When we still lived in the city I broke my foot. Well, actually, what happened was I pushed my sister off of my dad's lap. He was sitting on a chair in the living room. As punishment he threw me across the room and I hit the wall. I landed and my left foot felt like it was on fire. Mom told me that I needed to stop crying cuz I wasn't a baby. I couldn't stand up. I missed dinner because my mom said "I'm not going to put your plate on the floor like a dog." I remember I couldn't walk on it. I crawled. They thought I was faking it. It took them two days to decide to finally bring me in to have a doctor look at it.
When the doctor saw it he asked me what happened, so I told him. I even included the part about mom not feeding me on the floor. My mom just laughed and said "that was right after we locked her in a closet for a couple days and didn't feed her." The doctor just laughed along with her. I didn't know what was funny.
They put a cast on my foot. I remember thatmy toes stuck out of the end of it and it made a clunk clunk noise while I was running around the apartment. I could only wear one sock.
I was sitting on the brown wooden kitchen chair, swinging my legs, wearing a yellow dress and my cast on one foot and a shiny black dress shoe on the other, reciting the books of the Bible like a good little girl. "Gen-a-sis, Ex-a-dis, Love-vit-a-kis, and Numbers, too. Doo-ter-onomy..." Like a good little girl. It was Sunday, and I was doing what I was told.
When I was a senior in highschool I took a creative writing class. The only assignment I remember was we had to write a 2 page description of where we lived. How to get there, what it looks like, "include a lot of details." I thought I'd be clever and skirt the actual issue by researching what the brain looks like, and adding some philosophical BS about where the mind is in the physical body. A deep dive into "I live inside my own mind." The truth was that I lived in a trash hut and didn't really want to give the teacher or my class the opportunity of a front row seat to my personal hell, so I avoided the issue. Why would I share that the house i'd lived in for nearly ten years had no running water, no sewer, no electricity? No, thank you.
Theother truth, the real real truth, the one I didn't even have the vocabulary to voice yet in that creative writing class, was that for much of my childhood (if you could call it a childhood) I WAS living in my own mind. I relied on myself because so often everyone else failed me. I trusted my Gram, my brother and sister. Period. And even that short list had some major exceptions. I didn't disclose the extent of the abuse to my Gram, though she knew or suspected to at least some degree. I figured she was powerless to change it so why worry her. And my siblings...they were younger than me, and I trusted them to act like that. I was more their parent than their sister.
When I was in first grade one of those special assembly speakers came to our school. Our teacher, Mrs. F., had us write four sentences every morning and most of us hated it. Usually it was four sentences about what we did for the weekend, or four sentences about the weather, or about whichever holiday was approaching. That last one was loads of fun for the only kid in class who's family didn't celebrate anything. But I was kinda used to that, having a year of experience sitting out the pledge every morning. Being the leftout one was far, far from the most stressful thing in my young life, and was nowhere near the heaviest weight on my little shoulders.
Mrs. F. was mean, plain and simple. She didn't like me and I knew it. When a boy in my class shaded in a big rectangle on the top of his worksheet and then used the edge of his pink eraser to erase 'Mike' onto the top his paper, I thought that was very cool. When I copied it I got three letters into my name and was sharply shamed for my efforts. She made me stand up in front of the class and show everyone the "mess you've made." Ugh. Then she made me fix it. She hated me.
So we had a special speaker. He was there to talk about the importance of goals. Our four sentences were supposed to be about our own goals. What is my goal for the day, the rest of the week, the school year, and my ten year goal. "Think carefully, think big" we were told. Ugh. I don't know anything about goals, I just wanted to be done with this writing assignment. Hmmm, "My goal for this year is to finish first grade." Haha. That's good and so true. I think and think about what I want my life to be like in ten years. This is hard. Ooh, I have another idea. I quickly write "In ten years I want to be comfortable." Yay! I'm done. I bring my paper up to Mrs. F's desk. I'm on my way back to my desk when she sharply says my name "RR! Come back here!"
"You need to redo your ten year goal! You don't understand the assignment." she says sternly. "'I want to be comfortable' is a stupid goal. Fix it." I feel my face turning red. She said it loud and now everyone is looking at me. She shoves my paper back at me and I hang my head as I walk back to my seat. I'm sitting at my desk and peek over a girl's shoulder to see what she wrote. Something about girl scouts. I copy that and slowly walk my paper back up to Mrs. F's desk. She looks at it and says "Much better." She smiles big and I can tell she doesn't even care that I'm not in girl scouts.
When I was thirteen I finally said no to my dad. I said no more touching. Still, the physical abuse continued. The emotional manipulation. But when I finally told him 'no' the worst of the sexual abuse stopped. I remember the look on his face. It was fear. He was afraid of me. He was afraid of me? He was afraid of me. I used that opportunity to secure my freedom, and buy my sister's freedom, too. I was too clueless at the time to think that I should include Lb on the deal. I said "no, not any more. None. And you aren't going to start in on Ls, either. None. It's over. Do you understand?!" It wasn't a question. It was a demand. His eyes darted wildly. "Do you get it?!" I asked. "Yes" he managed to weakly say. He seemed so weird. So deflated.
This was not the end of the abuse by any stretch of the imagination. It was just the end of the worst of the sexual abuse. But it was the beginning of me using my voice in a way that changed things for me.
So many times I tried to tell people how hellish my life was. Told my neighbor we were hungry. Told my teacher I just wanted to be comfortable. Told my doctor I was thrown across a room. I told my story. Over and over.
I still have a gnarly bump on the outside edge of my left foot. It didn't heal right. When I was in my twenties I asked a doctor about it. He said that it's a combination of scar tissue and the bone healed funny. I could have surgery to fix it if it was painful or uncomfortable. It wasn't. It doesn't hurt. Its just a physical reminder of what I've been through.