The boy. He lived next door. He was my very first friend. Older. I don’t remember the age difference. His mom, a single mom. Nice lady. She babysat when my father would go to work. Strange to have a babysitter after having my momma to myself. The boy’s sister. Named after the beginning of the day. She was a little strange. I liked her.
I was a little girl. Enjoying the world created in my own backyard. The backyard was a kid’s paradise. Big. Flat. Large tree with caverns that easily became my dolls’ house. Swing set. And a large mud hole. I could spend hours in my backyard.
I remember the day. The place. The way it looked. The way it sounded. Memories that never leave, no matter how much you wish they would.
We were surrounded by duplexes on the other side of the fence. I was never allowed to play outside our backyard. I never thought to talk to people in their backyards. One day, they began to speak to me as I played in the back yard.
“Can you come play? We have a fort and everything. We just need you to play.”
In my bossy voice I replied, “No. My mom won’t let me.”
“Go ask her.” That’s all it took. I was asked to do something, I did it. So quickly I ran inside. Strangely, my mom let me go over to play. I ran all the way down the sidewalk (like maybe 20 feet worth) to their front door. The sister answered the door. We went into the backyard.
“You have to come into the fort.” she said. It was a table with sheets around it. Inside was a few pillows and a blanket. The sun was shining. I was thrilled to have someone to play with besides my little brothers.
Let’s play house. To a seven-year-old girl who spent HOURS playing house with her dolls by herself…I’d hit the lottery! Yes. Let’s play house! Um, my idea of house….and their idea of house…two different things entirely.
House was you’re the dad, I’m the mom and I get to tell you what to do. (Yep, I come by it naturally).
House that day. That day was something else. Being a mommy meant that we had to do things. Things I didn’t understand and didn’t much like. And then the moment happened. One that…as I type this…without giving you details…makes my stomach hurt. My heart races. I want to RUN far away. I am nauseated.
In that moment I learned that I was to do what the boys told me to do. And I had no voice to say no.
I remembering feeling that I wanted to go home. NOW. I looked at my “friends” and said quietly (I get REALLY quiet, mouse-like when I’m uncomfortable), “Can I go home?” Yes, but you must not tell ANYONE what we did. It’s our secret. You’re our friend right?
I rushed home. Scared. I didn’t want to get in trouble. Somehow it never dawned on me that what happened to me was something I should have told my mom. Right there. And she’d never really talked to me about that type of a situation, so, I just kept quiet.
Typically, when a child is sexually abused, there are symptoms. I’m sure that I probably started being quieter. Had nightmares. Cried a lot. Was afraid to be alone. But the problem was that I ALREADY had those issues due to some bad parenting choices. I’m not sure, unless I opened my mouth, that there was really anyway to know what I was suffering.
As the nightmares at night continued I began to enjoy the attention I would get next door. I was his girlfriend I was told. All of a sudden I went from no friends to being a girlfriend! It was a big deal being a girlfriend I thought! I began to experiment with various things. Things that would alleviate the confusion I felt. I began to want to just be next door. I would block out what I was doing…just wanted to be with my friend.
Then it became worst. I couldn’t say no. I was cornered and attacked. One time in my own room. With my siblings and cousins in the room. And the adults outside. Oblivious. I was numb to the whole thing by this point.
One night I was rushed out of bed and taken to their house. My sister was on her way into this world. Halfway through the night my fears were realized. I didn’t like to sleep in the dark after that.
It continued. By now I was a ten-year-old. Old enough to know better, I guess. I was tired of this. I wanted to be left alone. I dreaded going over there. Them coming over to our place. I really hated what he’d make me do. I still didn’t know I could say no…or tell an adult.
One day, an adult caught us in the shed. Screaming. Shouting. I remember being spanked. I remember my father saying horrible things to me and my mother. And I remember falling asleep. Waking up on the couch. Upset. Because I’d done something so horrible that it required my parents to punish me. I blocked most of that experience out. But I do remember. I remember waking up and thinking, “I hate my father.”
I don’t remember who moved first. Us or them. But I know it stopped. And I hated myself. And as I grew, and puberty began, I would hate myself more and more each day.