My brother Scott and I were playing in the water in a wading pool naked. My Dad got very angry and at my mother’s urging beat me with a metal hamburger spatula until I was bleeding. I was wet and naked. This is my first memory of my life it was 1966.
I stepped into my first prison cell in the summer of 1967 in Bayard, Florida. I was 5 years old. I did not know I was entering a prison cell; it looked liked my home, because it was my home but it wasn’t. The creature that birthed my brother and I had started beating us regularly that year.
It’s ironic in that this was the only year I ever lived in a brick home, or a house in my entire life. We lived in a tan colored brick home on a residential street with neighbors and sidewalks and cars and families.
My family consisted of my Dad, my mother, and my younger brother Scott and I. My Dad drove the green GMC pickup and worked days.
I loved softball, throwing the ball into the air and catching it and I loved dinosaurs, especially the T-Rex. I believed that if I ate the grass from the lawn, which I thought was spinach, that I would grow super strong like Popeye in the cartoon. No matter how much grass I ate I never did get strong. I discovered at this young age that cartoons lie. I desperately needed to be strong. I believed that if I could find a way to get strong that I could fight the monster. I knew monsters were real because I lived with the monster.
Our days normally went like this. Dad would go to work in the morning, a moment my brother and I dreaded every day. My mother would start her screaming the minute the truck was gone. Scott and I were to remain out of sight and out of mind the entire day. Then the TV would be turned on and the shows would start. I hated those shows, what I now know was soap operas. If the show was bad that day and it upset the sow then we would get beaten. She would scream for us to come in the living room I hate that fucking screaming, I hate the sound of her fucking voice. I fucking hate the sound of her fucking voice. She would scream all sorts of hate and lies into our faces and then get that grin of hers and tell us that she was going to beat our Asses. This was her favorite part, telling us we deserved our beatings, it made her day. She would smile and laugh. She then ordered us to go outside and pick a switch from the bushes or the Rose bush for her to use to beat us. So whimpering like puppies, Scott and I would go out and find a switch, break it off, clean it and take it to her. She would then tell us to take off our clothes and she would beat us. She would laugh and beat us. Our screaming didn’t matter to her but if we dared try to cover our legs or Asses with our hands we got extra and she would tell us every time we did it. “Move your hands you get extra!” Do you know how hard it is, to not protect yourself, to resist that innate desire that makes you try to protect yourself with your hands? She would laugh during these beatings. She would laugh.
Finally she would tire and leave us with our tears, welts and blood. The sight of my own blood on my beaten legs was quite the shock. I got used to seeing my blood. Worn out she would either go back into the living room to the TV or she would go into their bedroom and nap.
I could not understand what we did to deserve this. I could not understand why this happened to us. I couldn’t understand anything other than I knew a T-Rex could rip its enemies apart with its teeth. T-Rex didn’t get their Asses beat. I didn’t think T-Rex’s cried either.
After the beatings it was up to us to get dressed and care for ourselves. I did the best I could for Scott and I. I wished I could beat her with that switch but she kept it with her in case we needed more during the day. Normally Scott and I would just hide in our bedroom until it was time to get ready for Dad to get home. Then she would yell at us to come in the living room and tell us to our face that if we said anything to our Dad she would kill us the very next day. Kill us. Kill us! That I understood because the dinosaurs killed. So we never said anything, but my eyes did, my body did, to no avail. When Dad would get home, the second he came in the door, she would tell him lies about how horrible we had been and how we ruined her day. Sometimes he would spank me again to her delight. I couldn’t believe he believed her lies! I would look at him and I would see his eyes and I knew that no one was going to help us, no one would save us. No one was going to help me. I didn’t know it at the time but another thing was happening to me, I was becoming the victim of a terrible black despair. I tired to be a good kid. I tired to make him proud. I tired once to talk to him, like a big boy all grown up, about dinosaurs and he just looked at me like I was stupid and I recognized it. I saw it in his eyes! So I never did it again. One weekend he promised he would play catch with me in the front yard with the softball but the fucking bitch told him just how awful us kids were that day and he told me he wouldn’t play catch with me as my punishment. I understood despair and disappointment very well. I also understood the darkness that lives inside our home.
In 1968 we were living in a trailer and my mother ordered me to go out and water the dogs for the night. I remember it was muddy from the rains and I was walking through the mud along the fences separating the Greyhounds. As I was walking towards the water pails my mother came up behind me and hit me in the face with the open side of a metal pressure cooker pot. I still can see it to this day that gray metal coming around like a baseball bat swing. I was knocked unconscious, my forehead split wide open and left there in the mud until my Dad came home later that night and found me. I regained consciousness in the ER with the doctors strapping me down to the gurney to stitch my head closed. I remember screaming because I couldn’t see with the blood in my eyes and then everything went dark. We didn’t know it at the time, but that night would be the last time I could see out of my left eye.
In 1970 we lived in Bonita Springs, Florida in a trailer park. It was a warm pleasant day when I stepped into my second prison cell. A prison cell that would define the rest of my life and I have never been able to escape from. A prison cell that I’m trapped in today right now as you read this.
I remember sitting in class and being called to the school office and upon arriving at the office finding my Dad was there to get me out of school, just me, not Scott. My Dad drives us to a scenic spot over looking the ocean near a bridge with people fishing. I remember to this day looking through the trees and seeing the ocean in the distance. It was a beautiful day. My Dad starts to shake violently and sob, and yells, “She’s cheating on me.” I stood up in the truck seat beside him, I’m crying now as well I was terrified, and tried to put my arms around him but he shrugged me off. So I stood beside my Father and watched him sob uncontrollably and felt helpless and small. At that moment I understand everything I had seen at home, her and strange men coming to the trailer, men visiting while Dad was gone. Her telling Scott and I, “get the fuck out of the house!”
I don’t know how but I understood what cheating was but I knew she was cheating on my Dad. I understood it! I hated her more than ever and wished she were dead. And through the trees you could see the ocean and it was a beautiful day.