What a fabulously important chapter of our lives, sometimes I think about it and wonder - when will I ever be able to put it behind me - to the past where it belongs?
At the age of 13 my family (Father, Stepmother and her eldest son from her first marriage, and Little Sister and Little Brother and yours truly) was forced to auction off the childhood home and relocate to a rental home in the poorer area of town. My stepmother always told us children that my Father's excessive drinking proved a higher priority to him than the mortgage repayments; so it was his fault that we lost the foundation that explained our existence as a family. It was a tragedy for the young children to begrudgingly release all that we knew to the clutches of strangers. This hostile takeover none of us could truly accept, we never met the new inhabitants so they would remain faceless and ominious beasts but the fuzzy images would still haunt us regardless.
It's with unspoken awkwardness that we hold my Father's alcoholism accountable for losing the house. Things never could never be the same for them as parents nor for us as children. It made us all reassess what would could offer each other. What we learnt from this horrible loss was to pack up and move on if you made a mistake. We learnt nothing was safe and we tasted defeat very young. My father blamed himself and his drinking only got worse. Then my parents started fighting and then they never stopped.Everything got worse.
When huddled in my new bedroom I wondered whether this "faceless family" dared to eat in the same rooms as we did, I tortured myself with images of them shuffling within those sacred walls of my childhood kingdom. As adults we may wander unchallenged within these same walls; but only in recollection now, as we can only remember this environment of alternating love and trauma. Most rooms become incomplete in the sequence, missing doors and incorrect symmetry. Yet we venture there in our minds, forever searching to find feeling of who we are and what we thought we would be.
We are left to only second guess who sleeps in certain bedrooms now. Folding their linens into my candy pink wardrobe festooned with stickers and child graffiti which are now scrubbed clean with the indifference of someone that does not comprehend the personification of myself upon those shared walls.
Would the new children sleeping in our bedrooms, sense the heartbreak embedded into the carpets whilst resting their innocent faces upon the tear stained pillows. What were they doing now? What would they make of the window above my bed? Its frame bowed in the centre from where Stepbrother would clamber into my room from the yard outside, save waking our parents. Third room down to the left. If those walls would ever talk - would they speak of only happy memories contained within their creaminess?
Maybe it's only myself that cannot lay to rest it's sordid secret.
I was a victim of incest from the age of six through to the age of nine. Now, I am a survivior of incest. When I was child though, I was defenseless against him. He was twelve through fourteen. Three years of pain for everybody involved. I am the one in three children that has suffered from sexual abuse. But I am no statistic. My name is Heroinegirl and this is my story.
Predominantly poor, my parents will always struggle with the fact they will never own another house. I have given up trying to make things any different.
Maybe the past can only resolve itself when it remains in the past? It shouldn't be replicated, but I can only wildly assume this is how it should be.
Because in reality, life goes on regardless of your topography.
So much of my substance is linked to that house, the floorboards that we crawled upon, then toddled along the beams. We walked, skipped and lived through its welcoming embrace, only to leave it all behind along with the paradox that existed there - it was bittersweet.
More than a house, a home is a integrated history of complex feeling and associations. A tangle of household anecdotes and inside humour, cluttered with irrational emotion and personal epiphany.
But what a home it was. The hallowed hallways of my childhood have tapered with time, the pathways I could walk in inky darkness to get countless glasses of water are now dreamlike, best traced with your eyes gently closed. Each room holds cherished memories of family lore; punctuated with sentimental trinkets and precious things that initially meant nothing as infants, but as we learnt to name these ornamental memoirs as entirely our own - we committed them to us and in doing so they became us.
As we grew up we became inamoured with our own sticky fingerprints, drawn back to them like magnets we begin to covet "things" formulate our identity based on what we have, and what we don't. How early on we begin to grow.
The darkest places and forbidden grottos of the house became the darker parts of your pysche. The confined space under the house or the far reaches of a forbidden place; the distance only measured in heartbeats spent wondering how much longer you could withstand the spider web spreading it's stick goo across your face. As you crunched upon all fours to cram your curiousity into places that you knew you should not be, the air formed thick with the dust of the forgotten. I would play amoungst the upended kitchen drawers crammed with knick knacks , odds and ends, discarded treasure buried amoungst partially-broken and pairless items. The delicious loot would earn a place in these drawers of 'junk' until it had a definable place in the world again. My favorite pastime as an infant was to sort though the unloved wonders , as only I truly understood how that could feel. Twisted amoungst the feathers, broken silver chains and mysterious keys to places that I never knew, I could explore and elaborate upon thier existence, of what they used to be, before they were broken and rejected.
My first bedroom is a place of mixed emotion. I remember sugar days of dolls and games and rocking horse, or better still Christmas time when Nana would sleep on the trundle bed across from mine . I remember one time when I would cry softly into the night, the cool air laced with her sweet talcum scent, the only sound being her soft snores as she dozed into the twilight, oblivious to the messages I longed to tell her. I would wonder at her curlers tucked deftly within her oddish hairnet as she slept .When I could confirm she was fast asleep I would hop out of my bed in the silvery moonlight, daring myself to fish out her false teeth , magnifed to Monster Jaws in the water glass she kept beside her spectacles. I was a curious child.
Then I remember nights alone as that's when The Stepbrother would come to me. Clambering through the window his black silhouette cut strange shapes in the night, peeling back my nightie through the covers. How many times in certain situations, even now, I have been transported back to the land beyond the pink ruffles.
Dolls upon the duchess staring at me with pretty painted eyes, bound to their plastic smiles forever as he slithered on top of me , wandering his hands upon my innocent flesh.
Just pretend you're asleep for now. He will be gone soon.
Invisible borders of privacy dominated the home, for instance the parent's room complete with the impressive king size waterbed was a landscape of mystery and conjecture; always neat, the threadbare bed sheets of fading tea rose comforted me yet were imposing all the same. The Stepmother's french-perfume bottles lined up neatly on the teak dresser like forbidden jewels, twinkling with temptation. Whole sections of the home were forbidden by parental law to touch or enter unless invited ; the enchanted tower of my Stepmother's best crystal in the display cabinet that presided in the fancy living room. The Good Room, kept vacant entirely for 'show' was maintained in an awful state of glitter to remind the children constantly of the wealth that we would only admire in snatches - never good enough drink from those crystal flutes of prosperity, as part of everyday life.
Hiding spots I needed where at the back of the house. Past the Good Room. Past the light and frivolity of the household. I favoured the cupboard - of dark and dank - which housed the water tank, its hot copper tentacles from which The Stepmother would hang our school uniforms to dry whenever it was raining. I would hide here sometimes if my parents would leave me at home with him, which was often. Once they were gone, I would hear Stepbrother coming to find me to "play" with me. His games hurt and never were ones I chose to play. I tried to hide from him. I would be standing so still with the pipes burning into my skinny arms, yet dare not flinch or murmur as I can hear the soft muffle of his footsteps just outside now. In fear I would accidently sniffle from the dust or jostle my aching feet - then without fail the door would open and he would find me, drag me to the bed, laughing that laugh that echoes in nightmares. I don't always recall how it happened or what took place before it, it was so many times and the pain never changed. There are no clocks in this place of darkness, time stretched unlimited with pain and heartbreak. There was no language only heartbeat. Abuse is a nightmare landscape of twisted fate. It chooses you.
I could fly. I mean, not really. In reality , I was down on the bed with him, a place much, much worse. In my mind though I was free. I floated on top of the ceiling untouched, I wanted to explode through the windows of the bedroom in my mind. I did not understand why he was doing this to me . I did not dare to tell anyone our 'special secret'. It swelled inside me with delicious evil, in different shades of shame. I knew it was forbidden to discuss 'down there' or the things he was doing; what confused me no end was how it stung at the start but then gradually it could feel good. It felt strangely good? I did not want this, I wanted to be a child. But as I would realise what was happening as he roused me from my sleep, I went numb and then I floated away.
I must be a bad girl. He whispered this in my ear and I think I believed him. Even 'down there' started to look different to me. I wondered if he had broke me as I stared at 'down there' in the mirror.
It stung so much that sometimes I couldn't run for the bus to school because it hurt too much to rub my little legs together. Sometimes I would eat alone in the playground and just cry to myself because I was so tired and confused about what to do and whether I was to blame. The ages of seven and eight were very hard.
"Just be quiet about it as we don't want to get in trouble."
That's what was safe for me to do. My birth mother was long gone and Dad was drunk all the time. Everybody was worried about money and bills. Nobody asked what was wrong, so maybe it was not a big deal.
Besides, I don't want to get sent away to a children's jail.
That is what he told me would happen if I told anybody. This terrified me as a little girl. I would even put up with him and what he did to me , rather than leave Daddy. He was all I had to call my own.
He told me that he would tell my daddy that I liked it and that I asked for more. Lies daddy! All Lies! I hated it. Please believe me Daddy!
One day, it should stop. Just keep telling yourself that, even after the abuse is over. But it never , really and truly stops. You just handle things better or worse.
I can still remember the precise angle that you needed to lean into my cupboard to overhear my parents discuss family business, the real news of the day - as they squabble into the night, after the children are supposedly fast asleep. My room was right beside theirs so I wonder why they never heard him. I wish they had. I am angry Daddy did not know. I am angry nobody asked me. I am screaming inside and no one knows. This makes me ball my little fists and pummel into my pillow. I am so angry I am nearly not afraid to tell you now. But, I am still afraid of him.
You hand me my lunch for school and you don't notice the bruises on my arms? You don't notice how tired I am at the age of seven?
I am tired. Just ask me what is wrong.
Just care about me why don't you!
Many, many times I would want to run screaming into their bedroom and tell them what was happening in mine. I wanted to cry into the comfort of their chests , suckle my thumb and tell them everything and more. I wanted to be soothed, loved and protected and I never wanted to go back into that bedroom until he was gone. Yet now, he is on top of me and he is so strong, I can hear my parent's television as he held his hand over my mouth and he pushed deep into me. I could hear my parents , so close yet so far. I think they are laughing. I start to float to the ceiling instead as it was when he was inside me, that I knew I had no more places to hide.
The family home was expansive and set in brick, roman pillars along the front patio with creeping vines coving the sides. The house itself divided between the lush acre of tropical gardens and rolling hills creating the front and backyard. Separate lands of exploration. The acre of land was a lush paradise, I would spend hours upon hours in tattered play clothes, fingering the exquisite blossoms and playing nonsensical games with my siblings. Most times, I would play with my imaginary friends and escape far from the house and the horrors of the abuse. The stepbrother never ventured into the gardens, due to his age, so it was my Garden of Eden, it had everything I could ever dream of and more.
Reluctantly I return to the house on dusk at request of Stepmother before Dad arrived home. I always recalled the smell of stale beer on my Father's breath as he entered the 'Court' of the dining room entrance. His eyes world weary and wrinkled behind dusty glasses , his hair peppered with plaster flakes. We carried on with him, eager to be his cheerful minions, clambering onto his back as he piggybacked us into the bathroom to clean up before dinner. Laughter abounded in those precious moments of love - we hung onto every word that he spoke and celebrated every rough and tumble, as children we gleamed in his eyes and he shone in ours as our fabulous father. How much that can change as we realise they are only human. Dinnertime would be a feast of information and activity.
We would sit at the table amongst the chipped china and great conversation and delight in our dreams as he spoke of grander plans for us in the future and we would all try to believe in him, only because it felt nice to do so, even though we knew it could never be. Stepmother would smile and I would look at them and want to be them, they were our everything and the only people to please.
In those moments I would be one of them, for once a part of the family and I didnt miss my Mum so much, so it seemed silly to mention my night time terror.
He was across the table from me every dinnertime and I imagined he would lean over the roast beef and stab me viciously if I mentioned what he did to me. I was so scared of him. So I ate my vegetables to keep the stepmother happy ,I told my father about the great mark I got in English to keep him happy.
And I kept the secret to myself - to keep everyone happy.
It just had to be like that until I was sure that he would not kill me.
I was worried that no one would protect me from this . In my mind as a little girl, I already was being voilated and if my protectors could not even sense this.
What hope could I ever have at being safe? It was up to me.
Meanwhile The Stepbrother has been staring at me the whole time through dinner, probably counting down the moments until he can creep back into my bed and fiddle with my mind and everything else. I just know it. I want to blurt it out right now.
"Mummy and Daddy do you know he makes me suck his penis? "
I want to hear the cutlery clatter against the plates. I want them all to listen to me for once.
Not just themselves and thier own problems. I had problems too.
Instead, I stare back at him though the condiments, and we stare and stare and stare - willing each other to break and confess our sins. We are obsessed in our hateful stare out. Both parents try to get us to resume our dinner but it becomes a moment of unsuperseded tension. The yelling fades into the background as my eyes now sting with my stubborness we continue our childhood staredown - locked in a moment of terrible truth - that is unravelling in the formidable distance. Anyone could break at any moment. Yet forever the coward, he looks away first , throws back his chair and runs to the saftey of his room. Run, while you still can !
My father yells at him to return, but lucky for him he doesn't.
I smile to myself as I know the end is nigh and I have found his weakness. He has begun to fear me and this makes me happy. For once I am not so afraid.
My stepmother slaps my arm. It smarts with the suprise.
"I'll give you something to smile about missy" her spit lands on my cheek, she is so close.Through the sting and humilation , the familiar well of anger builds and rises like the red welt spreading on my skin but I swallow more pain and try to understand it for one more day.
I want to spit on her and tell her about her terrible son and how much I have hated them both. I want them dead. I want them to leave me alone.I want to run like he does , I want to be safe like he is.
Instead I just go to my room and record all of this is my diary, it's seams bursting with horror and confusion, I write all of my horrible thoughts and evil sins until my fingers cramp and my eyes are tired. I place the book under my mattress as my father comes in to kiss me goodnight.
"Sweet Dreams My Pretty-Pretty" He says with a whimsy of sadness. Does he know?
When I encircle my little arms around his neck, I become his precious pendant and I inhale his smell and safety for one more moment. Protect me daddy, I say to myself. He will be here soon. I know it. He will make me pay.
I know I want to tell him so much yet before I can do this he switches off the light.
The last thing I see is his smile for me , and as we plunge into shared darkness he never sees the tears that fall from my face because of it.