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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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.

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.

Vol. 2 (More)

This is more of unpublished Vol. 2. The next 3 chapters deal with my attempted suicide at the age of 15. It wasn’t a question of “if I would try to kill myself,” but “when?” I am not suicidal at this point in my life. I have put that demon down. Teens are the most susceptible demographic IMO, but you know, they don’t have a fully developed brain either.
Depression is rage turned inward. Suicide is an expression of that rage against self. Or can be. It’s also a hopelessness. Hopeless that anything will ever be better or different.

I can verify; it does get better. Get help at any cost.


The Day I Decide to Kill Myself


I am wandering around the basketball court. It’s gym class and I am lost. A girl is dribbling the ball up and down the court, complaining that no one is trying. No one is paying attention to her as she plays by herself, weaving in and out of reluctant, zombified teammates and opponents. No one even tries to defend the goal. I would call this forcible sport. No one gives a shit. This isn’t real basketball. This isn’t a game for points that leads you to a championship. This is gym. Required by the state.
The girl is abusive. She is hateful and accusatory. I was randomly selected to be on her team and she is disappointed by my performance so far. She tells me that I’m worthless. You’re not even trying. You’re lazy.
These are all things that my father says. We would all rather not have to change into shorts and tennis shoes in the middle of the day to sweat and mangle our makeup and hair. We would all rather not have to look at each other naked or shower together. We would all rather be somewhere else living life and not playing basketball. Except for this girl.
And what does it matter anyway? What does it matter if I play basketball in gym class? It doesn’t matter because I will never play on a team. I will never be this girl’s friend. An afternoon class of basketball will never change anything. It won’t earn me money. It won’t make me lose weight. It won’t make a boy fall in love with me. What is the point?
If I had any courage or care, I would say:
Bitch, pass the ball and maybe somebody could have a fucking chance.
But nice girls don’t say things like that. Nice girls don’t say anything at all. Nice girls let people walk all over them. I’m not really nice though.
I’m supposed to be nice. Being nice is what separates me from my father.
I’m just scared. I’m not scared of this girl. I’m scared of not being able to stop once I let go of all mannered society and beat this girl until she’s bloodied and unconscious. I am afraid to become what terrorizes me at home. I’m afraid that if I mess up then I will lose
my mother’s acceptance. My mother never taught me to stand up for myself, even when it was necessary. She taught me to take it. She taught me to keep it inside. She taught me through her own silence and inaction.
If I behaved like my father then no one would love me, not even my own mother. I can’t take any more abuse; in school, at home, in life, from this girl.
And I cannot be unloved by my mother.
I cannot go unloved one more day; by this girl, by my father, by the boys I want, by the world in general. I am completely alone and I want to die. There is no other option. I will kill myself today. When I get home, I’m taking the aspirin.

Algebraic Expressions (Basic Algebra Made Me Want to Kill Myself)


I am sitting in algebra class. I am completely uninterested in basic algebra and the teacher makes the material even more pathetic with his ridiculously poor presentation skills.
He’s actually a football coach who has to teach to have a job. No one pays
attention to this man. We all talk freely in his class. Also, we pass notes openly, seldom
listening to his demonstrations. He is a sad man who doesn’t require any of us to actually respect him. I am brazenly resting my head on my small desk as I listen to the conversations around me.
A girl behind me is whispering about taking an entire bottle of aspirin.
It makes your stomach bleed. That’s one way to kill yourself.
Why are they talking about suicide? Would it really work? How many aspirin though? A whole bottle of how many? Fifty? Five hundred?
That could really kill you? I asked as I slightly turned in my chair.
Yeah.
Hm.

Final Blowout


I am at home now. No one else around. I am scrambling through the cabinet above the refrigerator for the aspirin. There. A whole bottle. There are some missing, but the bottle says 500 tablets. Probably at least 400 left. Maybe 300. Surely that will kill me. I gobble them down. All at once. Chewing, swallowing, crying. Then I wait. I only wait for a few minutes before I panic. I don’t want to die.
I am laying in a hospital bed. I am drinking Ipecac (which is the sound you make after taking it) and liquid charcoal. I have an IV attached to my right hand. I have a pan on my stomach. 2 nurses, 1 doctor and my mother are staring at me, waiting for me to vomit. Everyone’s being nice to me.
My mother is stroking my hair and the nurses are showing me sympathy. The doctor is highly interested in my stomach contents and is excitedly anticipating their arrival.
Drinking the charcoal is better than having your stomach pumped, the nurse reassures me.
They have to stick a tube down your throat and then pump the same liquid down the tube.
Well, at least I wouldn’t have to taste it. That might be better. This ain’t no chocolate shake, bitch. I think this, but I just give a wincing smile while I chug-a-lug. The doctor keeps checking the pan.
Nothing yet?
I shake my head no. I don’t feel nauseous at all. I begin to wonder what the charcoal is doing. Does it just absorb all the bad stuff? Does aspirin really do anything to you?
Am I supposed to throw up? I don’t ask a lot of questions because I’m embarrassed to
speak.
A nurse asks me if I need to be admitted. My mother is there and I shake my head no. She asks me if I still feel like harming myself. I don’t.
No. I made a mistake.
My mother makes it clear that I will be safe in her care. She doesn’t think that I need to stay. They release me. I haven’t vomited yet, but they say it’s only a matter of time and if I don’t get rid of everything soon, I should return.
I stand up and walk to the nurses station, ready to leave. I should go to the bathroom before we leave.
I am sitting down. Without warning, I have to vomit. No time to pull up my pants, only enough time to stand, turn and bend. My throat tightens, my temples vein, my eyes tear and my stomach, back and chest spasm until the black is gone.
It’s like a horror movie. I vomit black liquid all over the toilet, the wall, the floor. I begin to clean the charcoal from all the surfaces and then it comes again. More black. Now I wait just a few minutes before I start to clean again. It takes several paper towels
to wipe most of it away. I’m not able to remove all of it. I’m ashamed to tell the nurse.
She is thankful. She is not at all disturbed by the condition of the bathroom.
I ask for my hospital admittance bracelet that they cut and trashed. We head home.
I realize that I was so desperate for affection that I was willing to go to great lengths to get attention of any kind. I am dying on the inside to be held, kissed and loved. I just want to be seen. I don’t want to die. I just want to be loved. At any cost, by anyone.

Present Tense

Here is a link to the video on Youtube. My daughter made the video when she was 10 yo. Thanks, Lil.


I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com.  Here’s the link: Present Tense.  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!


This was from Vol. 1. More of Vol. 2 later today!

Vol. 2

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.