Dead fly thoughts

A couple of weeks ago I found myself thinking about fly strips. I’m sure I might be exaggerating but if my memory serves me even partially correct, we used to have between 5 and 10 of them hanging from the ceiling of the kitchen and pantry in my childhood apartment.

Fly carcasses stuck to sticky brown paper by the dozens in varying stages of decay. I used to feel terrible for the poor guys as they struggled for survival next to their dead family members.

I felt even worse for myself whenever I went into the pantry in search of food. I was constantly freaked out that I would get one stuck in my hair and then I would have to continue enduring life with dead flies stuck to my scalp.

These things were Adhesive strong. Even peanut butter couldn’t have removed that accessory.

They were always covered in flies too so it isn’t like my mom was just placing them there to add to the overall ambiance of our apartment.

She was a resourceful woman, my mother. Much too busy for fly swatting. She did what she had to do to get things done.

There were 4 of us not including her and money was tight.We lived for weeks straight on spaghetti and powdered milk. Items like Powdered milk were a staple in our home. Using it isn’t much different from pouring straight water onto your generic toasted flakes cereal.

Trust me. I tried once.

I remember a time when a woman from church gave my mom a bunch of frozen milk. It came in small cartons, elementary school cafeteria style. All of the cartons were just on the edge of reaching their expiration date.

You would have thought she had given us prime rib.

I actually planned on pretending to be sick the next day so that I could stay home alone and enjoy a gluttonous feast of real, honest to God milk. I was going to eat tons of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wash it down with carton after carton of white, creamy, satisfying, cold deliciousness.

The fantasies of a welfare kid.

One memory that keeps demanding that I give it attention is of the time I accidentally electrocuted myself.

I must have been about 5 or 6 years old. I was hanging out in my mom’s room and I decided to stick a metal bobby pin in the electrical socket. Why not right? I’m sure  I’m not the only kid who decided at some point that this was a brilliant plan.

The shock of it sent me flying a couple of feet back onto my butt and caused minor burns to my finger tips.

I don’t remember being scared or in pain.

What I remember most clearly is the sizzling sound the bobby pin made when it hit the wood floor and burnt its way a few inches down. Settling forever into its new home. There was a distinct smell. Metal and wood combined to assault my senses. It looked bad ass cool. A bobby pin forever imprinted on the floor. Actually burnt right into it.

I had branded the place.

I couldn’t believe I had made it happen.

I wanted to do it again.

As I write more and more about past events I continue to have random flashes of memory  from when I was a child. Strange thoughts keep popping into my brain uninvited. Most of them I’m sure I had intended to keep locked away forever. Some may never resurface. Nor should they.

Others, like the bobby pin electrocution, have probably been waiting for a while. Kicking my brain occasionally. Patiently hanging around to be remembered and given the respect they have earned.

I must have walked by the imprint of that bobby pin a thousand times growing up. I checked to make sure it was still there each and every time. I knew full well it couldn’t not be, yet I still felt a small thrill of excitement every time I saw it was.

I made that happen.

I changed that place in such a way that it would never be the same again. A small change and arguably not one for the better; but change non the less.

Burnt bobby pins, dead flies and powdered milk.

These are what little girls are made of.

The God Cry

My father was a drug dealer in prison.

In the 80s and 90s and you could get away with quite a bit in the institutional environment.

He used to have drugs smuggled into him tied up in balloons. He would swallow the balloons and then dig the counter band out of his own shit later to sell or trade to the other inmates. When I figured out what was going on I was quite disgusted to imagine that somebody would actually go to such lengths to help quell their addiction.

Today I can readily empathize with the feeling of wading through my own shit.

When he was paroled the first time he had been in prison for about 8 years. I get the dates and times confused. It all blends together. He arrived on the front door step with only a few items in his possession. A garbage bag filled with miscellaneous prison odds and ends, a folder containing an assortment of paperwork related to his offenses and his release, and a huge painting of Jesus.

The thing was massive.

I was fascinated by it.

It was signed by the artist. His name was boldly painted in black under the title in the right hand lower corner.

The God Cry.

I needed that painting.  To say it was intriguing doesn’t do it any justice.

It was so hideous it was beautiful.

At that time I was deep into my teen angst stage. Rebellion and horrendous art are a requirement for any angry teenager. As much as a necessity as mad dog 20/20 and led zeppelin.

He refused to give it up but he was happy I liked it and proceeded to tell me the story of the artist.

The guy was referred to as Maki and he was completely insane. He suffered from hallucinations and he was bi polar. He swore to anyone he spoke with that he was the reincarnation of Hitler.  He painted all day, on any surface he could get his hands on. He painted on canvas and paper and shoeboxes. He painted on walls and doors. He painted on books and over posters. He avoided personal contact as much as possible. He talked to himself and screamed German in his sleep. He was prone to sudden, violent outbursts. Most of the inmates avoided him like black mold.

My dad loved him.

They made a trade.

The painting for some pot.

He never hung the painting up. Not in his cell and not at home. It collected dust in the front closet for a while. I used to open the closet and stare at it. After a few years the inevitable happened and my father was sent back to prison. He asked me to hang on to the painting for him. That was 15 years or so ago I guess. The painting has been through several different transitions. My dad will occasionally ask me about it. Checking in to see if I still have it. Reminding me that it is his. Screw that guy. I’m never giving it up. Even if he does survive long enough to be paroled again.

It is the kind of painting that people always ask about. It doesn’t match anything in the house. It is far from being aesthetically pleasing in any way.The colors are bright, bold and ugly.  It looks like  something only a religious zealot would covet.

It is one of the only things my father ever gave me besides his name.

I often wondered what Maki was thinking about when he painted it.

It makes me wonder of course about religion and saviors and God and redemption.

It makes me wonder why there are so many of us that that have suffered and continue to suffer in the clutches of abuse.

It makes me wonder how anyone can inflict continued suffering on others and not suffer in return for causing  pain.

It makes me wonder if Maki knew something I am still struggling to figure out. About humanity and hurt and forgiveness and insanity and safety and evil.

If nothing else, at least I have one hell of a interesting painting.

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Family album

A large portion of family pictures I posses are Polaroids.

I have a timeline of them.

Some I wish I had never seen.

I remember visiting the local police station with my sister so we could identify Polaroids they had in evidence of my father.

Why did we do that?

Who even called us in to do that?

Was that her idea or did some detective call us in to revisit that crap? We couldn’t have been minors, but I don’t feel like I was old enough to be there looking at dick pics in a police station. Does that seem right to you? What should we have said?

“Yup. That’s the one. Absolutely.”

And where the fuck was an adult? Victimized again in a police station. I didn’t even make the connection until I started typing.

And mixed in with the pictures of him were pictures of little girls we used to know. Girls that would disappear from our lives before we had a chance to even enjoy having them there. Back when I was stupid enough to think that I wasn’t so interwoven with my family’s dysfunction  nobody would care to see if there was a difference.

How many times did it happen? I feel sick thinking about it. It disgusts me.

They knew.

The police knew.

They just shuffled him around. Like a pinball game. Pedophile pin ball. Once the ball is released you really have no way of knowing exactly what it will hit. Try to control it all you want but it is not something you have power over. Or do you?

Ping!

Direct hit.He’s got another one! Try again. Pull your arm back and let that ball go with all your might.

Boom!

5,000 points!

Send him to another town, another state.Make him somebodies else’s problem. No harm no foul.

Little girl collateral damage ain’t nothing but a thing.

Why have I never taken the time to study these pictures before?

No.

Not those ones.

Those are still in police evidence files or some shit. Not that I would put them in the family album even if I had the pleasure of ownership.

I’m talking about the ones of all of us together on family visitation days. I have them. I just never looked at them closely. Thumbed past them in my haste to get to other pictures. Pictures that actually look like we were a functional family.

Pictures are funny like that.

They are able to simultaneously provide concrete evidence of reality and at the same time create visions of fictitious fantasy.

It’s all about perception.

All of the prison visit ones have cinder block walls in the background. No palm trees or amusement ride attractions on these family outings.

That fucking train with the animals is in the background of a couple of the pictures. Is it sad that I hope that train is still there? I know it can’t be. Painted over I’m sure. I would hope by now that the children’s playroom is in a different, more appropriately supervised area. I don’t want the train to be gone, though.

Back to the pictures…

We all have these grimaces on our faces. The kids do anyways. My Dad is actually smiling and my mom looks like she might be having fun if she had any idea what fun really was.Now that I’m attempting to confront the dysfunction that was my upbringing I’m tempted to throw them all away. Looking at them makes me want to break shit. Or burn them or rip them and scream and cry and rage. And scream some more.

What do I do? The images in my brain are difficult enough. They won’t stop. It’s like the view master toy that was popular when I was a kid with the little circle of individual square window pictures and it won’t stop clicking around and around and around. Eventually it brings you full circle back to the first picture and the story starts again.

Is that what is happening to me now?

I’m just looping back again and again hoping somehow the pictures will magically be different but knowing they will never change.

Trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to move forward until some of this is resolved while knowing it never can be.

Sticker shock

When I was in the second grade I used to hide out in the bathroom while all the kids were getting ready to go outside for recess. Once I knew everyone was gone I would leave my hiding spot and systematically go through each one of my classmates desks and steal their shit.

The reasons for my debauchery were twofold.

At the age of seven I was already having full-fledged panic attacks because of what I had endured with the neighborhood pervert. I was also being bullied by other children because of what my father had done previously. Recess was akin to torture. Second grade kids are for the most part a product of their environment. When they hear their parents talking shit at home, it evolves into them being shits at school.Especially when the teachers look the other way or encourage the behavior.

Stickers were the main reason my second grade shenanigans began as a way to avoid confrontation and/ or socialization and evolved into petty crime.

Fucking stickers. I wish kids today still gave a shit about something so simple.

In the early eighty’s stickers were all the rage. Puffy stickers, shiny stickers, stickers that smelled like strawberries or chocolate, stickers that represented characters from favorite TV shows, smiley face stickers and star stickers and letter stickers and rainbow stickers. Stickers were such a big deal that almost every child in our school was blessed with their very own sticker book to house their fabulous collections in.

I didn’t have any stickers.

Okay, that is obviously a clear exaggeration. I had a few stickers. I wasn’t that bad off. My stickers totally sucked though. I had a couple of the generic “GREAT JOB!”stickers with the smiley faces and a few animal ones.  Nothing great. I definitely couldn’t afford a sticker book.My stickers were all stuck to a dirty sheet of paper. I couldn’t rearrange them or trade them or use them to play out exhilarating sticker scenarios. Usually when I hid out in the classroom on beautiful sunny days without anyone ever noticing I was missing I would read or draw or daydream. Innocent shit.  One day though, I noticed a classmate’s sticker book on top of her desk.

She had made a fateful mistake.

I knew what was in there and I wanted it. I didn’t even stop to consider that it was wrong.

To me it felt right.

Why shouldn’t I have the same opportunities as everyone else? Why the hell didn’t I deserve stickers too? For the love of fuck. She had the good stickers and I knew it. Unicorns and Barbies and strawberry shortcake scratch and sniff stickers. She had so many she didn’t even notice that some were missing.

That was the first time. Eventually I took interest in other things. I started taking erasers and markers and food from their lunches. Whatever. It didn’t matter so much what I was stealing from them. It wasn’t the material things I was taking that were making me feel better. It was the idea that I was taking something from them.

A small act of defiance from a seven year old child who had already had so much taken from her.

I was lashing out at the children I wished I could be.

I got caught when I decided to steal an actual sticker book. I was feeling pretty invincible at that point, having pulled off second grade larceny for at least a couple of months. I had so many stickers I wanted a nice place to put them. In hindsight it wasn’t that bright of a move. It would be like stealing somebodies cell phone today. The girl whose book I took cried and cried and threw a temper tantrum. I actually felt bad and attempted to put it back in her desk. Somebody saw me.

Busted.

It was all over. Teachers put together that small things had been showing up missing. They approached the principal and decided that my punishment should be apologizing to the entire second grade. No joke. I had to stand up in front of all of the second grade classes and admit my wrong doing while apologizing and telling them I would never do anything like that again.

The teachers knew at that time I had just testified at trial along with a couple of other kids from my neighborhood against the man who had been hurting us. They knew about my father and my current situation. They knew the odds I was up against and the suffering I was enduring on a daily basis. They still collectively decided that the best course of action was public humiliation.

The only lesson I learned from that experience is that when a child is lost, hurting and vulnerable adults in authority are just as quick as kids to turn the situation into a further opportunity to victimize, blame and demoralize.

And that stickers were not really worth having.

Today

There is this constant feeling of not fitting in. Of disassociation. It takes monumental effort to speak. To get me to come out of the corner I have been hiding in my whole life. Then after all the work to reach me I’m gone in a fraction of a second.

Terrified of being noticed or exposed or heard. Ashamed of anything I said or shared.

Why am I still so afraid?

Silent screaming.

I have nothing to hide anymore.

How can I continue to have so much hatred and anger? I can’t get upset when people don’t listen if I am not speaking.

Not everyone is out to get me.

Rationally I know this.

It doesn’t lessen the fear.

I sometimes wish there was a way to get everyone to understand but I also know understanding is an overused concept.

Today I’m feeling ashamed.

I know I often tell others that we shouldn’t feel that way and that we need to know our worth and that we didn’t deserve what happened to us. I also know that healing or attempting to sucks and is not going to be a straight or easy path.

I would like to believe that someday I can stay above a 7 without having to plummet straight to zero, taking everyone in my way along for the ride.

Learning to Lie

If I had not gone looking for that stupid cat I never would have overheard the conversation in the first place.

It’s strange the things you remember and how you process as a child. I was looking for our cat that night. He was a cantankerous old bastard  so I have no idea why I was searching for him so desperately. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him. This cat was really terrible though. His name was meano because he was so prickly and vicious and the name suited him perfectly. But I wanted him and I was going to find him.

I had looked almost everywhere and had made my way to my brother’s room when I heard voices in the kitchen. Our apartment was long and narrow, like a train car. The kitchen would have been the caboose. His room was in a little corner off of the kitchen. My brother was sleeping soundly. He looked like an angel back then. Everyone said so. Curly, blond hair. Big blue eyes. Dimples when he smiled. The chaos that was about to implode upon this little boy’s life is impossible to describe.

I heard my mom first. She sounded different in a way that I can’t explain. Not mad exactly, but threatening. I had to strain to hear what she was saying. My mom never really got angry in a way that scared me or made me feel like I was in trouble. This time I felt something close to fear. If I had the words to describe it back then I would have labeled it as anxiousness.

She was talking to my  sister.

My older sister is the one who had to shoulder the majority of the burden in this nightmare. She was the one that they found Polaroid pictures of. Her and her best friend. They were about seven years old, close to 8.

“You cannot say that your father did those things. You CANNOT. They will put him in jail, do you get that? Look at me! They will send him away. DO NOT say he did those things.”

No answer.

“Look at me. You’re not going to say he did those things, right? You’re going to say it wasn’t true?”

I peeked around the door frame. Her head was down. She was standing there, not answering. Not looking at my mom. Just standing there. The image of her standing with her hair draping over her face, looking at the floor will never go away. I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was all completely over my head. I didn’t want my dad to go away and I couldn’t understand why my sister would want him to either. Why wasn’t she answering? It seemed simple enough.

It was then that I noticed the cat. Curled by her feet. Staring at me. Almost like he was daring me to interrupt this moment. To help her. To save her.To save myself. Anything. Just make this heavy feeling end.

“What are you going to say?” my mother asked again.

My sister never looked up but I heard her reply.

Softly.

Defeated.

Sad.

“He never did anything.”

She turned and walked down the hall. The cat followed.

My mom just stood there, staring into space.

These moments are what I remember. These memories haunt me. This damage can never be undone.

My sister ended up telling the truth when it went to trial. It wouldn’t have mattered if she had lied. They had enough evidence to put him away for a long time even without her testimony. Now that I’m old enough to understand, I wonder if she would have felt better if she has lied. Probably not. Some truths need to be told. Even If only for ourselves.

Physical activity

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This one is the worst. Seriously. I had to cut my head out of the picture because I was too ashamed to look at my miserable face. The only reason I keep it  so can look back and remember how bad it really was.

No comments about cutting my head off because of the Jets hat please.

Exercise is tough to talk about. Mainly because it is my “healthy” addiction. Sometimes I avoid it even though I know how much better it will make me feel. I do this precisely because I don’t want to feel better. If I thought about it rationally and tried to really dig into these thoughts I  would say not doing things I know are going to make me feel healthier is one of the ways I punish myself for attempting to think I deserve anything.

Those feelings will always linger. They were instilled in me very early. It is one thing to be told you matter, it is entirely different to feel that way.

I try not to think about it too much because I’m still kind of a self destructive asshole. I think it is only fair that all of you know that. There has been so much support since I have started sharing my writing and I think overall I’m a decent person but I’m human just like anyone.

Sometimes I’m just a bitch. Even if it is to myself.

I also avoided exercise because I didn’t trust people that were healthy. Or maybe I was jealous of them. I didn’t buy into their shit, I know that for a fact.Runners high? Right. I honestly though that was a myth to try to motivate fat chicks to get moving or further make fun of us. I despised physical activity.

I began walking because I needed to have some time that was mine and mine alone. It really had nothing to do with weight loss. I needed to get away from people. I’m an introvert to the highest degree. I need alone time to recharge and I wasn’t getting it. My energy and my thoughts and my time belonged to everybody but me.

I started walking to get the hell away from everybody, even if i was only for 10 minutes.

It was embarrassing initially. I sweated profusely, my face was deep red from effort, jerks would yell things at me from their cars as they passed by. Once a teenage kid threw a soda can at me and called me a “Lazy cow.” That was special. Sharing it for the first time here. Another time a man pulled over and offered me a ride. He told me he thought I was beautiful even though I was chubby. I didn’t know if I should be scared or offended. I chose the latter.

I added 25 sit ups a  day to my walking routine. I tried push ups too but couldn’t manage it because of my weight and my weakness. One day when going up the stairs I realized that if I used the stairs while pushing off them in a plank style position I could do a modified push up. I added 25 off these to my daily routine. I started walking for 25 minutes a day instead of 10.

I started hiking.

I started going for walks on my break while at work as well as at night after I got home. I added more sit ups, eventually working up to 100 a day and I built up enough strength to start doing actual push ups.

I bought new clothes that fit me and showed off all my hard work. I panicked when people complimented me and went back to wearing all my old, baggy clothes.

I jogged in place while watching hockey and football on TV, but only during intermission, halftime and commercials. Initially only for commercials. I worked my way up to intermission and halftime.

Eventually I decided to start running for real and and I fell in love with physical activity for the first time ever. I signed up for my first 5K. I showed up for it even though I was terrified and I accomplish something I never thought I could.

I found out that that runners high is an actual thing and healthy people are not the enemy. Well, Most of them aren’t anyways.

The most important thing I did was claim my time and let myself know I was worthy of it.

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