Sunday, May 22, 2011

Un-friendly Influences

Social Relationships

I do not want to give the misperception that I did not have ANY friends.  I had friends, but often these friendships had so many conflicting emotions tied to them that, at the end of the day, I didn’t know whether these individuals were truly friends or not.   The subdivision where I grew up was laid out in a big square.  The entrance to the subdivision came to a T where you could turn right or left, but either way eventually brought you around to the other side.  Much like the female gender symbol, if viewed aerially, only with a square instead of a circle.  If you turned to the right, you approached the townhouse apartments.  If you turned to the left, there were normal stick-built houses.  I lived in the very last townhouse apartment building.  Surrounding our little subdivision were meadows, cornfields, and forests.  A big 4 lane highway divided us from the most of the rural little town.  There were about a dozen families with kids of various ages living in my neighborhood. I became best friends with a girl who was 2 years older than me named Polly.*

* - side note.  I do not remember my first meeting with Polly (or any kids from that neighborhood for that matter!), but she used to frequently talk about HER memory of our first meeting.  According to her, I was all alone skating down the sidewalk on pink, plastic roller skates.  I would have been around 5 or 6 years old at the time.  She claims that everyone knew who I was because of my supposed notoriety from the dog attack incident.  She said that she and a group of other kids saw me, recognized me, and all clamored around me while I was skating down the sidewalk because I looked so “fragile” and everyone was afraid I’d hurt myself.

Polly and I were frequently like two peas in a pod.  I spent a lot of time at her house.  Her mom was a nurse.  Her dad worked for the post office but had (at one time) been in the military.  She had an older brother, Sean, who was 2 years older than her (4 years older than me).  Polly was all about ritual show.  I can remember at least 3 occasions where we “traded blood” to become “blood sisters.”  It was all done very formally and with a lot of flair and seriousness.  Polly was also involved in our experiments (and torture) on animals.  She loved animals as much as me, specifically her two dogs.  I have many memories that surround events involving Polly and her family:

Actual Memory – the Party:

I spent the night one time at Polly’s house when her parents had a party.  It was mostly attended by her extended family and some adult friends.  For the most part, Polly and I stayed in her bedroom.  Occasionally, someone would come in the room and talk to us.  Once, we snuck out into the hallway to take a look at the party.  Polly’s aunt (Rachel) was lying unconscious on the floor.  She was naked and people were doing sexual things to her.  Polly and I quickly went back to the bedroom and pretended to be asleep.

Around the time I was 11 or 12 years old, my uncle (Barry) moved from California to our town, bringing his young son, Zeke, with him.  Zeke was 2 years older than me – about the same age as Polly.  He was a very good-looking kid, very popular, and commanded a lot of attention from girls who always seemed to fall at his feet.  When I introduced Polly to Zeke, it was love at first sight.  Polly absolutely adored Zeke and Zeke absolutely adored Polly.  The 3 of us often played together, along with another neighborhood boy named Jack who was my age.  Sometimes, both Polly and Jack would spend the night at our house.  By this time, Zeke and I shared a room in the basement of our townhouse.* 

* - side note.  The room Zeke & I shared used to belong to my older brother, but he left home a few years earlier to go to college at [redacted] University.  My brother was like the prodigal son in our family.  He was my mother’s first born child and could do no wrong in her eyes.  He was a very handsome, popular guy.  He was also a star quarterback for the high school football team.  I have very few memories of my brother other than he seemed to have it all.  A beautiful girlfriend.  He hung out with all the rich, popular kids.  In regards to me, I remember he used to tease me rather cruelly.  He would chase me around the house with pliers, threatening to pinch me with them.  But worse than that, he used to chase me down, pin me to the floor, and tickle me until I either felt like I was going to suffocate or threw up.  I would cry and scream hysterically, but he would just laugh at my distress.  I hated it when he would do these awful things.  I can also remember once when he hung me upside down from the upstairs balcony and threatened to drop me to the first floor where I’d land on my head.  Despite his teasing and psychological games, I still adored him just like everyone else did.

  Anyway, Zeke, Polly, Jack and I all generally had a great time together; we were all very bonded, but there was also a lot of pressure and instances of “making out.”  Sexual acts were always present.  No one ever checked on us or seemed to feel that 2 pre-teen boys and 2 pre-teen girls sleeping together was inappropriate.

Eventually, Polly and her family moved to a bigger (and more rural & isolated) home that was about 5 miles from my house.  I was devastated that she was no longer so close, but I would still ride my bike to her house frequently or vice versa.  Polly was at my house the night my family was changed forever.  My brother had just turned 21 years old and was going out to party with his friends.  Polly was spending the night at my house that night.  We were doing some private ritual with candles.  I can’t remember what…  The phone rang.  I got up and answered it.  My older sister had also answered it on another phone.  I listened as a man on other line asked for my mother.  I heard my sister call out to my mother.  I hung up the phone and went back to playing with Polly.  Soon, my mother and sister came to tell Polly and me that they were leaving.  I asked what was going on.  My mother said “your brother has been in an accident.”  My brother had MANY accidents in his young life and always seemed to escape unscathed.  I shrugged it off and thought nothing of it.  My mother and sister left, leaving Polly and I home alone.  I don’t remember what happened next or when we fell asleep.  I only know that when I awoke in the morning, the house was full of people.  Polly’s dad was there to get her.  Despite all the people being in the house, nothing seemed to register to me that something was off.  With complete unconcern, I casually asked my mom how my brother was doing.  At that point, she said “He’s dead.”  She yanked me to her, squeezing me painfully hard, and broke down sobbing.  I stood there in complete shock, not saying a word, and showing no emotion.  Polly’s dad broke the silence by saying he was sorry and walking out the door.  That would be the last time Polly was ever in my home.

I think my brother’s death was a pivotal point of change in my friendship with Polly.  Although we both tried hard to recapture our innocence or pretend nothing had changed, something was invariably, imperceptibly different. I was at her house the night she learned her mother had left her father for another man.  We were playing hide and seek.  Polly went to hide in her mother’s closet only to find it empty.  I found her sitting on the floor staring into the empty closet.  After that, her father became very verbally and physically abusive.  He always seemed angry.  I can remember him busting down the bedroom door and screaming at us.  We were both scared of him.  It was also around that time that Polly and I began a bizarre burning ritual.  We would go into her bathroom and fill up the bathtub with scalding hot water.  When the tub was full, we would both get into the water completely naked.  No one was allowed to flinch or show any emotion or reaction to the scalding hot water.  When the water cooled, we would drain the tub and re-fill it will more scalding hot water, repeating the ritual over and over.  The ritual became a test to teach ourselves “discipline” and to “not react” to physical (or emotional?) pain on our bodies.

Things also changed for me at school around this time.  Prior to my brother’s death, I had been a smart, but mediocre student.  I think the reason I didn’t do well was because I didn’t like school.  School equaled pain, humiliation, and loneliness in my mind.  I felt ostracized from my peers and was frequently the object of teasing and bullying.  I had few friends at school.  All the kids from my neighborhood were either older or younger than me so I didn’t see them much at school.  But something changed when my brother died.  My mother, stricken with grief over my brother’s death, felt she could not cope with her children.  For a still unknown reason, she sent my sister away to my aunt in California.  My sister was 19 yrs old at the time.  I was kept at home, but I may as well have been invisible for all I existed in her world.  I was desperately hurting and confused.  Something changed, unconsciously, in my mind and I decided I WANTED my mother to see me.  I wanted to replace my brother as IMPORTANT in her eyes.  I tried to be just like him.  He was a star athlete.  At the time, I played sports but was an average player.  After he died, I started really applying myself to be the best of the best.  I would frequently wake up around dawn and go run or work out.  Soon, I had succeeded.  I was an all-star softball player and captain of the cheerleading squad.  But it wasn’t enough.  My brother had been smart too.  Before I had avoided school, now I was driven to succeed at it.  Without even seeming to really try, I started to pull in straight A’s.  My teachers and school administrators literally gushed over my accomplishments.  My mother hardly ever seemed to take notice.  When she did say something, it was usually a half-hearted “nice job…” and then I was forgotten about again.  Each time, I would resolve to try harder.  I pushed myself harder and harder to do better and be more impressive.

After Polly’s mother left, things were truly never the same.  Polly became very withdrawn, distant, and emotionally hurtful toward me.  Sometimes she would band together with “other friends” and gang up on me to bully me around.  I was subjected to some very hurtful and ugly teasing and bullying.  I felt deeply hurt and betrayed by her actions, but always found myself trying to justify her behavior.  My soul felt torn apart but I convinced myself that it didn’t really matter because I couldn’t bear to lose Polly.  Also during this time, Zeke changed too.  He started picking on me mercilessly which would, frequently, turn into a physical altercation.  Sometimes during the altercations, he was grab my genitals or stick his face between my legs while holding me down.  At first, I was enraged and would fight back.  Once, I bit him very hard on his back.  He punched me so hard in the face that I saw stars.  I went crying to my mom.  She saw the bite mark on his back and I was punished for biting him.  It became apparent that she didn’t want to be bothered with my problems and was no source of help for me.  Bothering her meant nothing more than having verbal abuse and contempt heaped on my head.  If I cried, she would tell me to “quit being a baby!” or “Stop being so weak!”  Eventually, Zeke became more aggressive in his sexual abuse.  The more aggressive and bold he became, the less I tried to fight it off.  By the time I was able to drive, I simply submitted to his demands for sex and let him do whatever he wanted.  After the disaster of what happened when I told about the sexual abuse with my Uncle Sam, I was hesitant to tell ANYONE about the things that were happening with Zeke.  However, I felt that if anyone would understand, it would be Polly.  After all, she had been my best friend since I was 5 years old...  I approached her at school one day and pulled her aside in the bathroom.  I told her what Zeke was doing to me.  To my utter surprise and bewilderment, she got angry at ME.  She said some very ugly and hateful things to me and basically said that it didn’t matter to her.  She still loved him and nothing of that nature would ever make any difference to her.  I was devastated and felt horribly betrayed.

Sex and sexual acts were frequently an everyday occurrence in my neighborhood and a “normal” part of my life. Most of it revolved around my next door neighbor.  Her name was Wendy.  She was about 5 or 6 years older than me.  Wendy ruled the neighborhood like a queen over her kingdom.  Everyone bowed down to and feared her.   We also feared her father – an abusive, mean man.  I can remember one incident where he beat her older brother with a thick, link chain.  Wendy would select kids to meet at her home.  If you were chosen, you did NOT disobey.  Disobedience meant being ostracized in the neighborhood, an unthinkable punishment.  She routinely chose the same boys and I frequently had the misfortune of being the only girl.  At times, I think she would choose me as a punishment or with purposeful intent to cause me hurt and pain.  We would show up at her house as scheduled.  Sometimes her older brother and his friends would be there (he was my older sister’s age and my sister LOVED him).  Wendy would play demeaning sexual games.  I was often embarrassed and humiliated.  Sometimes things were a mass orgy.  Other times, we were “paired off” and sent to particular rooms to engage in various sex acts.  Summers were especially bad because this happened almost every day for hours. I know on at least 2 occasions, older grown men were brought into the house and serviced by Wendy or me. Sometimes drugs and alcohol were involved.  While I can’t recall any specific proof of fact, I have strong beliefs that we were photographed and videotaped during these “sessions.”  I feel like proof of this is tugging at my memory just beyond its reach.  Sometimes I feel like I can “grasp” it and remember flashes of images of this occurring in Wendy’s parents bedroom (decked out in a king size waterbed and very fancy), but then the image slips away again like a ghost.

Next door to Polly’s old home lived a family of 5 boys.  The boys were delinquents and frequently into drugs and trouble.  These boys were almost ALWAYS at Wendy’s “parties.”  The two oldest boys were closer to my older sister’s age.  They were rarely around, but you could always count on one or more of the younger 3 to be there.  The youngest one was at least 3 or 4 years older than me.  At one time or another, I was forced into sex acts with all 3 of them.  If I were alone, I would try to avoid them in the neighborhood if at all possible.  If they managed to corner me alone, I could always count on being coerced into some sex act or another.  I didn’t fight, with one exception:

Actual Memory – The stone slab

I was out playing in the meadows which surrounded the neighborhood.  I was all alone.  It was a beautiful, sunny day outside.  I don’t remember how it happened, but I remember that the youngest boy, Luke, caught me unaware in the field.  He grabbed me and dragged me to a place in the meadow where there was a stone slab.  It was secluded and no one was around that I recall.  The stone slab had pictures on it.  The only picture I remember was a knife.  On the blade of the knife were the words “RAPE”.  I remember Luke pointing out that picture to me and asking me if I knew what it meant.  I said no.  Luke then pushed me down on the stone slab and pulled my clothes off.  I didn’t fight him.  He climbed on top of me while I just laid there.  He whispered in my ear for me to fight him.  Again, I just laid there.  I must have made him angry because he began to choke me.  At that point, I struggled and started to fight.  He continued to choke me, also covering my mouth and nose, as he had sex with me.  I remember him saying “yeah, baby…scream.  Keep screaming.  No one can hear you…”  I was crying and truly thought I was going to die.  I don’t remember how it ended.  I don’t remember getting up.  I don’t remember getting dressed or even how I got home. 

Years later, I had another incident with Luke.  There was an old, decrepit barn where many of the neighborhood kids would congregate when we “snuck out” at night.  Once when I was around 18 years old, I went to that barn in the middle of the night.  I have no earthly idea why I went there by myself, especially as I hadn’t even lived in that neighborhood for several years (we moved out when I was 16, but I’ll get to that later).  Luke was there.  It was all very bizarre because I had not seen Luke for a long time.  He pushed me up against the wall and had sex with me again.  Before he did, I distinctly remember him telling me how much he had always liked me, loved me even.  How he couldn’t seem to get enough and thought about me all the time.  I remember wishing I could just get away and feeling sick & ashamed at being used yet again.

I can’t exactly pinpoint the timeframe when my “world” turned international, but at some point after my brother died I found an intense interest in other cultures, especially the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and Russia.  I started checking out books from the library on other countries and even listened to Middle Eastern music.  I was especially fond of the Oud and would become mesmerized by listening to it.  Around the time I turned 13 or so, I became a part of the “International” club.  I do not recall how I came to learn about this club or by whom.  I simply remember filling out the application and choosing the countries with which I wanted to share my name and information.  I went sent a list of 20 or so names back with individuals who I had been “paired” with from other countries.  Some of those I remember –

Stephan from Italy
Kerry from Ireland
Charles from England
Maria from Nigeria

And others….there was a girl from Spain, one from Lithuania, and one from Guyana.  I wrote to all of them and established many friendships.  I would send numerous letters and boxes overseas, sharing the intimacies of my life, culture and country, with those friends I had abroad.  But the one I was, by far, the closest to was Kylie from Australia.  Kylie and I became very close friends.  We wrote to each other obsessively and even talked on the telephone whenever we could manage to do so.  Kylie’s parents were divorced and she lived on a family-owned farm with her mother and younger brother.  Kylie had two older siblings (an older brother and sister) who lived away from home.  We promised to come visit each other someday.   That “someday” came when I was about 16 years old.  Kylie was going to be in the foreign exchange.  I’m not quite sure how it was managed, but somehow, my mother was able to request to be Kylie’s host family in the exchange.  Kylie came to America one wintery snowy night.  We were so happy to see each other that we cried, hugging each other for hours.  Kylie had never seen snow so we ran outside in the midnight wonderland nearly the whole night.  Kylie did attend my school, although only for a day.  Strangely, the foreign exchange program was only for a period of about 6 weeks.  The exchange officials allowed Kylie to stay with my family for 3 weeks and then insisted that she move to the state of Indiana to another host family for the last 3 weeks of her stay.  I was very jealous because the other “host family” was very wealthy.  They had a young daughter my & Kylie’s age who was fabulously beautiful and popular.  The other family took Kylie on trips and to do things that my poor family could not do.  I felt very scared and insecure that I would lose Kylie as my dear friend because I could not “compare” with the wealthy host family.

A few months after Kylie, we received another foreign exchange “student.”  Her name was Celia and she was from the Philippines.  Celia had come to America with her sister, both as part of the foreign exchange, although her sister had been sent off to another family.  Celia was very small and seemed very scared and fragile.  I remember coming home from school the first day she arrived.  She was sleeping on a bed on the floor of my room.  She was so tiny that had I not seen her feet sticking out of the blankets, I’d not have thought anyone was there!  Her frame was nearly indiscernible in the bed.  Celia was much different than Kylie.  Celia always seemed to avoid me, although she was not impolite.  She did not want to talk to me and, seemingly, was not interested in being my friend.  If I entered a room, she would immediately leave it.  Celia frequently made phone calls from our house.  I never knew who she called as she always spoke in Filipino but guessed it was her sister or family.  Then one day, Celia disappeared from our house.  I remember my mother telling me that Celia had gone to see her sister and her sister’s host family.  I remember feeling disappointed that she continued to rebuke my overtures of friendship.  After several days, Celia still did not come back.  I remember my mother being very angry because she did not know where Celia was or whom she was with.  I remember the day my mother notified the Exchange officials that Celia had “run away.”  She seemed to be on the phone for hours, with whom, I don’t know.  But later that evening, my mother told me that Celia and her sister were in a lot of trouble.  She indicated that the rules of the exchange program were very strict and that Celia was not allowed to leave our home, speak in her native language, or EVER see her sister while she was here.  My mother stated that Celia and her sister were to be deported back to the Philippines.  After that incident, my mother refused to be part of the Exchange Program again.  Exchange officials had been interested in sending me to Europe as part of the program but my mother refused to allow me to go.   Several months later, I received a small package in the mail from Celia.  It was a little zipper coin purse in the shape of a slipper.  Inside the coin purse was a small note from Celia.  In the note, she apologized for the trouble she had caused my family as well as refusing to be my friend.  The note was very short, simple, and only stated those two things. She did not explain where she had gone or why.

No comments:

Post a Comment