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I was sick, sicker than I had been in a long time. I hate throwing up. Lots of bad things that have happened have been accompanied with vomit. Leaning over the sink, I try not to think of the other times: a hospital-sanitary bin, with a broken face, unable to keep anything down because of all the pain medication I was on; on my knees, disillusioned, in a strange place, afraid for my life, violated; doubled over the toilet, watching as uncounted pills swirled around. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and take a long look at my reflection in the mirror over the bathroom sink. The vanity of a teenage girl overtakes me and I think, with disdain, that I look twice as shitty as I feel. I have an overwhelming urge to cry.
“Mom, could you or dad run to the gas station and pick me up some Sprite and cigarettes.”
“After dinner probably we could-“
“Could you try not to like… breathe on us right now?” he says, tone dripping with sarcasm and a malice I didn’t know he held toward me. “Seriously.”
“F*** off,” is my eloquent reply, not really thinking anything of it.
“What did you say to me?”
“If you say that again I swear I’m going to teach you…”
I open my mouth and shut it again when my mom quiets me.
I grit my teeth and that feeling that I’m going to cry any minute comes back again. I feel helpless.
“Yeah, that’s right. Shut up. Or I’ll punch you in your nasty surgery reconstructed face.” Ambulance. Me, fighting for consciousness. Blood, blood, blood everywhere. I can’t feel the pain yet. I’ll feel it later. Doctors. I hate doctors. Three surgeries over the course of years to fix my jaw, broken in two places. Being a young, pre-teen and teenage girl, feeling uglier than everyone else with the gap from the teeth I lost and a permanent scar under my lip…
I snap. I grab the first thing I can, a half empty glass of water on the table and throw it at him. After that, things move quicker than I can comprehend.
He grabs for my neck, snapping the necklace my little sister got for me for my 18th birthday. I jerk away as his fist rises and my dad’s suddenly between us doing a defensive stance that I bet he learned back when he was in college football. I’m pushed backward by someone and find myself sprawled across the tile of the kitchen floor. The tears are falling now and I feel the control I’ve so painstakingly forced into place slipping. I try to get up, but my dad’s already there to hold me down and shield me from him while he tries to find an opening to get to me.
“She’s 18 now. I’m not afraid to beat the shit out of her.”
My dad shifts a little bit to say something to him and suddenly something hot and wet is suddenly all over me and, horrified, I see the dirt that I always feel physically there: a French coffee press with the dark liquid and the grinds.
“There now we’re even,” he sneers.
I scream. I can’t stop the shaking. The memories I was trying so desperately to hold back are suddenly all I can think about. I’m 17 again. (Really, it wasn’t that long ago) I’m 17 and stupid enough to end up in a stupid situation… It was all my fault… Should have fought harder…Even if there were five of them and one of me, I still should have f***ing fought harder…
“She deserved it,” I hear him say. “She needs to learn what the real world is like.”
“You think I don’t already f***ing know?” Was that my voice? It’s too raw, too desperate, too- “You don’t even know the f***ing shit I’ve been through, you son of a bitch!”
He laughs. He laughs just like they did. And somehow right before my eyes, he’s no longer someone I know, he’s one of them. “I honestly don’t care.”
Laughing, laughing, laughing like it’s something comedic. All eyes are on me as one after another…
Somehow, I’m suddenly up and scrabbling with a knife from the counter. “I’m going to f***ing kill him!” I wail in a strange voice. I feel like I’m watching this scene in a bad movie or TV show. I’m looking down on myself from someplace not here with a media desensitized stare.
He laughs again. “Yeah, why don’t you try that.”
“Emily, don’t. Emily, please don’t. Just put it down. Emmy…” My dad’s arms wrap around me from behind. Is he crying?
I can’t even keep my eyes open because I’m crying so hard and don’t protest when my dad gently takes the knife from me. My mind blurs.
I’m a thing, not a person. They’re using me like I’m some kind of thing. Maybe I am.
“Men are all the f***ing same!” I screech hysterically, blindly. “I’m going to chop all their penises off!” And again I’m watching myself from a distance as I struggle against my dad.
“Aaron, you need to leave,” my dad’s voice is shaky.
“Me? What are you talking about. I’m your son. I have your genes.” ‘She doesn’t,’ is left unsaid.
“Not my blood, not my color, not my sister. Why should I be sorry?” he says coldly. Blurry again. He goes downstairs to play a video game, my 32-year-old adoptive brother; the sounds of war echo up through the vents.
Later, as my mom and sister help me change out of my wet soggy clothes and try to wipe the “dirt” that he poured on me off with wet paper towels, the vague feeling that the real dirt will never be gone dances through my thoughts.