*This was originally going to be a post for a link up titled “The Girls We Once Were.” However, it turned into something much different and became instead bits and pieces of the stories I’ve been struggling to write about since I discovered my love of writing at age 13. Stories only a select few know of-either because they lived them with me, were my therapist, or have been the closest of confidants…stories I’ve put off telling…until now. I’m sharing them because the girl I once was and the girl I was never allowed to be is begging me to let her speak so she can heal…so I can live outside of survival and not encased in it. So we can be free.
That’s all I ever wanted as far back as I can remember: to be free. This is Part One.*
She has been waiting patiently, ever so patiently to come out of hiding.
Her eyes are always alert, silently taking in all that surrounds her in each environment she adapts to. They are always on the horizon, waiting. From infancy, her very life has always depended on their vigilance, observation being her shield.
Her ears are perfectly attuned to hear even the slightest shift in tone, pitch, and inflection. They can percept immediately if the shift will have an impact on her person.
Her breaths are light, slow, deep, quiet, and measured during the dormant seasons…heavy, ragged, sharp, and quick during the times of upheaval to help her body keep pace with survival.
Survival. Her whole existence has been about it.
“Stop moving like that, stop singing-you sound awful,” he said when she forgot her place and danced and sang to Whitney Houston’s “Dance With Somebody” in the car. She was 4. She remembers how hot the intensity of his tone felt on her ears as his words rushed through them…her eyes had widened with fear and shock and clouded over with shame for her personhood upon viewing the disdain in the face reflected back at her through the rearview mirror. Her body grew heavy as the energy surging through her in those moments dried up like cement as the sharpness of his inflection consumed it. Her words became muzzled that day, the day she was reminded why silence was a protection. She felt her thoughts retreat quickly and her body stiffen like stone in an attempt to make the impending blows coming her way impenetrable to her core.
Don’t speak. Don’t move. Don’t look up. Stare out at the world, at the faces of others unhindered, unsilenced. Envy their movement. Envy the freedom with which their bodies move. Envy the freedom expression has to reign over their face. Envy the children who get to yell, ask, be seen and heard, play, explore…and envy the way they are loved.
Sit perfectly still. Make your face expressionless, leave your eyes void of anything that might betray life and independence of thought and will. Stay mute. Always.
She is on her knees surrounded by darkness. The only sound her ears can discern in the dark are the heavy hums of the fans blowing back and forth across the room. She’s been there for hours. Her body is tense from being still for so long and her muscles ache from fatigue. Hey eyes slowly begin to close when she notices movement on the wall in front of her; there are figures dancing in the dark before her eyes. She strains and squints to see them clearly, being careful not to so much as telegraph the slightest movement. Her eyes dart back and forth as they excitedly keep pace with the shadows dancing on the wall in front of her. She feels her vocal chords straining to keep sound from reverberating up and out of her throat and into existence. She can’t make a sound. Yet she must have, or maybe she fell asleep as she watched the shadows dance because suddenly she can hear his voice lashing out at her in the dark. She can’t see his face, but she can hear him growling the words, “You better fucking stay awake. Did I say you could sleep, bitch?!” “No Daddy,” her voice croaks. She can’t even remember what she’d done this time, why she was being forced to stay awake all night, sitting alone in a corner, on her knees in the dark while he got to sleep. She’s suddenly thirsty, and in spite of her fear of angering him further, she makes a request. He answers it with a punch to her back that sends her face into the wall where the shadows had just been dancing. “Sit up!” he demands as he grabs her face. Ice cold water sprays in her eyes, and down her face. The air from the fans meets the wetness now soaking her shirt, and she shivers as she gets back into position. “Maybe now you’ll stay awake. Every time I catch you falling asleep, I’m going to spray your ass with this water. Wake the fuck up!”
She is crying under the heat of the New Mexico sun in the back yard. He finds her in the jungle gym, and climbs all of his 6 feet and 3 inches inside, wedging himself between her and the ledge for the slide. “What are you crying for? I told you she wouldn’t want you. She doesn’t need you. She has her son. She has her husband. Your mother has her own life now. The judge asked her if she wanted you to come live with her. She said no. Look, your mother doesn’t love you. But I do. It’s me and you against the world A’Driane.”
She could see he was yelling. Spit foamed white and bubbled around the corners of his mouth as words white-hot with rage spewed from his lips. His mouth was moving, but she heard nothing. She felt nothing, in fact, not even the lift of her chest cavity as her lungs filled with air. She was weightless. Breathless. She wanted to stay in this moment where time wasn’t an entity and there was nothing for her ears to hear or her body to feel. Free. She could be free. He was screaming at her, but there she was existing in a space beyond his words where his wrath couldn’t touch her, and she was free. Boundless. As her eyes rolled to slip her even further away, she felt it coming-escape. This was it. She could be free. But then his screams found their way in, forcing themselves upon her with brute force. Sound synced with motion and her ears could hear him screaming how much he hated her for living. How miserable she made him. How evil she was. How the sight of her made him murderous. Death. She could feel it staring at her through his eyes, and feel its grip in his hands as they continued to squeeze her throat.
She was 13. That was the day she wished he had just done it. Killed her like he’d threatened to do every day of her 13th year thus far. She didn’t think 14 was anything special to see anyway.