Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Solitary Confinement

   My mother's scheme worked.  The Army yanked my father's chain and he came back to her.

   Everything had a price, that wonderful, carefree Summer's bill came due. I paid for it many times over. My father imposed new rules. I was to stay in my room. My brother would bring me my meals. I could only leave to use the bathroom and go to school. And more importantly, most cruelly, no one was to speak to me. For three months. And so it was. I stayed alone, heartbroken, more buried in myself than ever before. My mother in her own way tried to help me deal with this by passing me a pile of paperbacks. A stack of her romance novels. They were not the reading material of most eleven-year-olds. I stuck them in the back the closet. I spent my time drawing and praying to a God my father didn't believe in. At this time we lived in Germany, in Army housing. We had an apartment on the fourth floor. I remember standing at my window looking down at the cement trying to get the courage enough to jump. There was a small grate on the window, but I could easily have gotten over that. Somehow, I couldn't do it. I can still see it in my mind's eye. The concrete landing for the basement was directly below my window, I see it still.
     Whether it was out of fear or hope I don't know which,  even now.

   I don't know if you believe in God, but I do. I always did. I don't know where I first heard of him, but he stuck with me.   When was five or six, I remember someone coming to our door, wanting to share the truth of God, to make sure we were saved. My father's response was short and to the point "Go the fuck away, we aren't interested." But I was interested. I felt that they were part of a club that I wasn't good enough join.  I don't know why I thought that. I mean I was five, six at most, so my views on religion were pretty loose.  They seemed so good and clean and happy. I wanted what they had. That goal gave me hope, so I made a habit of prayer.

   Time passed, years and things became more complicated. Junior High lead to High School and a whole new world. My father was stationed in Texas by then and retired there. He was hired as a police officer in a small town, and then another and another. He didn't seem to stay with any department very long. He could always find a smaller town in need of his services. He grew more angry, meaner than before. He was rougher with me, where before he had been coaxing, now he was aggressive and more violent.

  I threw myself into school. I made friends, took extra classes. Anything to stay out of my parent's house. I saw my freedom getting closer. I had been counting for a long time by then. I became moody, and for the first time, mouthy. I dared my parents to hit me. I became openly defiant, it was thrilling. I reveled in it. I felt in control of myself for the first time in my life and I had no intention of letting them take that away from me. Neither of them knew what to do with me. My mother tried to be friends, to talk it all out. I wouldn't let her in. It was too late to be friends. My father tried arguing, yelling at me. He rarely hit anymore. My brother and I had both been treated for concussions due to his abuse by then and I think that scared him.

   My freedom came earlier than I thought it would and it was SO simple. My mother was in the hospital having had back surgery. My father came after me as he always did. But something in me had changed. Maybe it was being fifteen or having friends. I don't know really. I stood my ground, looked him in the eye and told him if he touched me again, I would call the cops. At that moment everything changed,  I was free. He turned away from me, grabbed his keys and left. The next day while we were at school he moved his things out for good. Why hadn't I known those words before? They were magical and I felt safe.

  My mother was crushed, angry and she blamed me. She was vicious and mean-spirited but none of it touched me. I stayed out with my friends, joined drill team and did all those things teenagers do. I felt normal. I fit in. I was not going to let her take that away from me. She found where his new girlfriend lived and went into her same diatribe about his violence and constant job changes and of course her ace in the hole, me. It did no good and she got madder. She called his job and then showed up there with me in tow. No one listened. No one believed her. She was powerless to do anything to bring him back nor she couldn't corral me. And so, I felt, she had no further use for my brother and me, she left too.

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