It was tingling through every single part of my body. It ached in my fingers, nearly causing my hands to cram up in the center of my palms with a pain that caused me wince and frown up every time I tried stretch and flex them out in a feeble attempt to get them work their own knots out. My eyes were watering from the excess strain that I had put on them, my shoulders...sore from being hunched over that keyboard for so long. And yet...every last bit of 'hurt' that I was feeling at that very moment seemed like it was worth it. Totally worth it.
As heavy as my limbs were...my soul never felt lighter. Unburdened. Unanchored in misery. And even though the fear of ever having it read by another set of eyes other than my own kept me awake for much longer that night than I ever planned that it would...I can't say that I can remember a time when I've ever had a more pleasant night's sleep.
It wasn't until I had gotten out of bed, showered, and got dressed the following morning that I looked back down at that stack of printed pages...a small monument to the pain and suffering that i struggled through over the past five or six years...and felt the weight of dread and embarrassment beginning to weigh me down again. There is so much that goes through your head when it comes to exposing something like this to virtual strangers. You wonder what they'll think of you. You wonder if they'll pity you. Or will they care at all? Will they think it's fake or over exaggerated? Will they judge you by the hard times that you've been through? Will they use these torturous moments to further analyze and deconstruct your behavior in the future? To try to figure out what the hell is wrong with you? And...then there's the scariest part of all...
What if they side with my dad? What if they agree that I deserved it, and that I could have avoided all this agony by simply working harder to be a better person? Somebody worthy of more than...utter hatred and violent disgust.
I really didn't have to put that story into my folder, you know? I didn't have to pack it into my backpack. I could just as easily take the 'F' and not turn anything in at all. It might be better than sacrificing my emotional stability and keep my home life a secret, all for the sake of possibly skating by with a 'C+' from Mr. Raffe. I could protect myself. Keep things simple. Just by doing nothing at all.
I thought about it. I really did. But there was this burning flame in the pit of my stomach that was compelling me to pick up those war torn pages and give it life in the hearts and minds of other people. To finally expose the countless hours of torment that I've been through, and the hardships that I've had to endure, with only the muted screams into my pillow to keep me from losing what little mind I had left. Those feelings spoke to me. Urged me to do it. And I figured...even if my father were to find out and murder me for my disloyalty and betrayal of my family tomorrow...at least I'll die knowing that my story had been told. And that it would live on as a warning to any other kids who may be going through something similar...or possibly even worse.
Sometimes...it's best to just concentrate all of your hopes and dreams on the little things.
There's less disappointment that way.
Lifting those pages and that folder to put in my backpack almost felt involuntary to me at that moment. I was a merely a conscious witness to what I was doing. Like, 'Omigod...I guess I'm really doing this, aren't I?' So weird. So very weird.
I came out of my room, expecting to just grab a quick bowl of cereal and head on over to Adam's house to get a few games in before school. But my mom had the whole house smelling like a hot breakfast, and she made a few bacon and egg sandwiches for me and my dad. She warmed up the bread a bit in the microwave, and spread out a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice. She must have been in awfully good mood this morning.
"Hey, honey." She smiled, giving me a kiss on the forehead as she poured me a glass of orange juice. "You're looking a little wrinkled today. What's this about, huh?" She said, straightening out my collar and smoothing my shirt out with her hands. I mean, I wasn't that wrinkled. I'm just...I'm a boy. Unless we're going to church or something, who cares, you know?
Breakfast smelled delicious, but when I saw my sandwich sitting on a plate across the kitchen table from my dad...I hesitated. How could I not? He was sitting there...chomping down on his food...basically just waiting for me to come over so he could find something about me to loathe with a passion, even this early in the morning. Just look at him. Even sitting down, he seemed to loom over me with all the intimidation of a haunted oak tree.
I felt this sinking feeling in my stomach, this nervous jitter, as I took my backpack off of my shoulder and approached the table. Trying my hardest not to look him in the eye if I could help it. With a trembling hand, I gently pulled the chair out from the kitchen table...careful not to let it make too much noise as it scraped the tile of the kitchen floor...and then I softly set my plate down on the table. I took a cautious peek at the monster sitting across from me, and when his stern eyes briefly met mine...it nearly frightened me into a state of instant nausea.
Does he know?
Does it show in my guilt ridden gaze?
My backpack was sitting right there beside me...containing the full, unadulterated story of everything he's done to me. Everything he's done to my mom. The lies, the insults, the beatings, the random slaps, the yelling, the 'other' women that I saw him bring into that house. It was right there...in writing...sitting no more than six feet away from him. And if he knew what I had written about him and our family situation...he'd kill us both. I didn't have any doubt about that. There's a certain sense of trauma that builds up within you over time when you feel like your life is always in jeopardy. It gets to be so much that it becomes this hellish lullabye that rocks you to sleep, refusing you to see the abuse for what it really is, until someone else comes along and touches that trigger within you, causing it to all come spilling out at once. And as I sat down at that table, shivering until I was almost forced to fight off a barrage of senseless tears...I realized that things in my life were a lot worse than I ever allowed myself to believe they could be.
I've been denying the existence of the one thing that's been holding me back all this time. And even when I was presented with the chance to correct it, and possibly make things right...make things better...I found myself choking on my own silence. I can't breathe.
Seriously...I'm really finding it hard to breathe right now.
I had to cautiously reach for a paper napkin from the napkin holder that was sitting in the middle of the table. And I drew my hand back to fold it in half and tuck it under the right side of my plate. My mom brought over my cup of orange juice, and I tried to take my paranoid eyes off of my father long enough to maybe scarf down a few bites before I found myself too paranoid to move.
"You finish your homework last night?" He asked me. He even gave me a bit of a smirk, as if he knew the very sound of his voice had an intense amount of power over me. I could tell that he liked to see me cower before him like this. There's a stubborn part of me that didn't want to give the son of a bitch the satisfaction...but my sense of self preservation was constantly pumping fearful adrenaline into my veins whenever he was close enough to grab a hold of me. Drowning out every pinch of self worth that I had, telling me to stay quiet, keep my head down, and just let him win. The more he wins...the less pain I have to deal with.
"Yes, sir..." I mumbled under my breath. I took a healthy bite out of my sandwich. Absolute MAGIC! My mom could make something so awesome with so little sometimes.
"Well, make sure you put it in your bag with the rest of your books. I don't want to hear that you accidentally 'forgot' about it or left it at home. Hear me?" He said.
Sometimes he gets angry when i make eye contact. Sometimes he gets angry when I don't make eye contact. it just depends on how he's feeling at that particular moment. I wish I could say that I've had more than enough practice to read his mood and act accordingly before getting myself into any trouble at this point...but that would be a lie. Dealing with my dad's anger was like walking across the surface of a half frozen lake, more times than not. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you fall in, and sometimes you find a weak spot...and see and hear the ice cracking beneath your feet...hoping to adjust and change course before you find yourself drowning in depths that are too cold for you to even fight against. But I try, regardless. I really do try.
I sat up straight in my chair, and I took a larger than normal bite out of my sandwich, hoping to quickly finish it off so I could get up and put an end to this terrifying conversation before it even got started. Please...just leave me alone. I know it makes him happy to see me crumble in front of him like this, but...I just want to have enough confidence left over to make it through another day of high school without spiraling down into a cycle of madness and shame. SO much shame.
I gulfed that bacon and egg sandwich down as fast as I could without needing the Heimlich Maneuver to help me survive it...and I swiftly shot up from my seat to carry my plate over to the kitchen sink. I le the water get hot and put some dish soap on a rag to wash it off. But my mom stopped me. "Zack, it's ok. I'll take care of it. Go. Go be with your friends. Tell Adam I said hello."
"It's ok, Mom. I can wash it."
"You don't have to. I've got to wash the pans out anyway..." She said.
Nervously, I said, "Do you want me to get those too? I can wash 'em..."
My mom gave me a bit of a strange look, then an awkward smile. "How about you let me worry about the clean up? Ok?" She gently caressed the side of my face, and she looked into my eyes. "Have you been sleeping, baby? You look a little stressed."
"I'm...I'm fine." I told her. I tried to make it as sincere as I possibly could. I know that my personal mask of 'normality' isn't quite what it used to be since Brody became a part of my life...but I was hoping that it would still be enough of a convincing shield to keep my mom's love at bay for a while longer. I can't accept the kind of help that she's trying to give me. I'm hypersensitive about everything...and I just...I need her to BACK OFF!!! Ok? Just...back off!
"I should go. I have to...I have to go. Thank you. Breakfast was awesome." I said, abruptly.
But before I could run too far away from her, my mom took a hold of my arm and turned me around to give me a loving hug around the shoulders. Not just a normal hug for the sake of temporary comfort and to express a touch of concern for the way that I was acting...but a truly heartfelt, long lasting, embrace that nearly broke me down from the inside out. She just, held me for an extended moment, and as hard as I tried to fight it...I really did...tears welled up in my eyes and I wrapped my arms around her waist, holding her tight. All of that emotion that I was trying to suppress and push down to the pit of my stomach came bursting out of me all at once. It just popped up to the surface like releasing a compressed spring in a mattress, and I had to hug her tighter to keep her from letting me go. Please don't let me go yet. I'm going to cry so HARD if you let me go right now.
Stop it, Zack! Goddammit! Suck it up! Don't cry! Just...hold her. Get it together. Save yourself the embarrassment. Now is not the time. Later. Maybe someday...but not today.
I felt her lightly petting the hair on the back of my head, and as much as that made me want to completely collapse into a heap of sissy trash right there on the kitchen floor at her feet...I had to fight it. I always have to fight. He's right there. And he's watching. Forever watching.
There was a part of me that didn't want to keep hugging her like this, for fear that it was beginning to look clumsy and weird...causing her to ask questions that I knew I wouldn't be able to answer. But there more dominant part of my soul, the part that really craved a solution to this chaos...the part of me that really needed healing...just didn't want to let go. And I KnOW that sounds lame! Ok? I know that most people won't understand what it's like to have so very few things in their lives that makes anything about their lives worth anything at all. And I know that abuse is a really tricky thing to convey to someone who hasn't been abused themselves. It doesn't make any sense. None of it. I probably look like such an idiot to anybody who points a critical eye towards the lackluster attempts that I've made to get them to see it the way that I've always seen it. But...this is as real of an explanation as I can come up with. I don't know why I'm like this. I don't know what kind of damage has been done to me at this point in my life, or if it will ever go away. I just know that I wish I didn't have to live with this poison i my system. I wish I was different. I wish I could let go of my mom right now and not worry about breaking down into a full blown tantrum of wracking sobs as soon as my knees hit the floor.
But this is the life I was given. I can either deal with it...or I can give up. And Brody's love is the one thing that's keeping me from giving up.
The faster I get back to being with him, the faster I can recharge this weak battery of mine and maybe make it through a single ten minute breakfast while sitting across the table from my tormentor.
I just want to be left alone. That's all. Please just...just leave me alone...
"I'll see you later, Mom." I sniffled, hiding my eyes from her as they were sure to be red from the strain of trying to hold my emotional outburst at bay.
"Are you feeling ok?" She asked. "Zack?"
But, as I glanced over at my father, his threatening glare warned me to watch my step and keep my fucking mouth shut. I was already making things difficult for him with that stupid hug alone. Why push him any further?
You see? I'M the one who's causing this! I'M at fault! He wouldn't hurt me the way he does if I didn't force his hand. I'm being so stupid.
A 'pretty boy' with no brains at all.
I need to leave. I just...I have to get out of here. The world feels like it's literally folding in on me right now, and I just...I still can't breathe. I can't BREATHE!!!
I hurried over to grab my backpack to sling it over my shoulder, and then I moved back to give my mom a sweet kiss on the cheek to try to put her at ease. I'm not really sure if it worked or not, but it took a lot more energy for me to appear cool ad level headed than she could possibly imagine. I sort of took a secretive peek at my dad, who just seemed to be bothered by the fact that i was able to even pretend to be a normal kid at that point, but I didn't let that get to me. At least not like he wanted it to. I just walked over to make sure that I grabbed the trash out of the can and wrapped up the bag so I could take care of that one chore before leaving and giving him a reason to be pissed at me when I came home from school. "See ya later." I said, and hurried out to the back porch so I could allow my twisted life to unwind a little bit before going over to Adam's house. When being 'normal' is a struggle to maintain...you need to take a few breathers between taking the mask off and putting it back on for the next group of people. It's exhausting, but unfortunately...it's necessary.
How else am I ever going to enjoy any level of human contact, you know?
I put the garbage bag in the trash can, and made sure to wave hello to Mr. Schultz as I walked across the alley and saw him working on his gardening again. "Hi, Zack!"
"S'up?" I said with a smile.
"Looking good, kiddo!"
"Heh...really? My mom said I was wrinkled."
"Ah, you're a young boy. You're allowed to be wrinkled from time to time when you feel like it." He grinned.
"I KNOW, right???" I said. "It's not even that bad. It's like...four wrinkles, tops. I'm not a Barbie doll, for crying out loud."
"Well, that's moms for ya." He said. "Hey, my grape tomatoes are looking pretty darn good right now! You want a taste?"
"Maybe later, Mr. Schultz. Sorry, but I wanna play some video games before we've gotta leave for school."
He smiled. "Well you're welcome at any time, Zack. Have fun."
"I will! Thank you! Have a good day, Mr. Schultz!"
"You too." He replied, and went back to his garden. He really was a good guy. I liked him a lot. Maybe I'll come back later with Brody and try some of these mini tomatoes that he keeps bragging about so much.
I opened up Adam's gate, walking into his back yard and walking up to his door to ring the doorbell. Considering our usual routine before school, I expected Adam to come padding down the stairs and sliding across the kitchen tile in his cute little sock feet. Hehehe! But i got a bit of a surprise when the back door opened up...and I saw Brody standing there instead.
His extremely bright eyes captivated me so fast that it took my breath away. And that beautiful face. And those sweet, kissable, lips. You can't just shock the ever-lovin' SHIT out of somebody like that when you open a door! It's not fair!
"Hey..." He said, his subtle smile thrilling me to the point of being weak in the knees.
"Hi...." I replied.
Ok...so maybe this won't be as easy as I was hoping it would be today.
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