Trigger warning: contains stuff about being a child living in a domestic abuse situation where rape and violence occurs.
I saw you, see, but you didn’t see me.
The card, I open it and I now know what it means to hear terrified numbness being slid from out of a pouch which contains little nuggets of something and, still, all I see is you search it all, like you’re looking for the rotten bits.
I know what’s coming, it’s the same thing as always: tears and yours, not mine. Never mine. I don’t cry when I know the fist might be about to land.
It’s been a day or so since I’ve seen that happen, that look on your face, but the sounds are still as fresh as the rotten bits are becoming and I never forget the sounds — the sounds blind me and the silence deafens me.
It was never homework on my mind when getting home from school, it was ‘what will I find that I haven’t seen before?’ and that thought, I wish it felt more like a movie I wasn’t yet old enough to watch and one would think that would make me sad as I walk up the steps to my front door and I remember your blood as it slid down through the ridges and I’m not ashamed to say that it was easier to concentrate on the way the thickness, thinner than I expected, sat in the gaps where the blue paint was chipped away and that’s on a different day to the day I came home and saw you, see, but you didn’t see me.
Your face — what a beauty you were, that’s what they all said and I saw it too but didn’t care because all I could see when I saw you was someone I didn’t feel safe to love, like if I relented and let you in you’d just hurt me again and I want to know why. Why, and why no one can tell me because my kill-switch kicks in and kicks out and I’m going to go to my grave wondering why it felt like a lie, you touching me, how it made me feel more alone than anything else ever has, even since and why I always smelled distrust like fermented metallic hanging thick in the air there with me, I’m looking around at anyone in the general vicinity wondering “do you not all smell that?” and apparently they not only don’t, but they don’t see me either so I’m just left to breathe slowly through my mouth.
Avoiding violence is fructuous and has many colours, the most common being red with a backtaste of acid in it and it’s that that I see splattered and smudged on the kitchen wall as I am torn between creeping down toward the sounds the bedroom makes or running at full noise, screaming toward it, thinking ‘how convincing will I need to be when I slam into what I’ll find waiting for me in that room, what’s going to be believable enough to interrupt it?’ or I can just do what I never want to do but is easiest which is turn around and walk back out the front door and down the steps and sit in the garden until it’s over, watch the earth turn.
This all seems viable and the fact that viable is even necessary would make me feel all sorts of stuff if only I were allowed to and then I think more about the noises coming from the room I end up stepping bravely toward and I’m not terrified because it’s my house and this set-up is morbidly familiar and everyone seems to have seen to it that I’m numb. Numb. Plus I have the plastic bag of Granny Smiths from next door so mum can make the cake and it’s the one safe lifeline to the outside world that I feel penetrating like acid through the numb.
Numb when I open the splattered, smudged door — numb when I see him on her — numb when I learn her sobs, her hysterical shrieking, sound like they’re coming from the ground as the result of his giant palm being clamped over them — numb when I see the whites of her eyes, wild like an animal’s — numb as I start throwing next door’s lifeline at him and it’s not until I’m halfway through the bag that my dad looks up at where the thunk is coming from and then I see through the numbness that he’s got his pants down and so I throw another apple — [and it would be a triumph to report that I get him where it hurts but I’m only 7 and I’m not a very good aim, not yet] — but he starts toward me, looking not so much rotten as deadly and she tries to kick him as he passes by her, spread on the bed though she misses but even so she pays for it, he sees to that and I thought I knew what hurt was but I was wrong and this is something I learn in the next breath — not mine, hers, mine is coming out through my mouth again as she quietly warns me 'get out’ and I do and I wish — but I don’t but I do and I don’t — that I had, properly, and I learned my lesson for not doing as my mum told me as I look, terrifying in my numbness, through the gap in the door before I close it behind me and I shouldn’t have because I saw you, see, but you didn’t see me and these are the things you can’t unsee.
The confusion near killed me more than the blows tried but the blows were easier to cope with because the clean up means it’s over and today there will be no cake but I know what it means to wish for deafening silence instead of teeth skittling across the floor.
I can still see his writing, there in my card, in all caps and I’ve never known anyone to do that, in my life since — [and as I write this I’m conscious of the fact that someone who now cares enough about me and writes like that, in all caps, may feel slightly sick reading this, but then I realise that not everyone does that, like I do, not everyone can so easily have their things sullied for them like I can] — and I saw you, see, but you didn’t see me but he did and he’d saved all your teeth and there they lay like little nuggets in the pouch and the all caps said “this is what I’ll do to you if you tell” and I looked at these things in the pouch that once had their rightful place in your mouth.
I still don’t have the stomach for birthday cake.
He’s dead and I’ve kept my teeth.
By Jules Honeybadger
13 December 2016
I held onto my secrets for years. Decades, actually. And there are many reasons why. Reasons that anyone who has endured it — lived it — will understand. But only those who have endured it — lived it — will.
I’m writing this for everyone else.
I love you, but I’ve got to let you go.
Each time our paths cross I open my heart with renewed hope that it will be different somehow. And each time I walk away feeling empty.
My dear (____________), I realize now that at some point, I gave away my power to you. I was rebuilding my life, creating it piece by piece, and in all of its uncertainty and tender roots, I shyly let a chosen few in to tread softly and take a peek. I wanted to share my trepidation and fear and doubt and exhilaration and sheer anticipation with you. So I gave you permission to validate me. In no small way I longed for it. But it never came.