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I sneak up on him, crawling across the nappy green carpet in my scratchy nightgown. Sometimes staples stick up from hidden ridges and prick my knees. The carpet is smooshed like fields after a storm, with mysterious, stitched rivers dividing the landmasses. I crawl to the end of the dull and sticky table. Two owls with glassy, yellow eyes sit on their perch, holding up the dingy lampshade. A glass ashtray reflects golden light. I watch his profile as he smiles and talks with his brother—my new uncle—who sits among empty beer cans on the other side of the dark living room. They’re talking with words I don’t quite understand yet. He laughs, so I laugh. I like his dimples. I like everything about this strange character. My sisters and I are learning how to spell his last name. He wants us.
He hears me laugh and slowly turns an annoyed, oily face in my direction. My hair is still wet from the tub. He puffs a large cloud of cigarette smoke into my shiny face. They laugh. I cough and laugh, too. They keep talking. It means go away.
Sometimes I get sick when I walk by him in the house. I don’t know what I say but it is always wrong. Everything I touch or do is wrong. I need to be more like my sisters. I hide in my bedroom and shake, crying as I play with Miss Piggy’s string of pearls. Mom hugs me; she looks far away because she doesn’t know what I’m doing. I tell her I don’t want to have babies; I don’t want her to die; or I want to die. I won’t let her out of my sight. I’m terrified when she’s away. Sometimes she takes me with her to clean the urinals at the Rectory. But most of the time I can’t go.
He chases me with boots and fists and belts. My feet sweat and slip around in my jelly shoes when I make my dashes for the nearest door, even though I am never fast enough. He is huge and takes up all space. After awhile I don’t feel so afraid anymore. I propel across rooms like a boomerang—a strange mixture of euphoric flight and humiliation—and crash into the prickly walls or squeaky dressers. Upstairs my sisters sit on their ruffled sheets, waiting for my screams to stop. I didn’t know I was screaming.
It’s best to get it out of the way early in the day. One swift black boot coming at my head means blackout, and I can wake up and be left alone for the whole day to play with my Hug-a-Bunch and Barbie dolls. He locks himself away in the garage, chain-smoking Doral’s and sweating over an engine to Deep Purple. I try to offer him a coke or Kool-Aid, barefoot in the driveway. I think my sisters and me should clean the house to surprise mom when she gets home. I want to shine for her.
I don’t tell my mother about what happened. I don’t tell her my new Daddy Scott touches me. I don’t tell her how my stepbrother and stepsister are forced to sit in a tire swing while Daddy Scott videotapes, his pleasant voice telling them to touch each other. They’re wearing white tank tops over their tan skin. They look scared, yet somewhat somehow blank, as if they were dead. They do as he says. I’m watching. DO I join in? Am I doing it to? I don’t remember. Then we’re in the water and it’s warm and I am nothing but this empty vessel filling. I don’t know for sure if this is wrong, but the looks on their faces—dead children. I’ll never stop seeing their eyes. Their mouths turned down, silent.
It happened during afternoons when the yellow light came through my mother’s curtains like a stain on the bed. Faceless entrance, in on something, special–special just for that moment, until the hitting would start. I am becoming nothing. I have no Continue reading