I stood in the kitchen with the phone receiver on my ear. My aunt called looking for my mom who wasn’t home. The phone was attached to the wall directly across from the sink and next to the side door that led outside. We primarily used this door entering and exiting our house. Our front door felt more like a prop and rarely used except by door-to-door solicitors.
“When will she be home?” she asked.
“I don’t know – soon I think.” I was guessing.
“Why do you sound like that?” She asked in a curious tone.
“I don’t know.”
“Noooo, something’s wrong. You can tell me.” She was right – something was wrong but I was hesitant to tell her.
“You can tell me. You sound upset and I only want to help.”
I guess part of me wanted to believe it was true. Keeping secrets is an essential ingredient of abuse which I also shared with this aunt. As awful as some of my experiences were with her it also created a false sense of closeness. A perverted intimacy that at times confused me. As wrong as our interactions felt I wondered if it came from a place of love? My naivete drove me to believe that somehow this woman cared about me. I very much feared her, but in this moment I had no one else to turn to for support. My mom had very high expectations of me. When I didn’t meet those expectations I would be punished. The problem was she constantly changed the rules without telling me.
It was Saturday and I had spent the entire day at the library working on a research paper with friends. It had been difficult to convince her to let me go. She thought it was an excuse to be out of the house and play. I promised her I would be gathering information and writing notes all day. Typically I’d walk to the library with friends after school for a few hours before going home. This time I was behind on my paper and Saturday seemed like the perfect day to get everything done. Plus time with friends was always a good thing too.
I loved everything about the library. The smell – the books – the quiet – everything. In the center of it a descending curved path led to a downstairs level. It was open and you could see directly down from the main floor to the tables, magazines and newspapers racks. This area always intrigued me for some reason. So I first used the card catalog to find where the books were located, and then carried them downstairs. I picked a table and spread out my materials and eagerly hunted for data. It was the era before copiers were commonplace so that meant I had to write down everything in a notebook.
This place always brought peace to my life. From the moment I walked in I was a different person living a different life. It wasn’t complicated and it never offered pain, and made me feel smart and important. It opened my mind and always taught me something new. I could hang out all day and never be bored. I sat for hours and filled pages of my notebook with information. So the remaining time I could spend with my friends. We’d talk (sometimes too loudly) and explore different areas of the library. This may sound boring to you but for me it brought a lot of joy.
Fifteen minutes before it was time to go home I went back to clean up my work station and returned the books back to the shelves. I said goodbye to my friends and went outside to wait for my mom. Not long after I saw our truck pull into the parking lot and waved so she could find me. On the way home she asked how it went and I was pleased to tell her I got all the research done.
Immediately I sensed something was wrong so I didn’t try to communicate much more. It felt thick and tense all the way home. We pulled up in driveway but before I could open the door she said “wait”. I instantly froze.
“Let me see your notes.” she said
I pulled out my notebook and handed it to her. She flipped through the pages and and looked at me.
“Who wrote these notes?”
Puzzled I said “I did.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did.” Now I was panicked.
“Bita, I’m not stupid – this is not your handwriting.” As she held up a page in the notebook for me to see.
Dumbfounded is the best word to describe this entire exchange and I wasn’t sure how to move forward. If I continued to defend myself I could be punished for arguing with her. If I remained quiet it would look as if I was caught red-handed. Every scenario led to the same conclusion and there was simply no way out.
“Mom, I promise I wrote these notes. If it doesn’t look like my handwriting it’s just because I wrote very fast.” The truth was I rushed trying to finish to have enough time to spend with my friends. I just kept that part to myself.
She searched my face for a moment and I didn’t move one inch. In a tight, slow and angry voice she said “Tell me which one of your friend’s wrote these notes for you.” I crumbled inside realizing nothing would convice her I was telling the truth.
I could feel tears forming in my eyes and in almost a whisper said “I wrote them.”
She tightened the grip she had on my notebook and began to beat me with it. I attempted to shield my face and head from the blows and spiral metal spine. It wasn’t a belt or a hanger but it managed to do its job. We were sitting very close to each other and as much as I wanted to pull the handle to open the door and jump out – I remained in my spot. Between smacks I heard the words: stupid, lazy and liar and how I would not be trusted again. All the wonderful feelings my time in the library offered were dissolved in a matter of minutes. In that moment I wished I had never ever gone to the library.
She got out of the truck and walked into the house and I just sat there feeling utterly defeated. I thought about how much effort it took to convince her to let me go to the library. Now I looked at it with regret and sadness. I picked up the notebook and walked into the house where my parents were arguing so I went to my room. When things seemed to quiet down I made my way to the kitchen. The atmosphere also felt lighter and discovered my mom wasn’t home. I was filling a glass with water at the sink when the phone rang….
“Come on it will make you feel better to get it off your chest.” She persisted.
Everything inside me screamed DON’T DO IT but I didn’t listen. “My mom is angry because she thinks I lied about something.”
“Oh” she said in a voice that feigned concern.
She continued to ask questions and I foolishly answered every single one. I remember how it felt so good to talk about it and even was encouraged a little bit. I later watched television with my brother and sister, ate dinner and then went to bed.
I was dead asleep when it began. The light abruptly turned on and I was awakened to sharp stinging pain. My mom was standing over me screaming “what did you say?” “how dare you talk about me!” “you’re a liar!” as she whipped me with my dad’s belt. My entire body in shock as my brain struggled to process what was happening. I was trapped on my bed so I curled up into a ball. I quickly realized my aunt back stabbed me so I kept my big mouth shut and didn’t attempt to explain. After what felt like forever my dad walked in and grabbed the belt from her hand. Furious her retribution was forced to abruptly end continued screaming while my sister sobbed in her bed.
In a second attempt to shut down the situation my dad removed my mom from our room. He then turned off the light and closed the door. My little sister had witnessed the entire outburst and was now an emotional wreck. I did my best to comfort and reassure her that everything would be okay. I smoothed her hair and patted her back until I heard her breathing change. I went back to my bed and assessed my wounds and very relieved she missed my face. This meant I could disguise any belt marks with clothing and not miss any school.
I could feel my body starting to swell and threw the blankets to the floor. Each painful welt was a reminder of how much I hated my mother. I wanted nothing more than to will myself to disappear. I hated my aunt for tricking me into confiding in her, and judged myself for falling for it. My foolishness allowed my sister to be terrorized in her sleep. Most of all I hated that I felt alone and unloved.
Once the tears stopped and the million thoughts in my head finally found a place to settle – I fell asleep.
KNOW THE SIGNS!
Do you know the signs of child abuse and neglect?
What would you do if you believed a child was in danger?
Who would you contact?
If you suspect a child is in danger please see the emergency contact information and also signs of abuse located on the “WAYS TO HELP” page in this blog.
Thank you! ~B