Beer and Rumination

Last night, I had two potent beers and watched Birdman. This is a dangerous game when your medications are also potent.

Sure enough, when IMDBing how old Michael Keaton is (63), I realized that my father is 65 years old as of last month, and while that might qualify him for Medicare and Social Security, that’s nowhere near old enough for me. Especially since his family line has a penchant for living as close to forever as human beings can reasonably live.

My father is the worst human being I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. If that sounds like an exaggeration, I assure you, it isn’t. Both my mother and my best friend’s mother (who unfortunately chose to date him for a time during my sophomore year of high school) have restraining orders against him to this day. My mother divorced him 24 years ago, and my best friend’s mother broke off their relationship 15 years afterward, 11 years ago somewhere around this time. He raped them both, and was physically violent to my mother on multiple occasions. She’s been in the hospital more than once as a result of his hand.

I’m lucky in that he only hit me once.

I was a senior in high school, and living with him at the time. I had been on the phone with a friend who had to hang up and call me back. It would be a matter of moments between hanging up and the phone ringing again. I was sitting on my father’s bed with the phone in front of me; he was putting away laundry nearby. When the phone rang, we both reached for it, but I made the ‘mistake’ of pushing his hand away, saying, “I got it. It’s for me.”

In response, he punched me above my left knee, on the outside of my lower thigh. It left a bruise for well over a week — I don’t remember how long exactly.

When I backed away from him, and said that he would never touch me again, I remember his laugh, as if to say how ridiculous — over this? I left that afternoon, and went to my mother’s house to exchange music on my iPod — my father’s place didn’t have iTunes. I don’t remember how I mentioned it to her, but it was casual — our relationship then was strained, nothing like it was now, and I imagine I wanted to tell her so she would feel badly about making me leave her house.

She didn’t say much about it, and I left to see a movie with my best friend — Silent Hill. We were cowered in our seats at the sight of various creepily crawling monsters when my mother tapped me on the shoulder (not the best move) and told me I was never going back there again. And I didn’t, save for the day after she got an emergency court order changing my custody — we went into his house during the day, when he wouldn’t be home, took everything that was mine, and left.

For whatever reason, my freeze-out didn’t last as long as I would have hoped. I’m ashamed to say it was probably due to convenience. My freshman year of college was a miserable experience, and I came home every weekend I could make plans with friends, which was often. I needed rides back and forth, and my mother could only do so much, so, eventually, I reached out to my father.

That ended one afternoon in April 2007.

I had spent the weekend talking with my mother about her history with my father, piecing together the history of violence committed by one whose genetics I shared, whose awful temper I sometimes shared. She told me that, when in the Navy, he had picked up a fellow sailor by the pecs and left weeks-long bruises because he had pinched my father. She told me that he had held her in the air by her throat when they were long-distance dating, leaving her in terrible pain on the flight home. She told me that they had had a puppy together — but that he had grown sick of it, and so, one day, shot the dog instead of giving him to a shelter. She told me of the many, many cats he made her give away after promising they would be permanent pets. She told me that he had called her fat when she was pregnant, while he made her pose sideways in a two-piece bathing suit to monitor her progress. She told me that he had anally raped her, many times.

She told me that when she decided to leave him, we ran away in the middle of the day, while he was at work. We had to take the dog, for fear of her life, and, since the women’s shelter we stayed in didn’t allow pets, my mother begged and pleaded until a local vet agreed to kennel her until we found a permanent place to stay. We lived in that shelter for weeks. I was two years old, and they had been married for about as long.

She told me I hated going to see him on alternate weekends as a child. I believed it all, but this I could remember. I remembered staying with him and his girlfriend in the house they shared, and being forced to sleep in the basement because the guest room shared a wall with the master bedroom. Presumably he couldn’t keep their sexual activities outside of the four nights per month I stayed with him, so I cried myself to sleep at night, scared of the furnace, the cold and dark. If I couldn’t sleep, he made me march around the room until I became exhausted, or to stand in the corner, but not lean against the wall.

He did take me rock climbing, to the science museum, the aquarium, and the children’s museum, but more often than not, I spent my father-weekends riding my bike to the local library, stocking up on books, and climbing the tree beside the driveway, reading away the time. I remember playing by myself in the woods for hours, going deeper and deeper into the wilderness, and never hearing my name be called. I remember only being allowed to watch educational VHS tapes about the biomes of the Earth. I hated it there — I remember many things.

She told me these things because I had asked her, knowing he was going to drive me back to college on Sunday afternoon. It had been about a year since he had hit me, and I was ready to confront him, scared as I was. He never drank, never did drugs, but worked out constantly, and was strong, especially for a man in his mid-fifties. I had caught slants of his temper before of course — he would never yell, but his eyes would turn cold, and his voice would sharpen, and you would know to hold your breath and do as you were told, else

I was in the car, calculating the time until we were to reach my dorm, on a busy street in Boston. I knew that once the car pulled up to the curb, I would have to fly out of it and away, and that it would be difficult for him to follow, especially since leaving his enormous Buick on a street that narrow would be almost impossible in the city.

So I confronted him.

I told him everything I knew, with anger and dismay. I told him that I knew what he was, that I was ashamed to be related to him. I repeated back to him the story of the time he had hit me, never asking him to apologize, but speaking in such a way that it was suggested. And then I asked him why.

“You had to know who was in control.”

At that point, the car was at the curb and I flung the door open, grabbed my bag from the back, and hurled my parting words into his face before slamming the door, and racing up the stairs. Recalling it even now gives me a speeding heart. I don’t remember what I said to him, but it was intense — it was loathing — it dared him to take action.

There were no elevators to the dorms on the first floor — you had to walk up to the second first, and then present your ID. I remember there were people in front of me, and I cursed them, sure I was about to feel a hand on my shoulder, and fire in my face at any moment.

It never came.

Instead, I rode up to the eleventh floor, hid out in the laundry room, and — sobbing — called my mother. I told her I never wanted to see or speak to him again, and I haven’t since. It has been eight years.

He has tried to contact me since, calling me every so often until I changed my phone number. My mother told me that when we split from him, he hired a private detective to hunt her down, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done the same with me. He’s incredibly thrifty, and made quite a lot of money when I was a child. How else would explain the sudden appearance of his mother in the restaurant I worked at in 2012? I pretended I didn’t know her, poor thing, with such fear and sadness in her eyes. She has since passed away. That was the last time I saw her, the first time since I was a child.

I dream of him often, nightmares all. He’s always hunting me, for violence or sex — though he never assaulted me that way, not that I can recall. I’m always afraid he’ll turn up somewhere, and thank my job for it’s lockdown approach to security — no one gets in without a badge, no exceptions. I thank my building for requiring a fob to swipe into the parking lot and building. I thank my husband for being a man that makes me feel safe.

And I wait for the call that will inevitably come, the one where some lawyer somewhere will tell he’s died. That day, I will feel a great deal of relief.

Perhaps it sounds monstrous to think this way about your father, but then again — if you knew a man who had beaten and raped multiple women, who had hurt and neglected you, who savagely killed animals and never apologized for any of it — if such a man happened to be your father, even — wouldn’t you hate him, too?

Uppers and Downers

Wake up.

Take 75+75+75mg of your SNRI so you don’t feel depressed, so you stop fighting or fleeing from every day.

Take half a milligram of your benzodiazepine to keep calm and carry on.

Microwave a cup of coffee with cinnamon roll creamer.

Drink in big, fat swallows to combat the aftereffects of the atypical antipsychotic you took at bedtime.

Get shaky.

Get fidgety.

Get real productive.

Clickety clack all over the keyboard, planning out your social media day.

Find inspirational quotes.

Post them to Twitter and Facebook.

Schedule the rest.

Feel very accomplished.

Crash into the restlessness, the foot tapping, the uncontrollable hand tremors.

Go back to bed with the laptop and your books to lay beside your snoring husband —

you have a tendency to wake up very early these days —

and keep moving, even in under-the-covers comfort.

Your feet rub over and over each other because there is no such thing as stillness anymore.

Even in sleep, there are nightmares:

Your abusive father comes after you for sex.

Dinosaurs and aliens kill and eat the people you know.

The crazy world turns apocalyptic.

You run to survive, to stay alive, to remain unviolated, to find a moment of peace in sleep —

The worst is it’s lucid.

You know you’re trapped in a horror-film-dream.

Waking up takes an incredible act of terror.

Instead of stretching and opening your eyes to the warmth of sun, you flail and punch and bite.

You try to calculate how long you must stay awake —

the film picks up where it left off.

Or else a new one begins, but the genre never changes.

The lethargy never goes, but restfulness never comes.

And the days run this way, like a wind-up toy.

Some hand keeps the gears tight, and it is not yours.

Your therapist says you’re better, and asks what would you like to do now?

You insist upon continuing your weekly visits.

You don’t see what she could possibly see.

You eat a lot of protein, to keep your energy level.

You are often hungry and your heart rate is often high.

You practice mindful breathing.

You practice yoga, moving through your asanas adeptly;

if your mind cannot be strong, your body will be.

You practice meditation, chasing peace, knowing that wanting anything is contrary to the practice.

You try to take the nothingness of after-the-panic-attack-goes and implant it into your sitting time.

You are aware that ‘trying’ is contrary to the practice.

You breathe.

You blink.

You think of breathing and blinking and drawing your shoulders away from your ears, your shoulder blades in, back, and down.

This helps for a time.

Other times, there is an urgent lassitude that comes and then you are most productive.

You are aware of the choke hold of productivity.

You crave it like a BDSM fantasy.

You sleep and wake at strange hours, letting the day pass as it will.

The sun is also a mechanical thing.

So too the moon and stars.

You find solace in selfish cat-cuddles.

You find solace in being fucked.

You find solace in great amounts of nicotine.

You don’t think about repercussions.

Sometimes you spend a lot of money.

Sometimes you eat a lot of blueberry scones.

Sometimes you laugh.

You have a favorite sweatshirt.

You clean your teeth on the cuffs.

You spill food down the front.

You use the hood as a swaddle for your head.

You are loathe to put it in the wash.

You obsessively brush your teeth.

The taste of a dirty mouth digs into your brain until rectified.

Until now, you had ghastly oral hygiene practices.

You drink water with excessive amounts of ice.

You begin to experiment again with wine.

You develop cravings for ginger ale.

You begin texting conversations that you don’t finish.

You worry your friends feel neglected.

You give good advice in a piss-poor tone.

You give people reasons to get angry with you.

You have a fantastic idea for an article about your cats.

You have a fantastic idea for a novel about Jeopardy.

You have a fantastic idea for an in-depth piece about David Foster Wallace.

You don’t write much of anything.

You listen to a lot of podcasts about motherhood.

You listen to podcasts about productivity.

You listen to podcasts by middle aged men talking about bric-a-brac and their children.

You crave a lot of silence.

You crave a lot of silence.

I Had Never

I don’t like to write about Him. I shouldn’t capitalize that pronoun. He’s not that powerful. But he is.

I had never punched someone until I punched him.

We were in a fight, and I don’t even remember what about. The problem is that I can’t remember the first time — there were so many. But I needed something from him, some validation of hearing me, or having any feelings besides frustration, besides stop talking get away from me I’m tired this is exhausting you’re exhausting, and I followed him and yelled and cried and begged and — snapped.

I started hitting him over and over, trying to find some point of vulnerability because I wanted to hurt him, or to wake him up out of this zombie stupor of indifference and — what? He would see me? He would start to care about the girl gone crazy, feeling frustrated that she couldn’t hit hard enough?

Don’t feel sympathy for me. It wasn’t a mistake because that’s something you do once. Afterward, no matter how reflexive the action feels, it is a choice, and I continued to choose to want to hurt him and to act upon it. It doesn’t matter that he was emotionally abusive, or that my parents had each hit me once, but hit each other countless times, or that I never managed to hurt him. There is no excuse.

I had never cheated until I cheated on him — and then with him.

It was against my nature, my morality, the kernel of heat in my belly and breastbone that knows when I’ve done wrong — the first time, I didn’t feel it. I drank enough to give me the bravery to be bad, and kissed another guy in the afternoon in my mother’s side yard. Later, I held his hand, and traced his collarbone tattoo, and wanted badly,badly to have sex with him, but we were in a tent with two other people — that’s the only reason why. He put his hand down my pants, and we later had phone sex, long after I had left my boyfriend because he didn’t care that I had cheated, he just wanted to move on, as if something irrevocable hadn’t happened.

It’s like losing your virginity — once it’s done, it’s easier to do again.

When I started dating the next boyfriend after him, I actively seduced him because he didn’t seem to care that I was happy with someone else. He went on a date, and something snapped. I met him for lunch and made the subtle choices I knew he would like, and that he knew that I had made purposefully. I refused to take no for an answer, and preyed upon the fact that I was far too good looking for him, and we had sex between some bushes and an office building next to the highway, and I convinced myself this was a good decision for another six months of cheating, always cheating, and lying, and telling myself this made me interesting.

I don’t feel sorry for cheating on him, but I for cheating with him — one instance of cheating with him — I do. I didn’t care if I did bad things behind his back, unless he found out and I didn’t have a better option at the time. I was selfish and so lost and only 23.

Then again, I was 23. I wasn’t 15 or 17, or whatever age some people say that cheating means nothing because at some point the slate is wiped clean and you start over. I don’t believe in that. You wipe your own slate, and I dirtied mine for a long time, feeling like a goddamned graffiti artist, but I was spray painting junk over my entire life.

I never hurt myself until him.

It started with pinching my arms and legs, to make myself not feel numb — but numbness is the absence of feeling — I wanted to feel. Being around him was like inhaling second hand smoke and then one day getting cancer that eats up your entire body. Like Where the Wild Things Are: I’ll eat you whole I love you so, but I was the wild thing and I ate myself.

The last time was using the corkscrew of a wine bottle opener to open up my wrist, scratching slowly over the course of days, planning to tell someone that my cat had ‘gotten me laugh-laugh‘ if they saw, until the thin red line became liquid and my now-husband came and took it out of my hands, sucked the poison out, took the pain away.

I never wanted to do it until I wanted to so badly that I couldn’t not do it and then I hated myself for it. I hated him for it more because I never felt so small and insignificant, like stepping on an ant, even a line of ants, which happens all the time — no one sheds tears for the ants, and there were no tears when I first picked up a screw that fell out of my apartment wall — nothing but quiet intention as I learned in concentration over my wrist.

I was never emotionally abused before he emotionally abused me.

I see so clearly: an apartment parking lot at twilight, and my arms are wrapped around my belly, trying to hold myself in as he backed away from me while I begged him to come and hold me — I was coming apart.

I see his eyes, cocky controlling eyes, knowing he could make me dance like a puppet on strings with elaborate eyelashes and a painted on smile. Rosy circles for cheeks. I was only in control when it came to sex, and eventually he stopped caring about that because he knew he held more of the cards — my desperation was showing, like stuffing coming out of my puppet’s stuffed wounds, and he grabbed it, held it, and dragged me around by it — I thought I had a choice.

That’s the shit of it — it’s a slow burn. Slowly, you are shrunken down into a pocket-sized thing and then you wonder why you’re picked up, flung around, bruised, and left out in the rain.

It sounds like I’m hung up on him — I’m not.

I’m a vengeful person, and I still want to hurt him like he’s hurt me, then rub the salt of my marriage in his sick-fuck wounds.

Because of him, I became the worst version of myself — even though it was totally and completely because of me.