i am ready to channel and write down one of the most painful, repetitive childhood traumas that i actively remember. none of this is speculation as i have it locked in my memory, ready to replay over and over , which it does often. i also have it on a DVD by a fool that actually included it in a home movie collection because my family of origin suffers from ignorance that would be unbelievable by most.
this memory is one like a swirl, a whirlwind kind of feeling, a merry-go-round that you run around and around and then just jump on. it requires me to consciously summon up a place that is dirty and haunting, a place that i hated then and hate going back to now. when i do go there, its effects are immediate. i feel them instantly and completely. this memory has many facets to it; betrayal, child abuse, powerlessness, ritualistic and premeditated cruelty. there aren’t enough vile words to describe how i feel about these occurrences; evil, ignorance, insane, devoid of any conscious, sociopathic in nature…
my nephew was only six months younger than me because my oldest sister got pregnant young and my mother got pregnant old. that put us less than a year apart even though i was technically from the generation above him. none of this mattered because he was my little brother, my buddy and pal, my best friend in the whole world, an extension of myself. i can’t remember a time without him, i felt the feelings that siblings feel of just always being there. i mothered him and clucked over him as we grew up together and he loved it, he was kind and sweet, would play any game that i thought of because i was the thinker and he was the doer. boy innocence wrapped up as a gift to me, i couldn’t get enough of him and he loved me the same way. sometimes, we would just walk through the yard holding hands because that is how life felt the best to me…
somewhere around four or five something different started happening around us. a switch flipped and suddenly we weren’t being left alone to explore the world together, we were being prepped as if our status had changed. the men from the farms around us started paying attention to us, i suppose because we were no longer babies and under the care of our mothers but now separate beings left abandoned for younger babies in need; small persons for the men to amuse themselves with.
in the farming world, late afternoon meant coming in from the fields, taking a break from the heat; a pattern that i knew well and even though i knew it was coming, would fill me with dread as the summer sun started to make its downward turn. these vile, sweat stained animals called men would stomp in from the barn where we would hear the tractor engine turn off, the instant silence of that engine noise fading left an eerie void, giving me a cold tremor up my spine. then came the beer can flip tops hissing, they would guzzle one down quickly and have the next one ready to sip with not much conversation at first. they had to catch their breath which they eventually did by leaning up against the car or a tree, then slowly they migrated toward each other usually forming a semi circle and facing one direction. looking toward the field or standing with their backs to the sun, these vile men would look for a distraction to the chores that they had been paying attention to all day.
i’m not sure why they picked us to torture and tease, i suppose because there wasn’t anything else for them to do. their lives were farming, drinking, sex with their wives or the current woman they were cheating with, sleeping and eating. too early for dinner, the wife wasn’t finished with her chores yet and couldn’t be distracted, they turned to the children who held a status barely above a farm animal.
as the beer began taking effect, it gave them a glazed, snarly kind of aura. one of them would start picking at something about us, noticing us, summoning us over to their circle citing some random offense in their ignorant backwoods language…”look at that sissy boy picking flowers with the girl, he’s not a real boy…come over here boy…somebody oughtta teach that boy to toughen up”. . .it would go something like that, my sensitive friend and brother, demonized by his own father and laid out as fodder to the neighbor men; the father maintaining his loyalty to the adult men over his own son. slowly they would taunt the boy in, pulling on his good nature and willingness to obey his elders. verbally they would begin to laugh and snicker at him as he stood before them, eyes filling with tears and head hanging low. i will myself to help but i can’t, i’m already frozen; my body knows this scene too well from experience and has reacted accordingly. i know they would soon escalate their taunting so i try to get my body to move, to stop being paralyzed and immobilized by what i knew was coming. if i could provide a distraction, if i was bigger, if i could only stop them…but i was a very little girl, one tenth of the size and weight of these full grown men. once they started it would be almost impossible to stop them but then again, i had never really seen anyone try, except me.
when they bored with verbal taunting, hungry for something bigger, they would move on to shoving the boy baby from one side of the circle to another, sometimes hitting him around the circle with switches from a nearby tree, and sometimes, when they were feeling particularly cruel, they whipped him until he got his own bundle of switches gathered to be used on himself. my boy angel would grow wilder and wilder as the shoving and laughing continued; the more frenzied he got, the more frenzied they got. when he fell to the ground in the powdery dust, they would kick and poke at him to get up and he would shoot up, full of rage, fists flying at the men one of which was his father. they would hold him out at arms length by the hair on his head and let him flail the air with his rage. once he was in a full blown hysteria, they might slow down a bit because the howling shrieks of the boy child had alerted his mother inside the farmhouse…or sometimes it alerted his grandmother whom neither would do anything to stop this horror but whose presense seemed to slow the men down. maybe in some way it took the fun out of it for them. i’m not sure at all because try as i might, i can’t begin to think like these animals do. even as an adult, i can’t wrap my head around such evil.
the one person would defend the boy at all costs to life and limb, was me. i would flail myself at these men as i didn’t care if i got hurt, that wasn’t important. i would throw myself between him and the men trying to shield him from the shoving and kicking, both of us getting covered the dirt that would puff up everytime we hit the ground. the laughter seemed far off in the distance and the only sounds we heard were that of our bodies thudding against the ground and the breath leaving our bodies….it seemed to go on forever, time stood still…. i would bite the nasty, sweaty flesh of those man arms that would hurt my friend…. their slimy, slick arms picking me up and throwing me in the air…my beautiful summer sundress falling over my head and blinding me…the smell of beer, stale breath, grimy sweat that hadn’t been washed off for days, lingering, lingering still, to this day.
at some point, they would grow tired of the game or the mother/grandmother would give them the look that said “even though i won’t protect these children you should probably stop doing that to him but i know you are the man and i shouldn’t question you because its just not done so instead i will just light a cigarette and avert my eyes from looking at my very own child being actively tortured.” they would eventually shuffle off, throwing their beer cans at the dog, finding something in the barn that needed to be done next while i gathered up my boy child; my tear stained, dirty friend who had wet his pants. we would go as far from the house as we could. sometimes i would sneak back up to the house to the water spigot and find a way to bring back a drink or a wet rag to clean him up a bit and hold him until his sobbing and gasping turned into a quiet blank stare.