First, there was food. Or rather the lack of food. As I had mentioned, my father expected us to follow a macrobiotic diet. Brown rice, vegetables. Plus, admonitions to eat your drinks and drink your food. One hundred chews of each bite. No liquids at meals or for a time afterward.
And fasts. My father was a huge proponent of fasting. Nothing but water, sometimes for multiple days.
This is one time I actually got lucky. When I was seven my father had run out of juice in the house. He told me to drink water, instead. I got rebellious and stubborn. I didn’t drink. For 2 or 3 days. Finally, he became concerned I would get dangerously dehydrated. So, he took me to the local 7-11 and got me an enormous slushie.
For that day forward, I would not drink water, no matter what. Therefore, my father left grape juice for me to use instead, during fasts. That juice tasted more wonderful than anything you can imagine.
It is hard to know, in some cases, whether They were too busy getting high to think about us, or whether they were simply sadistic. There would be separate food for my sister and me. Rancid brown rice. Over ripe fruit. Rotting vegetables. Anything. I think, that they felt they could get away with.
When there was simply no food, I would scoop snow from outside and pour maple syrup over it, telling my sister and Moses (the other child) that it was ice cream. Other times we would eat frozen orange juice concentrate out of the container. It was sticky, and very sweet. We ate it with a spoon, on the sly. My heart raced every time. I didn’t know what would happen if they caught us. I knew, however, that it would be something awful.
This alone was enough to give me serious food issues. My father added to the confusion by bringing food, especially Chinese take-out, home when he had been gone. He told me to eat my desert first because life is to be savored. So, I would eat and eat. Perhaps trying to store it up in my stomach for the inevitable drought to come.
He was my savior. That food was a tangible expression of love. I never allowed myself to think that all the deprivation was on his command.
Perhaps it seems strange that I did not question all of
this. Why I didn’t try to get help. Why I didn’t tell someone.
We were completely isolated. We didn’t go to school. We didn’t see people of any kind, other than Them and, sometimes, families having a baby. It may as well have been a cult.
Next, were things that violated my mind and my body.
My father taught me to do guided relaxation, tensing and releasing each muscle group in succession. He also coached me to Astral project. To imagine myself somewhere far away. To leave my body and fly to there. He would have me sit in one position, either cross-legged or on my knees. To would coach me to go within. To ignore the discomfort. I would find a place filled with lights within me and float along with them.
That, along with the lessons on how to do sex acts, certainly served me well. I spent most of my life blaming myself for the levels of depravity to which They sunk. I was sure my father knew nothing. I didn’t even wonder if it was a coincidence that they demanded or required skills he had created.
Still, it seemed he was gone more than he was there. When he was gone it was a whole different world. They loved to get high, drink, take drugs, and experiment with all things sexual. Between parties and overly sexual activities they enjoyed small tortures. A soapy hot enema. Or, sometimes, as a douche. They would scream and hit. Knowing we would never tell.
At the parties I would bring a joint around the room or go fetch drinks. They thought it was funny to blow smoke in my face. I would try to hold my breath. That didn’t go over very well. Once, one of the women got tired of me holding my breath. She forced me onto the bed and spread my legs. She ran her tongue over what she found; then blew smoke into me. “one hole is good as another” she fairly crowed.
Sometimes, they would bake pot brownies. They didn’t taste very good, being filled with crumbled leaves and the occasional seed. But they were sweet. They were food. They didn’t have to tell me twice.
I have this picture in my mind. A picture of me, kneeling at the side of the enormous waterbed. Watching the water undulate as they coupled in every combination you can imagine. That picture allowed me to survive. To pretend that I was merely an observer.
The truth is far more complex and far more depraved.
It began with me on that side of the bed. Watching. But soon I was enlisted to be a part of their party games. I would sit on the bed, in the middle of the tangle of bodies. A touch here, a touch there. They especially thought it was fun to make me aroused, with angry shots of electricity that made me need to pee. That feeling always made me cry. I soon learned not to give them the satisfaction, however.
It was a slow, long road to my capitulation. To get to the point where I believed I was a black and ugly as they were. To the point where I would not just watch, would not just do as ordered. A point where I would initiate sexual activities. I have been assured that I had no choice. That, in my mind at the very least, I was doing what I had to in order to survive. To protect my sister and Moses.
It wasn’t a pretty road. I witnessed Buffalo raping his wife. Heard him say time and again that soon I would be big enough and that would be me. They degraded me. Touched me and made me touch them. I don’t know which was worse, the men, or the women.
It was as if, with no contact with others, stuck there is our own bubble of a world, they lost their moorings. Every indignity, every shameful action, emboldened them more.
I had only two choices, live, or die. Accede to their desires or fight back. I supposed it was inevitable that, sooner or
later, Buffalo would rape me.
The memory is fuzzy, feelings more than thoughts or visions. I was face down on the waterbed, his weight focused in his hand on my back. It hurt. Of course. But it also made it very clear that he could, and would, do anything he like.
I decided then that I would take control. If I initiated sex acts, I would be the one with the power. I would be safe. I could guide the game, keep me safe and the other children, too.
I began to push myself. To force my body toward pain. To take joy in hurting and shaming myself. I hated me as much as I hated them. I deserved to suffer. I wanted to suffer.
All of this was hidden, behind that frozen memory, until I was well into my 40’s. Because I couldn’t afford to know I had been that person.
I was already suffering from severe depression. I spent years fascinated with death. Longing for the release. But I couldn’t do that, either. I knew I had to be there. There for my sister. There for my father.
So, I did what I had been taught. How often did I abandon my body, once I had
approached them sexually? Hoping against
hope that, somehow, I would be freed. I
feared them far more than I feared death.
I couldn’t imagine ever leaving that house. Going back to my mother was out. Because my father needed me. Loved me. And because she frightened me. Around her I feared this deep, dark blackness. Something so horrid I couldn’t even imagine it. Something far worse than death.