I hit the ground with a loud thud and smacked my head on the hard dirt under me. I was out of breath with my heart beating overtime. I had just flown off the back of a dirt bike and was shaken and in shock. I felt something heavy and hot on me, and lifted my head to look down at my body. The muffler of the dirt bike was now directly across my leg. I screamed out in pain with tears streaming down my face. My uncle who was driving the bike stood over me and tried to pull it off me. My eyes became the size of plates when I noticed the muffler had burned my calf and had now melted in my flesh. If he continued to lift the bike completely off me it would take my skin with it. I was terrified when I realized what had to happen, but the pain was intense and there was no other option.
“Close your eyes” he said and I took a deep breath and quickly closed my eyes tight. He yanked the bike to a complete standing position, and in the process separated the hot metal from the base of my calf muscle. Although I could no longer feel the heavy heat I could still feel the pain. I opened my eyes and saw a bloody mess and could smell burnt flesh. I began to shake and cry uncontrollably. My two other cousins that rode on another dirt bike looked scared and stood quietly watching the entire scene.
My uncle scooped me up and began to carry me home. The entire way he begged me to stop crying and repeatedly told me I was okay. He expressed he was counting on me not to get him into trouble. He didn’t mean to hurt me and would fix up my leg when we returned to my house. I don’t know how but I stopped crying and wiped my face with my shirt. His fear became my fear. We stood in the backyard and looked down at my leg. There was just no disguising something terrible had just happened. I mean how do you hide the large leg wound and all that blood?
Through the backyard we entered the sliding glass door that opened to the living room. As casually as we could we made our way down the hall. He told me to wait in the bathroom and closed the door as he went to my bedroom. A minute later he opened the door and locked it. He held a pair of knee-high red wool socks in his hand and looked a little relieved. The thick socks would be his salvation. They would somewhat camouflage my injury and no one would know what happened to me. It was our secret. It was one of many we kept between us for many years. It never seemed odd or even wrong – it was natural. It was also the middle of summer and scorching hot outside. Who in their right mind would wear wintery warm knee high socks? Why didn’t my parents question it? Or anyone for that matter? But no one did. I was a child and went along with what was told to me and suffered in silence.
It was painful to walk so I sat quietly on the couch in attempt to keep the blood from seeping through my sock. I tried to not think about my burned, throbbing leg. My uncle found the right moment and slipped out of the house without a word to anyone. A few of my cousins asked me if I was alright and I just nodded my head. I hadn’t noticed until later that I had a second wound on the bottom of my knee. So I pulled the sock even higher. I tried to mentally block out the pain, but I wasn’t successful.
Later that evening after everyone had gone home it was time to take a bath. I went into the bathroom and began to remove my socks. It was then I learned that once the blood stopped flowing it dried the sock to the wound. I sat there for a while not knowing what to do. Once again I closed my eyes and ripped the sock off the wound. Tears began to form in the corner of my eyes. It never occurred to me to go to my parents for help and tell them what happened. Although I was in misery and afraid I told myself I was okay. I believed it was my job to protect my uncle, and I never thought twice about it.
I couldn’t wear those red socks forever so the next day my parents discovered my injury. It caught them off guard and instantly became angry that I didn’t tell them sooner. They cleaned my wounds, applied ointment and wrapped it to keep it clean. They were upset I had been taken on a motorcycle ride without their permission – especially in light of the accident. As angry and upset as they appeared to be they never confronted my uncle about it. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t realize that this was one of many other instances that reinforced my value to others and myself. The lack of confrontation or even outrage for placing their child in danger spoke volumes. Their silence to my uncle only reinforced my silence about this situation and the years of abuse too.
Other lies were burned into my heart and soul but I was too young to understand it at the time. Suppressing fear and pain became a regular part of my life and I viewed myself as unimportant. I wasn’t worth defending and/or my needs didn’t matter. Even now I catch myself from falling into this trap from time to time. The physical scars lasted for almost 40 years, but have now almost completely faded away. The emotional scars I discovered did the most damage to me, and covering things up only brought more pain. The good news is that each step forward brings truth and healing. There are times when it is okay to cry and times when you need to speak up. It is important to surround yourself with people who hurt when you hurt and love and cherish you.
My ugly scars also became a reminder to me of just how far I have come. I am not that same terrified little girl who felt unloved and invisible. I am a person who is learning to love, accept and embrace every part of herself. To be honest there are days that I’m tired of the fight and dealing with the past. My alternative is to just give up but in my heart I know this isn’t an option. This is just a part of the process in fighting for freedom for your body, mind and spirit. So I will continue to push forward until every single abuse-printed scar no longer exists.