We were the party girls. Everyone wanted to be a part of our circle and we never excluded. We were nice like that. We invited people into our VIP sections and let them feel the life we had, forever. It seemed to please them. I never trusted them but my mother always told me I was a snob. I fought that.
The first time it was Melissa. We had just moved from a shitty apartment to an even worse store front. We were 21. I thought it was cool, for a minute, but…I was a snob. I cried for a day and took 3 buses and a 7 mile walk to my father’s house to get away from it. I wanted to get gritty. I wanted to live. I wanted to be “normal” but no, I wasn’t made for that. Judge me. It’s ok. I deserve it. I left Melissa there.
She had no place to go. No parents with what mine had to lift her up and out, she had to stay there. My only suffering was that my white step-mother thought my shade and legitimacy as first and by a woman who wouldn’t hesitate to beat her ass a threat to her and her children and made me stay in the basement. I guess I grew over the years to be ok with that. Basement dweller I became.
That Monday, the phone rang and it was Melissa. She went to Bunkers, our favorite bar, with our landlord, but more importantly without me…and someone else came along. He hurt her. He beat her all night. He raped her all night. He stole her all night. He took away parts of my friend that will never come back. Can’t.
She needed a place to go so I called my dad to see if she could stay with us. My step mother said no. She didn’t want her kids to see my friends beaten and battered face and body. Funny, she never objected when her husband beat and battered mine.
I comforted Melissa as much as I could and made plans that day to get the hell out of that house so I could help. It took a week and by then, she didn’t need me.
Two months later, I got warnings about a rapist or two in the area where I worked one of my 3 jobs. They were particularly cruel. They raped. They beat. They stole ATM cards. The entire city was on alert. Even Melissa’s boyfriend was stopped, frisked, tasered because he matched the profile…black. That’s all it was back then.
Then one day, Debbie called me…two men abducted her at her apartment, took her in, disconnected the phones, removed her from her wheelchair—where she risked life and death trying to jump, breaking every bone in her body, having Osteogenisis imperfecta had she tried to move…and then raped her. They spent all night torturing her. When I close my eyes, I fight hearing Melissa and Debbie’s cries. I don’t want to know. I didn’t want to know. They left her with her life, but stole her ATM card and it is what got them caught for the multitude of rapes and thefts they committed on the women of this city that year. Bastards!.
I am very sensitive. I don’t have much tolerance. These people destroyed my friends. My two closest…in two months time. Destroyed. I threw myself into a few drinks, a couple drugs and a few other things. I spun myself out of feeling and not feeling, felt right. I didn’t want to come back. Just spun.
One day my grandmother, Mama, called me and rather than get the voicemail she got for years, I picked up the phone. I don’t know what she heard…but what she told me was , “Baby, come home. It’s time. Come home.” I knew she was right. I called my mother 10 minutes later to arrange for a plane ticket, called my boss and asked for a transfer for my job and within 3 weeks, I was in Louisiana.
It was so nice to be home, where so few had jobs and I was able to go to work and care for myself from jump. I was proud. I was my parent’s daughter. My shit was together. Within a few weeks my ex boyfriend….first boyfriend…first friend ever since birth was visiting from his post at Fort Hood and we were dating again. Everything fell into place.
I had taken an interest in genealogy and my family history so I made a point to visit all my grandparents and great grandparents regularly and thus, brought me into contact with family members I hadn’t seen in a long time, if ever. Two of my uncles took particular interest in hanging out with me. We went out. We played spades at my grandfather’s house and we drank a lot of liquor. Though my mother never grew up with her father, it gave me a weird sense of pride that people remarked how strong my resemblance and mannerisms were to his. I could even drink like him…just pour….I’m not falling down. Just like him. Except my grandfather was no saint.
To me, he was saintly. He held me on a pedestal. Treated me like an angel. I was special to him. I never knew he had 3 children by 3 women within weeks, one being my mother. I never knew he was an abuser who knocked out ALL his wife’s teeth. I never knew he was an incestuous pedophile who raped his own daughter to the point she took a shotgun to her own stomach and eventually came to live with my grandmother, who was no relation to her. Mama told me later in her life that my mother was the product of his rape. I never digested that. I don’t think my mother has too. She never dealt with him. Didn’t meet him until she was 16 and I was 2 weeks old. He may not have been a father to her, but my whole life he was my granddaddy….he protected me against the Raisin Bran his wife insisted I eat, taught me how to play spades and talk shit, gave me $5 every time he saw me and made sure I knew I was special and that everyone else should know it too. I never knew.
One night, my uncles, my buddies came over to my grandmother’s house to hang out. We drank, played cards, enjoyed the hell out of ourselves talking bout family and life. My uncle Johnny left after a few hours. I had been working on a book and showed my other uncle my work. He seemed to adore me, like much of the family. We were two years apart…and sometimes I felt resentment in him but I pushed it aside. I took away his spot as baby to the family on that side but still, he adored me. So,he read it and told me I was a genius, a great writer. I felt so good. Then I said something about wishing my grandfather could be that proud of me too. My uncle offered to drive me the 25 miles to Boyce from Alexandria to show my grandfather my manuscript. Since we don’t really live on hours in my family, it made sense. He even offered to let me drive. Me…who has never had a driver’s license. He said he would teach me.
We got into the car, me in the driver’s seat and I put the key in the ignition. The car lurched forward with my first attempt and then I got the hang of it quickly, and remembering all those cars over the past 20 years that ended up in Mama’s ( my grandmother’s) ditch requiring the entire street of men to pull out, I was careful. I was perfect. I was buzzed, but I was perfect. I drove, hit every exit, every turn correctly and drove that last 20 miles on the highway with no assistance.
I knew the way there. I’ve been going to my grandfather’s house since the day I was born, but my uncle urged me to exit and pull off the street. We were two exits away still and I asked him why. Before I could finish my question, my head was buried into a seat and I heard his pants zipper. All I could see was a church out the window. I stared and I wept…and I damned every God that could be.
Damnit, I MOVED from this!! I’m home! Nothing bad is supposed to happen to me at home. Family? THIS?? TO me? I’m the baby! I am the family baby! The first grandchild, the first everything. Why me? Why is he doing this?
I don’t know what I said or did or if it was vocal or physical but he recoiled, frightened at me at one point and jumped up. I may never remember what happened….but I wanted to kill him. Back then, I imagine myself telling him exactly how.
He drove us off. I clutched my clothes close to my body. He went to a convenient store and dared to turn back and ask if I wanted anything. I said, potato chips and a grape soda…two things that either put me into labored and frenzied sleep or make me throw up to this day…but I asked for them. Comfort.
That night, I slept on the sofa in his girlfriend’s house until I couldn’t anymore. At 4am, I started out on foot to my grandfather’s house. Yes, I learned later who he was at one time, but then, he was my grandfather and I needed him. Weep pause I walked into his house and he was wide awake, sitting in the chair he sat in every day since he had his legs removed from complications of diabetes, staring at the door. “Hey Bae,” he said. I never spoke. “Lawd, what done happened to my baby” was his next sentence. I don’t know what I looked like…but it was enough for a grandfather who only saw me yearly since birth to know something wasn’t right.
My step-grandmother cooked chicken, squirrel and some hocks and beans which was a big deal for it to not have been a Sunday so I know—despite what she has said for the past 20 years—she knew too. All my aunts and uncles, 12 in total, came over. I didn’t speak. He eventually showed and immediately my aunts who still claim to know nothing, jumped up to take me to Mama’s (maternal mother) house. I went home and I slept…for days.
When I woke up, my throat was so tight. I needed to get it out but to who, how. First mistake, I called my father. He said, “Yeah, that happens to girls, just sleep.” I called my mother. She refused to believe it. I called another friend, confused about what happened and wondered if I was in an incestuous relationship with him on purpose. Her reply, “Get the FUCK out of Louisiana now!” So I called a long time family friend…my mother’s sister’s best friend AND my father’s sister’s best friend and she came to pick me up. She was someone I could trust. She’s known me since I was born, lived next door to my cousins their whole lives.
Now the problem was that although I’ve known her my whole life and she is a family friend, she was also seeing a family member. The uncle who raped me. That and she had a troubled past of her own.
BUT I trusted her. We had been in weddings together. Visited my family in 3 states together. Her grandmother would allow NO OTHER CHILD on the street, including my cousins who lived right next door and checked on her regularly, into her home but me when I visited from Minnesota and would get up at 83 years old and make me pancakes because a birthmark on my arm, she linked to that favoring. She would set me at her kitchen counter and tell me to speak because she thought I spoke so proper and then she would cook for me which is the ultimate is Southern love. Mrs. **** hated her own granddaughter but loved me. I was getting so used to that. Being that kind of special. I didn’t realize it carried resentments.
I went to her. I cried. I told her what happened. Not realizing it wasn’t just my revelation of rape, but a revelation about the man she was sleeping with. She had enough reasons to hate me, now she had more. She brought out a bottle of tequila and told me to stop crying. But, she was so nurturing for awhile. She loved me for 3 minutes through it. I felt that. My head started to hurt from crying so hard and she brought me 2 aspirin. I took them and within 10 minutes I couldn’t stand and walk to the bathroom by myself. I needed her help…she helped me and then helped me to bed. I woke up with her in between my legs in the morning. No permission given, but the two ativans she had given me in place of aspirin.
I don’t think I screamed or yelled. I know I jumped up and grabbed the clothes I could find, be they mine or not. I sat on the floor by the closet for 10 minutes trying to figure out what the hell was happening because I was lost. Then I screamed. Mrs. **** was still very much alive and in the next room and she called out, “Baby, you ok?” OH GEEZUS GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!
I refused all conversation from HER and demanded she take me to Mama’s. I never digested what happened that whole week or the fact that it was less than a week. I got home and cried for two days before I called Melissa, Debbie and another friend. I didn’t have to finish my sentences. Within 3 days, they arrived with a truck ready to bring me back to Minnesota. While they were in Louisiana, HER rapist showed up at the house to get cussed out by them, and I stopped them. Even deserved, I’m not a fan of hurting people. She begged me to talk to her. Thinking it was for apology, I went outside to talk to her and she begged and pleaded to have a relationship with me, based on her rape of me. Her rape, within days of her boyfriend’s rape. I should have killed her. I should have killed them both but that’s not in me, so I told her she needed help and walked back to Mama’s house. I told her to never think of me or that again and if she did, I hope she choked and died on that thought. She wept. I actually felt bad. Known her my whole life. I still feel bad. I shouldn’t, but I still feel bad for wishing death on them.
I moved back to Minnesota and I thrived. I married. I had kids. I lived. That uncle denied it all until 10 years ago when he finally admitted to another uncle who liked to kill him and told him what happened. He’s in prison now. Drugs and sexual assault. My aunts—on both sides are still BFFs with the female rapist. She has MS and sometimes falls in the middle of the streets of New Orleans. I try not to pray she gets run over when she falls next time. I try very hard. And Me? I jump when I hear certain noises. I use an imaginary break on the passenger side in cars. I never let my children’s aunts, uncles or family friends babysit them. I think of it all daily. I numb. I drink too much. My relationships take a lot more than others. But I’m a mom, and I’m good at it. I’m a writer and I’m good at it. I’m a woman and I’m good at it. I’m still living and I’m good at it. So….