(this is another story that popped up the other night…one I really want to finish. And I’m sorry some of you thought I was speaking about myself. My childhood wasn’t the best but was nothing like this!)
“You shut the fuck up and listen to me. I won’t put up with your shit any longer Cliff. No more bars and no more damn bitches waiting outside the backdoor.”
“Go to hell Bess! You and that damn brat of a girl can go to hell. She don’t do nothin’ but run around playing her made up shit. You promised me a son and gave me a retard instead.”
And then I watched as my father smacked my mother across the face. Immediately after he turned away, like I knew he would while the whole side of her face began to swell. I could hear him cracking his knuckles as he twisted his fingers. It was a ritual he somehow had to follow.
He turned a minute later with tears streaming down his cheeks as he pulled my mother to him. “God girl, I’m so sorry. But you damn well push me until I just gotta do you back somehow.”
I was only four that time, but I can remember wishing he’d at least look at me and smile…or even say I love you too, little bit when he held her. It happened so often that over the years I learned to use those same words when I talked to myself or when I was really angry. Of course, I’d get a pop across the mouth if he heard me.
I can still see that last fight between the two of them as if it were only yesterday. After eight years of trying. my mother once again carried his child and prayed every hour of every day that it would be a boy. Like so many other times, he’d come home late and drunk, with red lipstick still smeared on the collar of his shirt.
“What the hell is your problem? Can’t you get your drunk ass home in time for dinner at least once a week? I’m so fucking sick of you chasing other women and then screwing them senseless while I sit here alone carrying your kid that I could kick your ass to hell and back.”
“Take a look in the mirror bitch and see that fat ass of yours. You think I wanna crawl into bed with a slob that looks like a cow? You think that kid you’re carrying is worth me falling at your feet and worshiping you? You’re damn well crazy if you think that way! And look at that fucked up brat you’re raising. She’s as worthless as a sack of shit. Never feeds my dogs, never does her chores even when told to do them or else. Sits and reads those crap ass books instead of pushing a broom or cleaning out that damn chicken coop you wanted so bad.”
When he hit her, she stumbled over his work boots and ended up hitting her head on the corner of a brick planter that held worn out fake flowers. I can still see the blood oozing from her scalp as she moaned and then made a sound that for some reason caused me to turn away.
Instead of calling someone for help, or even kneeling beside her, my father threw a glass of water on her face while yelling that she needed to get up and stop acting like a drama queen. By the time he realized she wasn’t going to follow his directions my mother was dead, along with the baby boy that until then had been growing inside of her.
I don’t remember a lot of what happened next. The cops finally came, along with an ambulance. My father cried as I told a female officer what I’d seen with my young eyes. Not long after, I left in one car just as he left in another one, handcuffed and still crying like he always did.
I never did cry, just as I never had a chance to say goodbye to the few things that I loved; a stuffed bear that I’d had forever, a little jewelry box that played music when I opened it, and the five books that had been given to me by a neighbor when I’d seen them at a yard sale she’d been having.
I ended up going from home to home and shelter to shelter while they tried to find a relative that wanted me. Parts of the foster care system that I was immersed in for years helped and parts made me the holy terror I’d become as a young teen, trying to cope with the past and that God awful feeling of never being wanted…really wanted. Usually it was the money those who cuddled me in public while ignoring me in private were after. Even worse, they made me aware of it almost daily.
I finally stopped writing for a few minutes as I scanned the diner I’d stopped at. I knew it was close to two am; too early for the people who worked regular jobs and too late for the night shift to be thinking about anything but sleep.
I rubbed my own eyes, wondering where to go next. I’d met my past today, reliving those few hours as I stood looking at what was left of the abandoned home I’d spent too many years in. I’d laughed a little, seeing the chicken coop still sitting there as if it were waiting for its past residents to finally come home. I even hoped that the neighbor had been kind enough to feed them until they too decided to move away.
After paying my tab and grabbing another coffee to go, I sat in my beat-up Toyota trying to decide whether to go south and then head west or just keep going along the freeway I’d been on. What the hell, I said to myself about twenty minutes later, the corn fields it is. And sure enough, that’s just about all I saw as I drove through Kansas, heading west until I finally had to stop and sleep for a few hours.
I’d saved for this trip for almost five years, working every job I could get. I’d learned that with five hours sleep I could work two jobs and even three if the last one was just a couple hours long and I didn’t have to do much more than push a broom or answer phones. When I was fourteen, I’d seen a picture of the beaches along the California coast. After dreaming of walking though the waves the Pacific Ocean carried from Asia, past the Hawaiian Islands until they finally ebbed along the shore, I’d made it my goal…to walk those same beaches barefoot while I looked out at the sea as the swells came in one after another.