Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A year or so ago, in my city, a young girl was strangled by her stepfather.  After she died the truth came out.  She had been abused for years by this man and there were records to attest to her pain.  In talking with my therapist, he asked me how I thought this girl was probably feeling.  In her life I imagined that she felt sad, alone, hurt, etc.  And in the end, I didn't even have to think.  I knew.  She felt relief.

I am in kindergarten and I love my teacher.  She says I'm good at reading and she gives me stickers.  She doesn't know that I am really a bad little girl.  I am bad and if she knew she would probably take away my stickers.

My mom is sad.  She looks like she will be mad if I keep doing bad things.  I am taking a bath and she is in the other room.  I have bubbles.  I love bubbles.  I can take the bubbles and cover my body up; I can hide my face with them and no one will know who I am.  I can be a man with a beard.  A man with a beard is much safer than I am.

I have to wash my hair.  I have very long hair and I hate when we have to wash it.  So does my mom.  She hates my hair.  She also hates me. 

I am going to help her; I am going to wash my hair myself.  The shampoo runs out of the bottle like honey.  I capture most of it with my chubby hands.  I lean my head back and rub my hands through my hair.  I am doing it right; my mom is going to be happy.  The bubbles grow in my hair and I hear the shampoo crackle in my ears.  My hair will be really clean and my mom will be happy.

But now the shampoo is running down my forehead and into my eyes.

I did not use my baby sister's shampoo and now my eyes are burning.  I am a stupid kid.  I splash water in my eyes; water with more bubbles in it.  My eyes are burning more and I am splashing lots of water.  My mom hears me.

She walks into the bathroom and sees me.  I have made her mad.  She kneels down next to the bathtub and I tell her what is wrong.  She is going to help me.  She leans me back to get the soap away from my eyes.

My head is underwater.  Soapy water rushes into my mouth and nose.  My eyes burn less but I am scared.  Even underwater, I can hear my mother's muffled screams. 
Rotten... miserable... stupid... hateful... ugly... wish you were dead... child.
I try to sit up and I cannot.  Her mommy hands are on my chest.  I lurch forward again and this time I steal a breath.  I can see in color again.

Dead... dead... dead...!
She screams louder and louder.  Color becomes black and white and screams are muffled once again.  I feel my body move with the water and there is peace.  I do not struggle.  I rest.  I relax.

I feel relief.  All I hear is the water and it is a peaceful sound.  Relief means that the pain will stop.  Relief means that I am no longer bad.  Relief is murky bathwater pouring in.  Relief envelops me.  Relief means that my teacher will miss me at school.

My mouth is open and fresh air is invading into my lungs.  The water is cold and the bubbles are gone.  My mother is sobbing in the corner of the bathroom.  My eyes no longer burn.  I shiver but I dare not move.  I feel cold but I feel so much more.

I am alive and I feel despair.


English Rider said...

Look to the future. You have one. You are not broken. You are a survivor. People care about you.

Deborah said...

Even though you, the child, suffered most, I can't help but feel some pain for your mother. She would have shared your feelings that she was bad, had that 'if only people knew....' fear. She would have felt rotten to the core, and that rottenness possibly drove her to do more and more awful things to you. Were you ever able to discover what her childhood was like?

Once again, I find it remarkable that you could break this cycle of self-hatred perpetuated on a defenceless child.

You are a good person, Jennifer, and you were a perfectly ordinary, perfectly good child who deserved absolutely nothing of the abuse you received.

Melinda said...

This piece just broke my heart, Jennifer--and it also brought back the memories of my own painful childhood of feeling lost, threatened, and so very alone. You have risen to meet so many of those early challenges and no matter what, Jennifer, you are making it. Your writing will help others--I know it has helped me put my own abuse into some perspective of being one of many people who suffered the same types of abuses that we did. You and I are (unfortunately) not alone in the sharing of that early pain in life.


Melinda said...

I'm not sure my last comment made it through, so I'll try again. Jennifer, this piece really brought tears to my eyes--I felt your pain, which brought back some memories of my own lost, helpless, and very alone feelings I had in my early childhood. Take care, my friend--and keep fighting.


English Rider said...

I am returning to add that you are a good writer, independent of subject.

Andrea said...

I am saddened as I read. It is if you are telling parts of my own story. However, I am here to tell you..You can overcome. It will always be with you...a part of what makes you a better person, b/c you care about others. We each have choices in life and I chose to take the horror of my childhood and use it for good and I can see here that you want to help others.
Blessings and prayers, andrea

PS: I have joined to follow and look forward to getting to know you.

Friko said...

You know so well to express yourself now; the inarticulate, hurt child is a grown woman who can name the pain and will be able to deal with it, little by little.

Your writing is almost unbearably clear and direct, unsentimental and matter-of-fact. One day, these posts should be collected into a book. I have told my friend about your site and I sincerely hope that she will be brave enough to read your blog.

Shattered said...

ER, you're right; I do have a future. Getting there is the tough part but I know it will be worth it.

Shattered said...

Deborah, I have days where I feel pain for my mother as well. She had it rough growing up and then she married my father and pretty much sealed her fate. I am nothing like her but there are days where I am feeling particularly bad and those are the days where I tend to lash out. If she felt nothing but horrible, I can see where her hate could have come from. It has been a difficult cycle to break; sometimes I still struggle with it. Fortunately, I have people around me who encourage me, love me and hold me accountable.

Shattered said...

Melinda, both of your comments made it through; thank you for both. :) You are right, unfortunately you and I are not alone. However, as much as I don't wish this for anyone it is nice to know that there are others, like yourself, who understand. Thank you for your encouragement.

Shattered said...

Andrea, I am so sorry that you had to endure similar things. No child should have to grow up like we did. Thank you for reading; I look forward to getting to know you too. :)

Shattered said...

Friko, I am glad that I am able to write about these things now and find ways to express myself. I write from a unique perspective; I know that. It's just how my mind works and how I deal with my past. As I am writing I am assimilating a memory as I "talk" to another "friend" in my mind. Weird... I know and probably hard to describe and understand.

I do hope your friend will visit. We all have unique experiences and we can all learn from each other.

Jennifer said...

I am sitting here, trying to think of what to write, because I want to let you know I was here, reading, thinking about how terrifying it must have been, thinking about the helplessness of children, who absorb it all, soak it up, and how as adults we carry our pain around, destined to pass it along unless we are aware and consciously break the cycle.

And you do write beautifully.