitive. Idealistic. In the living room watching TV (listening to my parents scream).
My father is chasing my mother from the bedroom to the living room. She sits on the sofa by the window. He grabs her leg and drags her from the cushion. Her pants rip and she awkwardly falls to the floor, pinned between the sofa and coffee table.
My brother jumps up and tangles himself with my father. My brother is 17 and a full-grown male. He might be one inch taller than my father. He weighs less, but not by much and has anger and youth on his side. They wrestle and fall into a window. The glass breaks and the fighting continues. They push each other away and stand panting and snarling, waiting for each other to make a move.
My brother walks out of the house into the yard and my father follows. They exchange violent words and my father threatens to stab my brother. He holds his hand in his pocket, standing at a distance from my brother, claiming to have a knife.
I will cut your gizzards out.
One of the many delusional things my father utters. It makes little sense. He is embarrassingly profane and foaming at the mouth. He taunts my brother to attack again. I can’t remember how it’s resolved.
Sometime later, I crawl up on the sofa to look at the broken window and wonder why our afternoon was disturbed. I cut my knee with a shard of broken glass hidden in the cushion. I still have the scar today. It looks like a soggy piece of puffed rice
cereal landed on my knee and stuck.
The cut was deep. Huge beads of blood. The emotional hurt was even deeper.
Complex PTSD is real. This memory was written in present tense to show how real memories can seem. You can relive some trauma at the slightest trigger: smell (cigarette smoke), action (washing hands), word (gizzards), threat (humiliation), similar circumstance (injustice). Reliving some nightmare from the past isn’t easy. In fact, it’s soul crushing. Mind melting. Scariest thing a person ever has to do–walk into the past like a darkened, grimy hallway of a forgotten house of pain. With no skills, lights or way to defend yourself. Anyone with C-PTSD does not want to be permanently haunted with ghosts. But the mind can’t erase severe hurt. It tries, but those imprints have power. Evict those ghosts with the Holy Spirit and this link: Self-Help Strategies for PTSD Visit this site as well: AnxietyBC
And get help. Talk to someone. Anyone.
This weekend I realized–I am serving my past, not my professed master Jesus. I am serving horrible memories and failing as a wife. I don’t want this. My past is not something to cling to in the storm. Jesus is.
If you go on Amazon right now, you can get my book/play for free!!! Go!
Here’s the link: House Full of Hope
It’s stories of real-life examples of domestic abuse and shelter living. Please support this play and hear these stories. I want to bring the message of these women to the stage and to millions of eyes. Thanks for taking just a few minutes to read. I promise, you will find something inside.
If you do read it, you’ll need the app to download and read electronically. Normally $9.99, but FREE today and the next 4 days. Please review online, if you liked it.
HURRY! 🙂 Don’t wait, it will return to its regular price by the end of the week.
My daughter, Pencil Princess, drew this awesome chair for me. Read the play to find out why the chair has wings. 🙂 Thank you, my Love. You’re my angel. I absolutely adore it.
My play is available on Amazon! It’s $9.99, but I’ll tell you why I did that. I had no other way of publishing and offering the rights to produce in one easy step. When you buy the script, there are no other royalties from that point on, unless you engage a lengthy run. Which doesn’t usually happen with shows unless they’re Hamilton or Cats, amirite? So $10 to put on a play about domestic violence to support abused women and children (and sometimes even men are abused by a partner) doesn’t seem like a lot. To me.
There are 13 women, 2 men and 2 children. Have you ever read a play with 13 women?? Snap! Well, it’s about time then. 🙂
These stories are drawn from real life. Some are mine, some are from others. Some are just things I’ve heard after years of listening to women tear out the hurt. Some are from the dark corners of my mind, gathered up like dusty cobwebs and spun back into a juicy web. It all comes from the truest place I know. I hope you agree.
Also, I would love some feedback! Please donate to your local domestic violence shelter. These women need all the help they can find. Thanks for reading.
House Full of Hope
So, I’m writing a play. I’ve written two plays so far and this is my third. I started this really cool piece about domestic violence and shelter living for women. I had planned to offer as a charitable fundraiser for local DV shelters. Then I got derailed, the project stalled on the other end and I haven’t been back to it. I was hoping to share here for some feedback. Here is an excerpt, let me know your thoughts.
WOMAN 1: Yeah, even her husband acts this way. (Referring to WOMAN 2)
WOMAN 2: (Lights go down on group, WOMAN 2 comes down front) It’s true. She’s right. I mean, I don’t know if all men act this way, but my husband does. The only difference between her husband and mine is that he buys me a diamond ring to apologize. We never know what people are going through behind closed doors. I don’t wanna be here, but I have no place to go. My dad is gone, my mom is in assisted living. My kids are at college and the house is in his name. Everything is. Bank accounts, cars, houses. I don’t want any of it anyway. I never did. I only wanted him. And I wanted him to want me the same. The first time he hit me, we were in college. He was drunk and I was mad. He’d been flirting all night with our friend’s new girl. Kissing her on the hand?! Laughing at all her dumb jokes. After we left, I complained the whole way home. I’d never been so mad with him before and he did not like it. He didn’t say a word until we got to his apartment. He shut the door, it was dark, he cornered me and whispered, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again.” He waited for a few seconds. I thought he was walking away and then he turned and knocked me silly. I never questioned him again. I’m not sure why I didn’t leave that night. I know I felt guilty for thinking the worst of him. That was the first time, but for sure not the last. When I said nothing at his flirtations and when I said nothing about his business dealings and when I didn’t interfere with the kids, he’d still find a reason to hit. Or choke. Or…humiliate. All alone, at night, in private. In our room. In bed. I don’t keep this ring because I love jewelry or I like how it looks on my finger. I keep it because I’m not ready to give up on love. And I feel safe with it on. That’s ridiculous, I know. But you know, I earned this ring. I had to take a punch or two…or ten…to get it.
So that’s just one of the women I’m writing for. The idea is that they are in group therapy in the shelter and one by one, between dialogue, we hear each individual story over the course of the play. Really minimal set. Also, flashbacks of a woman from the 70s, winding up in the hospital for the umpteenth time, finally able to go to the new DV shelter that just opened. Her name is Hope.
I’d love to hear ideas, stories and feedback. Thanks for reading.
I spent my youth
Away from Home.
Wishing my friends
Were sisters of my own.
I didn’t like family.
Beat up and tortured,
Push comes to shove.
We lived in the country,
Away from town.
If there are no neighbors,
Does abuse make a sound?
My heart goes back
To that scary place.
And my throat gets tight
At memories I chase.
It wasn’t all bad.
I remember some good.
Days spent hiding,
Deep in the woods.
Green creek banks
And rich, black dirt.
Flowers and water
To wash away the hurt.
But no amount
Of River or Plain
Can wash away
That mountain of Pain.
So many nights
Unable to dream.
And tears begin to stream.
Scars that shine
In the cracked moonlight.
Open them again
Without a fight.
In my mind, I walk
With shoe-less feet
To my childhood house,
Down that lonely street.
I reach the drive.
Kick the stones.
Look at the mess.
Hate my bones.
Turn around, get out.
Don’t look back.
This is your chance
To bury the black.
Run! Run down
To the end of the road.
Stop. Take a breath.
There’s time to go slow.
I walk through the night
Away from the past.
I can see the dawn
Coming up at last.
This isn’t a race.
There’s no finish line.
Each step is important.
This path is mine.