If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up with mental illness for a parent it’s that awareness and acknowledgment are everything. The blurred line between sanity and insanity is visible only to those who are aware of its existence.
I was starving and his hands were extra clammy, so the evening’s prayer wasn’t my best effort. The fact that he let it go without forcing a repeat performance should’ve been my first clue. He was always a little nicer before a meltdown. He had a tone, almost cartoonish, a higher pitch, like he knew something was about to happen. I had been allowed outside that day and I was exhausted from playing with my one and only friend whose name I don’t recall. Her father was diabetic, but he didn’t let that or his wheelchair stop him from eating a lifetime’s worth of crap on the daily.
I wasn’t allowed to eat candy. I wasn’t allowed to eat sugar. At. All. None. My mom believed because my father was an alcoholic, I was predisposed to diabetes and hoards of other diseases. Her solution was to eliminate as many as possible through diet restrictions; interesting choice for a woman who would’ve preferred I not exist in the first place.
That summer, when everyone went to TasteeFreeze, I snacked on ice cubes pretending they were popsicles. While everyone was sucking on Sugar Daddy’s, I was eating fruit. She was a master of the preemptive strike where I was concerned. Like the time she cut my hair because I received too many compliments. Thankfully, I haven’t developed diabetes, nor has my long blonde hair become an idol before God. Whew.
“Have fun today Aim?”
“Hmm. thought so.”
“Um, mom, are you going to work tonight?”
“It’s Wednesday. Yes.”
“I heard you liked those M&Ms. Good aren’t they?”
“That’s not what I heard.”
“But, I didn’t.”
He loved to fuck with me. He’d touch his belt as if to remind me she was leaving soon. I’d sit, frozen, waiting, knowing what was coming. The torture of waiting is the cruelest form of punishment, but there was always hope; a tiny sliver of maybe. Maybe he’ll forget. Maybe he’ll reconsider. Maybe and hope, when unfulfilled, can break a human.
I am not that human.
As soon as the door latched, his belt came off.
“I know you ate them.”
“Don’t you fucking play stupid you little bitch. The M&Ms. You know. Why am I explaining it to you? You had M&Ms today. Admit it. Fucking bitch admit it.”
“But I didn’t. I didn’t eat anything.”
“He saw you.”
That’s when I knew. Maybe it was his smirk or the flash of fear in his eyes, but it all came together. I knew he was lying. I knew the Holy Spirit wasn’t real and he knew I knew. I think we both knew that with HS off the table, he would have to beat the shit out of me in order to maintain control.
“Just admit it. Say you did it. Apologize.”
“But I didn’t.”
I ran. I needed something to do with my brain, so I began to count. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
The thirty seventh swing caught me up close and on the head. I had run into the bathroom and in my seven year old wisdom, decided to stand in the shower; the most confined space in the entire apartment. I realized my mistake immediately, but it was too late, he had me.
They say everyone has a defining moment, the thing that influences all the other things, this was mine. I had to make a decision and for as much as it was the right decision, a part of me will always regret it. I lied. I told him he was right. I told him I had eaten the candy and he stopped. Just like that. It was over.
As I zipped my sleeping bag, the pain in my body was excruciating, but my brain was in agony. I had lied in order to save myself. I had endured thirty seven swats for absolutely nothing. I was weak.
The next morning on my way to the breakfast table, I realized I was wrong. It wasn’t all for nothing. I had watched him cross the line between sane and insane and he didn’t even know it was there. Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy, but I knew.
I became a seeker of inconvenient truths. The pain is irrelevant as long as it’s honest. The righteous indignation? Yep, still there. I am by far, the most stubborn human I’ve ever known, but I’m real. Some would add, “Yeah, a real pain in my ass.” and they’re probably a little right. Again, I’m not in prison and even though I’m a pain in the ass sometimes, my people like me.
I still fucking hate odd numbers.