We live in Michigan now. We moved here in June. Right after school let out for the summer. We sold our farm. And basically everything. Even the chickens.
We are renting a house. Right in town. In our new town. It’s big and ugly and shaped like a barn. The kitchen has dreadful, green countertops and cheap looking, rusty orange colored Berber carpeting. The basement is even worse. The carpet down there is gold. And shaggy. And it absolutely reeks of cat pee. I don’t like the house. I don’t like the way it feels. Something is wrong. It is dark. And sinister. I think that is why my dad is angry all the time. More than before. Ever since we got here, he is never happy. About anything. And he scares me more than ever. I try to stay out of his way.
I spend a lot of time upstairs. In my room. By myself. I think about the farm. A lot. I miss the trees. And the pond. And riding my bike down the road to the creek. I miss my friends, too.
But… I am trying to be happy. I have made two new friends. They are the girls who live next door. They are younger than me, but they are nice. We like to play Barbie dolls.
They are in the basement with me now. Playing. They don’t seem to mind the smell. At least, if they do, they don’t say it.
I head up the stairs. Toward the kitchen. To get us something to drink. I am going to make Kool-Aid. The purple kind. I open the cupboard, pull out the Kool-Aid packet, and take down the sugar. I find the pitcher and mix the packet with water. I’m going to add lots of sugar. So, it’s extra sweet. Just the way I like it!
My little brother comes through the door. He is 11. He is wearing shorts and a blue, mesh t-shirt. His dirty, white socks are pulled up to his knees. Their grayish color matches his grubby tennis shoes.
My dad is here. In the kitchen now. Even if I couldn’t see him, I would know he is here because the air got heavy. When I breathe in, my lungs fill with clouds. Mean, black clouds. Clouds that shoot lightening down my throat and stop my heart. And, like it always does when something bad is about to happen, everything starts swirling. Terrible, terrible swirling.
My little brother was late for his paper route today. That is not acceptable. And my dad is very, very mad.
He yells. In his yucky, scary voice. The voice that makes me feel sick inside. The voice that punctures my bladder and turns my bones to dust. Swirling. His scary voice has fists now. And they punch my little brother. Hard, mean swings that make a horrible sound when they hit his flesh. I watch them land. On his shoulders. On his arms. On his back. My brother is on the floor. In the fetal position. His hands over his head. He is screaming. And crying. But my dad is still pounding. My mom is here now. Where did she come from? Was she there all along? Swirling. It’s all still swirling. She tries to push my dad off my brother. She is screaming, too. “Stop! Please, stop! Leave him alone! Stop hitting him!” She is fighting now. Hitting my dad with her hands. He grabs her. By the shoulders. And slams her against the wall. The picture on the wall falls. Smash. He wraps his big, beefy fingers around her throat. Choking. He is choking her. He slams her head against the wall. My mom tries to push his hands away. Blood. On her lip. Swirling. My little brother is still on the floor. Curled up. He looks so small. And broken. A little caterpillar. Smoosh.
I am there. In the kitchen. Watching. Frozen. The fear. When it’s inside. It won’t let go. It holds me. So tight. So hard. So strong. I look at the counter. The Kool-Aid is there. Unfinished. Like a jolt. I remember. The neighbor girls in the basement. PANIC! Can they hear this?!?! Please, God! Please! Swirling. So much swirling.
I run. Out of the kitchen. Frantically. Down the basement stairs. They are both there. Standing in the middle of the carpet. Confused. Unsure. Quickly, I tell them, “You need to go home. Now.” I grab them both by the arm. And pull them forward. Toward the stairs. I walk in front. Ahead. As fast as I can. At the top of the stairs, I open the back door. Then I move my body. Off to the side. Strategically. I block the entry to the kitchen. I say, “Go home.” I shut the door behind them. I don’t look back.
I don’t know what is happening in the kitchen now. There is only the swirling. Inside my body. In my head. In my heart. All around.
I tiptoe down the stairs. Back into the basement. Dizzy. And scared. Still, so scared. I don’t know what to do. So, I hide. Behind the sofa. I lie on the floor. Down low. As best as I can. I wedge myself. Up against it. And let it hold me. Until the swirling stops.
When the swirling goes away, I start to cry. I try to be quiet. Like a caterpillar. Like my little brother. I wrap myself up. In my arms. I sob and sob. I muffle the sounds. I push my face, and my tears, into the gold, piss-smelling, shag carpet.
I don’t like this house. It’s dark. And sinister.
And there is too much swirling.
—Colleen, Child Abuse Survivor
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September 20, 2018