Anger and Shame

The shame that I felt over the things I did, the things that were done to me, morphed into anger. But not anger at my father, or even my mother. There was anger at Them. But mostly, it turned into anger against me. There was this violent feeling that I was desperate to alleviate. I felt darker than a black hole.
While I was there, I expressed that rage by forcing myself to approach them. I purposely encouraged sexual activity as a preemptive move. But, I think, that meant that there were times there was sexual activity when there might not have been, if I hadn’t teased, touched, and generally initiated it.
My therapist insists there is no way I child can be held responsible. And I understand that. The fact that I physically touched them. That I teased and aroused them should not have mattered. Even if I did all that, they should not have responded. Most adults would have pushed me away. Put up limits.
Except that I knew they would respond. They started it. They showed me their buttons. Fairly demanded that I push them.
It was what my father wanted me to do. No question. He taught me the skills I used to seduce them. He taught that sex was this wonderful, wholesome thing. For children and adults. For every- and any-one.
There was no question in that little Me’s mind. I was the problem. So, I kept trying and trying. Not only to be safe. Not only preemptively. I wanted—I needed—to master this. Why couldn’t I be the person he wanted me to be? What was wrong with me that these things made me want to die. Made me want to punish myself. Made me run away into that swirling colored spot way deep in my mind.
There was anger. And fear. Focused on my father. I would never have admitted it. Would ever even had dared think it.
I didn’t let myself remember the violence from when I was very small. But whether it was the anger in him or the anger in me, every so often that fear reared its head.
One day, in Shirley, my father decided we were going on a family outing. For reasons lost to the vagaries of time I did not want to go. At some point I ended up under his desk. He was yelling, I was screaming.
He stood there in the doorway, sternly demanding that I put on my shoes and get in the car. Under the desk, I sat holding my breath. I started to feel lightheaded, and no less angry, or scared. To defy my father meant defying his perfection. A belief I had to believe.
I sucked in a deep lungful of air and scooted out from under the desk. Before he could move or react, I was out the door and down the stairs. I ran out the front door. The tiny rocks biting at my feet. I could hear him behind me. My heart was throbbing in my ears. I reached the barn. And impromptu haven. I found myself up in the hayloft, looking down from the open doorway to the gravel filled area below.
Then I heard him coming. Up the ladder. For the briefest of moments, I hated him. Within that moment I felt my full fear of him, as well. The certain knowledge that I was not safe. I simply did not know what he would do should he catch me. I was unwilling to capitulate. So, I stood in that doorway, surrounded by hay bits. I held onto the side with one hand. My screaming had turned into growls of rage. Where there words that he could decipher? I don’t know.
I do know he backed down. He was cooing calm words that I was in no frame of mind to decipher. Finally, he left me alone there. Without further conversation, demand, or request, he packed everyone up and drove off.
How long did I stay there? How long were my mind and body numb? How long did I stay abandoned there?
I know, eventually, I came down. The house was empty and quiet. I knew I had won, but I felt no elation. I felt certain there would be a price to pay.
The cold yet burning knot inside me turned it all on myself. I had been wrong. I had betrayed him. If I were just a better kid, it would not have happened. What if he didn’t love me anymore?
I had exposed a moment of impotence. What would happen if it caused someone else to deny, or defy him? And, tiniest of all, what if he never came back?
Though I didn’t remember it then, there was a reason for a fear so profound I would jump put a hay loft to avoid him. When I was quite small there was a day when I went to my daddy’s den to say good night. I’m sure I bounced in there in some cute little night dress. When I opened the door there was something wrong.
He didn’t smile and hug me. Instead, he seemed to growl. When I moved, said something, he turned. Another tentative step and he stood up. Some tiny voice in my tiny head yelled run. So, I did. Towards my mother. She grabbed me and threw me into my room, demanding I stay put as she slammed the door.
I was confused. I was scared. I could hear my daddy screaming. My mother’s voice softer, cajoling. I could hear things breaking. Finally, there was a dull thump. Then, nothing. I didn’t dare move. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. How could I have understood about drug use and violence. I couldn’t.
I don’t know how the story ends. It is simply a little vignette floating around free. I know the thump was my mother’s head sitting the hearth. Other than a confirmation that it happened; I have nothing to connect it to.
Does that violence explain the fear I felt that day in the barn? Is that little girl’s belief it was her fault what caused the shame I felt that day?
In both there is a sense of betrayal. Of causing my father to do something bad. That ever-growing shame. I was, simply, wrong.

Taken part 2

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.