I’m five. Pigtails. Dress shoes. Being girly. I’m sitting near the East window, the sun behind me. I think it’s Saturday. It feels like a Saturday. But nothing feels ordinary. Everything is out of sorts. And there is he is. Suitcase in hand. He’s leaving me.
I’m five. She’s four. The woman is blonde. It’s a small apartment. The little girl is in flowered underwear and nothing else. She has tiny glasses and cross eyes. I refuse to go in and stand firm in the hallway. He forces me inside. He tells me, “Don’t pout or I’ll cut that bottom lip right off.” I suck it back in quickly. I’m quiet. I hate this place. I hate the little girl, and I hate the blonde woman, too. I hate this apartment. It’s not my home and my mom isn’t here. I’m a complete stranger here. I cry when the lights go out and I’m forced to sleep on the hard floor next to the little girl’s bed. She wears a patch over her eye at bedtime. What’s her problem? I hate it here. I miss my mom. I miss my bed. I miss my dad, but I don’t want him here. I want him back home…where he belongs.
He told me the little girl was my sister. I didn’t have a sister. My mom didn’t have another baby, and if she was my sister, why wasn’t my mom here with her? Why this blonde? If she’s my sister, God can take her back. She’s cute and all, but I just want to go home. I don’t want a sister. I don’t want a new home. I just want to go home.
Those are my earliest memories of my childhood. Those are my very first memories of my father and my step-mother and my half-sister.
I’m back home. Alone. I’m still five. It’s midnight. I wake up scared and run to my mother’s bedroom. The bed is empty. The kitchen is empty. No one is in the living room. I run upstairs to the neighbor’s and see if my mother is up there visiting. She’s not there, either. The neighbor comes down and calls my grandfather. He comes and stays with me until my mother comes home.
It’s midnight. I wake up scared and run to my mother’s bedroom. The bed is empty. The kitchen is empty. No one is in the living room. This time I call my dad’s answering service and talk to the operator. She keeps me company until my mother comes home again.
It’s midnight. I wake up scared and run to my mother’s bedroom. The bed is empty. The kitchen is empty. No one is in the living room. I scream through the front screen door to my great-aunts who live across the street. “Help me, I’m alone!” They come over and keep me company until my mother comes home. The bribe of ice cream didn’t stop me from being scared like my mother said it would.
It’s midnight. I wake up to loud music and people talking and laughing. I walk out in my lacy, little girl pajamas and there’s lots of smoke and people drinking from bottles. My mother scoots me back to bed.
It’s another Saturday morning. This time I wake up to find a bulky man with curly dishwater hair sitting in a chair, playing with our two puppies. I hate him.
She marries dishwater hair guy. She flaunts it in my dad and his new wife’s face. She pretends to be happy and okay with my dad’s new life because she has a new life, too. But he beats her. He drinks all the time and I spend most of my time after my mother picks me up from my grandparent’s sitting in a bar playing shuffle board bowling or pinball. I learn how to wash glasses behind the bar, and I tend to do that a lot to kill the time while they get drunk. Once we leave, they usually always get into a fight when we get home.
It’s midnight. I wake up scared because I hear glass crashing everywhere. I hear my mother screaming, “STOP! PLEASE STOP!” I run out to try and help, but I’m scared. He’s big and mean and throwing things, and slapping her, and pushing her around. I grab our two dogs and run to the neighbor’s house, trembling. I bang on their door. It’s the middle of the night and it takes them time, so I yell, “HELP! PLEASE HELP ME!!” Someone answers the door and they call the police. When the police arrive, he’s gone already. My mother is bruised and bleeding. She’s sitting at the dining room table, crying into a tissue. She’s mad at me for running to the neighbor’s, and the next day she scolds me for having the police come. But when it happens again—and again—I keep doing all I know to do. Grab the dogs. Run next door. Scream for help. Call the cops. I’m scared!
I tell my dad and he does nothing. He calls my mom a whore. The blonde hates my mom, too. I tell her to shut-up because my dad is going to leave her soon and get back with my mother. They begin to tell me that my mother gets her car fixed by having sex with mechanics. I’m seven. I hate them.
He still beats her. He’s broken some of my things in his anger. Raged into my room and took my ceramic paintings I made at my dad’s and threw them against the wall. We’ve moved now into a new, beautiful home. I’m growing up. I’m no longer a little girl and he notices that. I hate the way he looks at me.
I’m sleeping. I hear them fighting again. I hate that! This time he barges into my room and locks the door behind him. I stay quiet and still. I don’t move. He crawls into bed next to me, under the covers. I’m laying on my stomach and he lifts my shirt up and begins to rub my back. Slowly his hand slides over my butt. I freeze. I’m scared. I’m really scared. My heart is racing. My mother is banging on the door, “LET ME IN. OPEN THIS DOOR!! OPEN THIS DOOR!!” And then she stops banging. And it’s quiet. And his hand slides beneath my underwear.
It’s Saturday again. The next day. I sit blankly on the carpeted floor in front of the TV. I know it’s cartoons, but I have no idea what I’m watching. I’m paralyzed. And I can still feel his grubby, stubby, smoke stained fingers on me. I just sit there. No one says anything to me. They made up and they are happy again…for today. No one notices I’ve gone far, far away. I won’t return for another eighteen years. When God reaches out and saves me from that little girl.