Today I share with you a short story written as poetic prose. This will be part of my book, Into The Light…a memoir.
The Nightly Ritual, An Unspoken Memory
I hear the crunch of tires on our gravel driveway. The sound terrifies me. It foretells the arrival of you, daddy, home from work and the local bar. I glance at my Mickey watch and it’s almost 3:00 am. I know that I have about 10 minutes before I know if you will come to my room to sexually abuse me or leave me alone tonight. I hold my breath as long as I can. I hear your footsteps on the stairs. With a sudden start, I catch my breath and wake from my dream, nightmare, memory that occurs most nights,
A memory of the nightly ritual of waiting for you (daddy) to come home from work and into my upstairs bedroom to abuse me. I am 9 or 10 years-old when this ritual begins. It begins when I move upstairs to my own bedroom. By now, I know that what you are doing is wrong, because I ask my friend, Debbie, if her daddy does it. She says, “No. That’s yucky.” I’m trapped. Stuck with nowhere to run and hide. I know this. I am his and he owns me. I focus on the fact there is a 50:50 chance you won’t come upstairs, but I can’t sleep until I know for sure. Thus the bedtime ritual begins.
Before this ritual begins, my 8-year-old brother and I share a room with bunk beds. Daddy sleeps next door.I must go to my daddy’s bed when he calls for me. If I don’t go, mom will get mad at me and take me to his bed and walk out. I’m trapped. Nobody can help me.
With my move to the upstairs bedroom, mom acts nice to me, now. She’s not taking Valium, I think. At least she is more alert and willing to listen to me about things. Of course the abuse is not one of the things we dare to talk about. Talk about… exploding bombs in the living room…very bloody, nasty… lethal. Anyway, my mind wanders off the subject.
She lets me pick out the wallpaper and curtains for redecorating. This room is large enough for a full sized bed and the windows face the front of the house and the driveway. I chose yellow and pink small flowers for my wallpaper and a pink chenille blanket with big fluffy pillows. (ASIDE- This may seem a diversion, but the love of my new room is key to the memory.)
Back to this memory. Each night I get ready for bed with clean pajamas, brush my teeth, clean any mess in my room, place all my dolls and stuffed animals where they belong, and kiss each one good night. I take my Teddy or my Lamby with me and usually Petie, my terrier dog, joins us in bed. Then, I stay awake in the dark, listening for car wheels on the gravel driveway that signal my father is home from work and the local bar. The time spent waiting is excruciating from 9:00 pm to 3:00 am Daddy comes home when the bar closes..This takes forever.
I lay there in the dark anticipating what will happen once my father arrives home.. That is 5 long hours that repeat every night he works or nights he goes to the local bar. My anxiety is extremely high all this time. I want to pace and move, but I might miss his arrival (car wheels on gravel) and not be able to pretend to be asleep. I loved my room during the day and early evening. It was my safe place, my sacred place until my father ruins it, ruins me. I am defiled. My room is defiled. I no longer want my own room. It’s not beautiful anymore. I am trapped. Nowhere is safe for me…nowhere.
Now, I am angry. Why does this happen to me? What right does he have to make me his hostage with his visits for sex? Why does mom let him do this? Does she even love me? I’m sure she knows why she let dad abuse me. I am so angry that I want to kill them both, but who wants to take care of me? I want to run away so many times. But, I’m too young to get a job. I am stuck here in this damn bedroom in this damn house. I can’t escape,. Damn him! Damn her too!
Suddenly I hear the gravel crunch and I know he’s home. Quickly, I put the covers around me snugly, close my eyes, slow my breathing, and feign sleep so that if he comes upstairs he might let me sleep. I pray to God, bargaining with Him and promising to give up my beloved room if He makes daddy stop. Please, God! I hear daddy’s footsteps on the stairs and know that God hasn’t stopped him. Now my daddy is waking me up and telling me how much he loves me as he begins to touch and fondle my body. I close my eyes tightly and pray that it will be over soon.”Oh God, I’ll be good,I promise. Let this end quickly.