Died That Night
I was five years old the first time my own father scared me away. I remember that he closed the door to what would be the room I shared with my sister and sat on her twin bed facing the window. I climbed onto my father's lap and looked out at the backyard, marveling at the pool that was now being filled. Then I shifted uncomfortably as I suddenly felt my dad move me to an unfamiliar position on his lap. When I would have tried to get off, he held me on and told me we were playing a game.
He called it the minute game and depending on his mood it could last much longer. I'd never heard of it before but I would grow familiar over time, so much that I could predict when he'd want to play. Anytime I saw him come home with a new toy or present, anytime my mother said she was going out with my older sister-I knew when he was going to want to play.
In the beginning it was all about sitting me on his lap in just the right way, then it became about the way he touched me, or how he wanted me to touch him. My father was an abusive drunk, there's not a doubt in my mind now but that little girl had no idea about it. Still-I loved my daddy. I love him so much that anytime he fought with my rebellious teenage sister, I jumped to his defense. I couldn't let anyone smear his name or try to hurt him, maybe because if I believed he was good then I could pretend he wasn't hurting me.
I do remember when he promised he would stop. I was 8 years old and when I saw it was him picking me up from school I knew what he would suggest when we got home. I walked through the front door and saw another Barbie-beautiful and very recently in stores. As usual I smiled, thanked him but didn't really approach the gift. I knew the moment I touched it, he would ask me to play. When he eventually said the words, I asked to go to the restroom first. Still, something in me snapped that day. After a long time in the restroom, he came looking for me and knocked on the door and that's when I began to sob. I sobbed frantically, and I begged. I told him I didn't want to do it. I told him that I couldn't, I begged him- "Please no. I can't. I don't want to." I held on to the door knob, terrified and eventually he knocked softly, asking me to come out and promising he'd never touched me again.
We made a pact: He would never touch me like that again, we would never have to play the minute game again, as long as I never told anyone that we played.
And I trusted him. I trusted that it would all be okay as long as I kept my word- after all- he was my daddy.
But things are never that simple. I was 9. It was the next Christmas and I've learned to recognize this day as the day I died. My parents had a party on Christmas Eve and of course I was sent to bed early. I remember that at that point, I had my own room upstairs and I hid under the covers when I suddenly heard someone coming up the stairs. He'd had too much to drink, I noticed it when at the party, for the first time in months, his kisses had made me uncomfortable. I pretended to sleep and hoped he would feel pity on his little girl-but he didn't. I cringed as I thought about how he would wake me and make me touch him but he didn't.
He didn't bother to wake me-he just climbed on top of me and raped me. He'd never done that before and so at first I wasn't sure what he was doing until I felt the pain I'll never erase. He held his hand over my mouth as he did it because of course, I was screaming in pain. Eventually he passed out next to me, but not before he'd murmured several times, "Come on, I know you like it."
My father started disappearing often in the months to follow, until he spent more time out of our home than in it. By the time I was 12, I'd only see him around Christmas but he never did touch me again. Eventually, the truth did come out by accident when I tried to kill myself. My sister was the one who got it out of me by disclosing that she'd been his victim too. My mother kicked him out and then we uncovered a web of lies. My father, who shared the same name as my oldest brother, had taken his financial aid check and cashed it before leaving the country. He'd emptied our bank accounts and we lost our house. Over the years that followed, I pretended that nothing was wrong and instead played the role of overly optimistic teen. I looked on the bright side, I never cried and nothing was ever too big a problem.
During this time, my father did call us, usually trying to get us to see him, sometimes pretending he was dying, other times pretending he was one of his brothers and telling us he was dead. When I graduated high school, my foolish heart told me to invite him and I did. He pretended that my grandmother had passed away in order to get out of it. I literally lived for two years thinking she was dead until he finally had to admit it when we said we were going to visit his hometown. One time he called my work while I was at college and left a message with the office that he had died. We thought he was dead for two months before we figured it out because of legal issues.
During college, I dealt with the issues of my abuse by self-harming and yes, I have attempted suicide. I've never had a healthy relationship-my two ex-boyfriends are both emotionally and physically abusive, the last one I was with for 8 years. I'm more shy than is considered healthy, and I deal with intimacy and abandonment issues. I don't drink often because I don't know how to drink in moderation. I always end up passed out drunk.
It's impossible to explain how much my father's abuse has affected me. I was going to be a completely different person-I was outgoing, I was outspoken, and everyone always told my mother I was the type of fearless person you'd read a book about someday, or you'd watch on TV. The day he raped me I died. I'm not kidding-that little girl died and in her place was the type of person who can't give a speech without throwing up. I can't even have someone in the room when I wake up or I have a panic attack. I've grown used to the idea that I'm poisonous-I poison the things around me. When my father raped me, he poisoned me and I seem to have a talent for self-sabotaging. That's what my therapist calls it-she says I turn away the things that scare me, the good things I believe I don't deserve.
I only just started therapy-21 years after it happened and I'm beginning to understand so much about myself. I don't have the answers yet but my therapist is easy to talk to and she's helped me to view the patterns I've created for myself. She even helped me to finally leave my ex.
I still wake up most days, thinking I'm dying, feeling like I'm just dying very slowly and living the actual agony of it but I also wake up with good days. It took me 21 years to move on to whatever stage of it I'm in... recovery? I've come to accept that I may spend my entire life recovering, it's not something I can escape and no, nothing will ever undo it. But if I can't save 9-year-old Annie, I can at least try to create a person in the future that young Annie doesn't mind turning into.
I guess I'll update when I can.