Sunday mornings

My grandma was known for her Sunday morning breakfasts. Her and my mom would get up that morning and start cooking around 6:30-7am. I, of course, wanted to sleep in, so I stayed in bed. The smell of country ham made its way down the hallway to the bedroom where my mom and I slept. We shared the same bed for as long as I can remember. When her and my dad were together, he slept on the couch and I slept with my mom. It was that way for years. Once we left my dad, my step father (my mom’s boyfriend at the time) made his way into the picture soon after we moved out. I was forced to sleep in my bedroom whenever he spent the night. It was horrid. I could hear every little noise and always assumed that it was someone breaking into our little trailer to stab me to death – a direct result of watching too many horror movies.

At my grandma’s, I slept up against the wall and my mom slept on the outside. I distinctly remember feeling more protected with her at my side, especially since she slept nearest to the door. (Perhaps she would protect me from the murderer that I so often imagined would offer me a tragic demise?) I snuggled back down in the bed once my mom was up and at ’em. I always loved sleeping where she laid, so I scooched over to her side of the bed. Maybe that’s weird, but I found it comforting.

Not long after 7am (rarely before), I would hear a knock at the front door. It was an anticipated sound. One that I heard almost every Sunday morning. I froze. My fast beating heart was all that moved. A cheerful greeting from my mom and grandma was given to John. I could hear them from down the hall. (Trailers have thin walls, you know.) My mom granted him permission to come to our bedroom or would say something along the lines of, “You know where she is.” I always heard his footsteps as he proceeded down the hall to find me.

As he opened the door, I would quickly close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. John made his way over to my still body – usually sitting on the edge of the bed to my right, but sometimes he would kneel beside it. Always within arms length of me. His hand wandered under the sheet to find my stomach. (He was right-handed, which made it much easier to maneuver around my body.) John would carefully, as if not to wake me, slide his hand under my shirt to find my breasts. I always positioned myself on my back or facing him. Rarely did I turn my body away from him. During the few instances that I did, John became furious and more aggressive with his touch. I had to keep telling myself, “Just lie still. It will be over soon.” Those 30-45 minute stints felt like an eternity.

Sometimes I would open my eyes just enough to see his blurry shadow and then quickly close them to keep up the “I’m asleep” game. I’m pretty sure, deep down, John knew I was not asleep. How could I truly be asleep and not feel his fingers penetrating my vagina?? Surely he could feel the wetness and my vaginal walls contracting. Wait. Wetness? Was I enjoying this? I hated what was happening, but why the hell was my body responding as if it was pleasurable?

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t demand him to leave. Or just say, “No!” Or tell my mom what was happening. Perhaps punch him in the face. Maybe the groin. But then I remember why – I was incredibly afraid of him. But afraid of what exactly? I’m not sure if I’ll ever know the answer to that question.

On the way home

We were off to the state fair. Me, my mom, my stepdad and John (who was invited by my mother). To me, the state fair was a magical place (mostly because it came around only once a year), but also because I am easily entertained. Needless to say, the roller coasters, the games where you can win a goldfish or throw rings around Coke bottles, the delicious foods (cotton candy, fried dough, candy apples and corn on the cob), the exhibits (like the world’s largest alligator or the world’s tiniest woman), and the music were all mesmerizing. Perhaps this was going to be fun. I had a friend to play games with me, ride the rides and be in a constant state of awe with as the fair buzzed and blared around us. My heart was hopeful that this would be one of my “friendship” moments with John and nothing more. Boy, was I wrong.

John spotted a haunted house as we were browsing the rides. (John has a thing for horror movies and scary rides to this day.) Anyway, we had six tickets between the two of us which was just enough to pay our way in. We sat down in the box-like car and off we went into the darkness of the haunted house. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see a thing. But I felt something. John was holding my hand. The skulls, the horror movie characters (like Mike Myers and Jason), the fake blood and the screams were flooding my senses. I looked over at John (who was on my left) and he kissed me. John’s tongue was in my mouth for the majority of the ride. I was afraid to break from the kiss or pull my hand away from his fearing he would be angry with me. Or worse – would he tell my mother what just happened?! I sat there stiffly, almost frozen. When will this ride be over?! When will he finish kissing me?? The screams from the ride’s attractions and the other passengers were getting louder. I, too, was screaming, but no one could hear my desperate cry from deep inside of me.

After only a few minutes (which felt like an eternity), the doors out of the haunted house flew open and there it was. The fair. Just as I had left it. We exited the ride and found my mom and stepdad. It was getting late and time to go home. We walked back to the car. My stepdad drove a black Ford Thunderbird at the time. It had a soft, red interior. I sat in the backset behind my stepdad and John sat to my right behind my mom. On our way home, John covered his lap and mine with his jacket. His fingers quickly found my vagina. He was getting faster at this and more and more clever. Clever enough to conceal what he was doing from both my mom and step dad who were only inches away. Yes, I could have spoken up. I desperately wanted to say something. Something like “NO!” or “STOP!” or “HELP!”. But what would be the outcome of that? How angry would he be with me? What would he do to me or himself? Would my mother even believe me? After all, John was like a son to her. I was trapped. So I just sat there and let him play with me as if I were his toy. I was not enjoying what was happening. I never did. I remember wondering why my underwear felt wet during these instances. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. Looking back, I now realize that my body was just responding to his touch and doing what it was designed to do.

We dropped John off at his house. Once he was out of the car, I started breathing again. I had spent the last thirty minutes tolerating the abuse in silence. I had hoped my mom would realize what was happening in the car that night, but part of me was more fearful of her than John.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I grew up watching scary TV shows and movies with my parents. Watching A Nightmare on Elm Street with John would be a cakewalk.

Brief synopsis: The main character, Freddy Krueger, seeks revenge from beyond the grave for his own death by stalking and killing several teenagers in their dreams. He has a horribly burned face and wears gloves with razor-sharp knives embedded in the fingers.

I can handle this. I sat down on John’s living room floor. It was covered in brown shag carpet and kinda itchy. Next to me was my cousin, Anne. She was five years younger than me. Young and very naive, but so was I. John went to his bedroom and brought back two blankets. I stupidly thought one of those blankets was for me and me only. John insisted that the two of us share a blanket and Anne would have her own. Better to agree than argue. I was terrified of John’s temper and did everything in my power to not to upset him in any way.

The lights in the house were all turned off, but I could see little lines of sunshine peeking through the blinds. It was hot under the blanket. Actually, it was more like a quilt. Not long after the movie started, John slowly moved his hand up my thigh. I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest. I focused all of my attention onto the television screen because I knew what was about to transpire. His hands were coarse like sandpaper. I glanced to my left and saw that John was staring in the direction of the TV. I looked right and found that Anne was transfixed on the movie as well. Could anyone hear me screaming on the inside? Did anyone else know what was happening to me? No, I was alone.

With a few quick movements of his hand, John was inside my underwear in no time. I felt his fingers penetrate me. I didn’t know what to do. Wait. Did this feel good in some way? I was frightened. I wanted to scream, run away and if possible, vanish. Then I felt a twinge of pain down below. I thought something had cut me, perhaps in the way Freddy Krueger was slashing all of his victims. Then it dawned on me. It was John’s jagged nails dragging across my labia and inside my vaginal walls. It burned. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t.

The movie ended and the touching was over. Anne was clueless to what had just occurred. I wore a stoic expression when we left even though I felt as if my insides were on fire.

Looking back, I see the irony. I was watching a movie about a nightmare on Elm Street, when all the while I felt as though I was living in a waking nightmare.

My first memory

There was an old, abandoned bus beside John’s house (which happened to be across the street from the store where we first met). How convenient. It was a short, white bus decorated with blotches of rust. On the inside, it looked as if someone had previously lived there. Yellowish-brown shag carpet lined the floor. There was a twin bed with a mattress on the right and a pitifully made couch across from it on the left. The inside of the bus reeked with the smells of dirt, old beer, and urine.

It was rather cold outside that day, too. We were both complaining about the weather and there was no heat source inside the bus. The mattress looked dirtier than the carpet, so we cuddled up under the bed. I don’t quite remember how we justified cuddling up beside each other, but it was much warmer with him next to me. We were both lying on our right sides. I was little spoon.

Then it happened. I felt his icy hands on my bare skin in the gap where my sweater met my jeans. His left hand moved up towards my chest. For a few moments, I thought maybe we were playing a game – “Let’s see how still I can be” or “Let’s pretend that I’m asleep and I can’t feel him touching me.” But this wasn’t a game. And I could feel him touching me. I didn’t move. I stayed perfectly still with my eyes closed and tried to keep my breathing even as to not cause alarm. His hand found its way down to unbutton my jeans and eventually inside my underwear. I was terrified. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew it felt invasive and wrong. The confusing thing was that it felt kinda good.

A chilly day in November: The beginning

It was a chilly day. I remember wearing my winter coat. It was beige with a hood (and rather cumbersome now that I think about it). The end of November was approaching quickly. I turned nine years old only a few months prior. I was in 4th grade. I was walking to the store on the corner near the trailer park where my grandma lived. My mom and I visited my grandma every weekend. Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Every weekend. No joke. Anyway, I got to the store and that’s when I met him – the boy that would change my life in a way I could have never seen coming. For privacy reasons, I will call him John. John had dark hair and hazel eyes – two characteristics I possess as well. He was slightly taller than me (at the time), glasses as thick as they come and three years older. He was wearing a coat, too. We had our first conversation over an arcade wrestling game that was in the back of the store. And that’s how our friendship began. Our paths crossed almost every weekend over the following eight years.