My best friend from high school wasn't able to make it to our 25th class reunion a few months back. We were gabbing on the phone one day, and I tried to fill her in on all the juicy details...who's looking good, who's not, weight loss/gains, divorces, marriages, etc.
I told her how one former "It Girl" seems to have lost "it" somewhere along the way. This girl was wanted by boys, envied by girls. Good grades, good hair, good life. But no one ever went to her house when we were young. Her dad was rumored to be very mean, very strict, her mom to be a little nutty. Sometime between then and now she has tripped up, made some bad choices and has ended up in a place far different than anyone could have predicted. Let me clarify that I'm not dissing her. She's a nice woman, and she's trying hard to get things back on track. It's just surprising when someone seems to have had everything and doesn't live up to everyone's expectations.
Then we discussed how maybe her home life was not so good. Maybe there was a reason no one went to her house. And then we felt ashamed for even talking about it. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? Maybe she's been trying to escape the demons of her childhood for these past 25 years...maybe she just gave up. Doesn't matter. It's not our business, not anyone's business.
And then my friend said: "I still think it's amazing that you grew up so normal." I laughed, thinking that she was referencing my parent's divorce or my sketchy teens. "Really" she continued, "I still remember some of the stuff that happened to you and to this day it makes me sad." Now I was intrigued. What in the world was she talking about? Sure, I had a stepdad who wasn't exactly Mr. Rogers, but I was a smart mouthed kid. I talked back, rolled my eyes. But all I could recall was some yelling, a couple of shoves and slaps. A coffee mug thrown at my head. That's all.
My friend went on. "I will never forget that time you and I were watching t.v. and your stepdad came in, threw you down on the floor and started kicking you. I mean, kicking the shit out of you. I can still see you scrambling on the floor, trying to get away. Trying to get to your room." At this point it was as if she was reading a passage from a book. This wasn't me, this hadn't happened. I stopped her, and said, "No way. I totally don't remember this happening. Are you kidding?". She said, "Seriously? I can still see you crawling away. It happened a few times while I was there. I still remember just standing there, thinking how surreal it was. I never told anyone, no one. Not even my parents. We were 13, I had no idea how to process it."
And then I started remembering. I remembered the pain. I remembered the shame, the embarrassment. I remembered the rage.
My dreams were filled with horror that night. Horror and fear and a sadness so big and huge and black that I woke up in tears several times. I saw my mom standing there, watching, doing nothing. I saw his eyes, so filled with hate that I thought he would kill me. I remembered huddling on the floor, next to my bed, my Laura Ashley comforter wrapped around me as I rocked and sobbed. "Go apologize to her" I heard my mom say, and he would come into my room. Face still red and beaded with sweat, big meaty hands still clenched into doughy fists. "I'm sorry" he'd say. "I'm sorry."
You know what? Me too.