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The innocence of being young, the devoid knowledge of a terrible world, the youthful curiosity of a young mind learning new things– all gone in two hours' time. Replaced by a terrible realization that the world is indeed a place to be feared. Where a young girl had once seen everybody as a friend, walked up to the most villainous looking person in the crowd to tell them her name, one man took that away from her. One evil man, a drunk with no knowledge himself that his presence had scarred a little girl for the rest of her life. Probably no recollection of the night, he himself lived his life vacant to the fact that he'd sent a family into two years of distrust, sorrow, and horror. To a person of only four years of age, anything remotely scary is something terrible in their young minds. That was exactly how it played out. My developing personality and outgoing spirit was interrupted, and I took a brand new outlook of life from that day forward.
With only a distant memory I can recollect myself before the incident. The rest were filled in by my mother. She knew who I would be today if nothing had happened. I was carefree, loving to all, fun for everyone, always smiling. Nobody would hurt me in this world because the world was wonderful. I was shielded from what the world was really like. Promptly if something came up my parents would keep me from it. It wasn't that they were hiding the truth from me, but that I was not of age to understand. Not even old enough to know of the badness in the world yet. To me, fear was for the weak. Strength was not thought of. Jokes and happy times were. Trust was automatic to anyone I met. My main goal in life was to make someone laugh, wonder at the unknown and learn as much as I could from anyone who would tell me. A rude awakening told me that this was not the way the world worked. Not at all. Then came the first knock at the door.
A cold night, rain pounding on the windows with the curtains drawn over them. Dinner was still sizzling in the oven on low. The TV was on, but at the moment I was more concerned about the heater on the floor. My mom was busy in the kitchen, hammering a nail into the wall to hang a picture. My little brother was only a baby, not more than a year old at most and still not walking yet. It's strange that its the little things about that night that I remember the most. Suddenly a slow, hard knocking came at the door. That could only mean one thing, Daddy was home. I was the oldest, so of course I would be the first one to dive inside our usual hiding place under the recliner. The recliner was an old chair with a hole just big enough for two small girls to fit inside, and finally a red velvet blanket covering the whole chair, with a peep hole big enough for me to see outside our fortress. My sister eagerly followed. This was our custom, whenever my father came home we always hid inside the chair so we could surprise him when he got home. Mom looked through the window for only a brief second and unlocked the door.
The man who entered our house was not my father.
This man was different. He was tall, a big man with a large belly. He was wearing a coat that looked exactly like my dad's old coat. Maybe he was a friend of Mom's. I looked at mom from my peephole to see. No, this man was not somebody we knew. I could tell that by Mom's surprised expression when she saw him, staggering alarmingly. Maybe he was the neighbor. But my sister and I couldn't spoil a good opportunity to surprise the man with our hiding spot. We both charged out cheerfully, arms raised high.
“Boo!” we both shouted in unison.
The look he gave us was more than eerie. I stopped shouting, but he grinned. I'd never seen a drunk man before, it was explained to me later. He smiled, staggered, almost tripping over my baby brother, and suddenly lifted his foot and stomped two inches away from his back.
“You need to get out.” My mom shouted, and I could hear rising fear when she spoke.
The man laughed hardheadedly. Instead of leaving, he pushed her aside and stepped in. Once again his charging foot barely missed breaking my brother's back.
A fear I could not explain entered me.
What did this man want? Why was he so mean to my mom? What would happen if he stepped on my brother? My mom lifted up her hammer, shouting words I no longer can remember. He shouted back, demanding to sit in his chair. Did he mean this one, where my sister and I were hiding?
In a flash, my mom had looked at me and shouted to follow her. She bent down and scooped up my brother, seconds before his foot came crashing right where he'd been crawling. He shouted, mom lifted the hammer menacingly and threatened to hurt him if he touched us. My mind was a blur. What was happening? Why was this person here? What was he doing?
He raised a fist to Mom, but she kept him at bay with the hammer.
I was only four, how did one react when this happened? Was he going to hurt my mom? Would he hurt me? Where was my dad?
I screamed for him. “Dad! Mom!”
He stumbled towards me, and Mom ran for my younger sister and dragged her back. He was still coming. What would he do to me?
“Come on hon! It's okay!” My mom was shouting, but I didn't hear or see. I couldn't know. What was going on? Mom pushed me, a hard, brute push with her knee, still with my brother and sister in her arms. The man turned, angry and terrifying. What did he want? Why was he acting this way?
Mom pushed me towards the door. In a second I was out. The rain had stopped. I looked up to see the stars, clear and bright. The moon was overhead too, and for a second that was all I saw. I closed my eyes until I didn't see the man racing for my mom and us, I didn't see mom screaming, shouting and swinging her hammer at him, my little sister screaming behind me. I closed it all out, only focusing on stars. Something normal and good. Suddenly my eyes opened, and in a panic I pushed past Mom, past the man and past my screaming little sister, racing for my room.
In a flash I was grabbed. I screamed, but looked up to see that Mom had come back for me. She pulled me back to the door and again I was out. She shouted, and her voice echoed down the streets. I thought she was calling for Dad, but she was only calling for help.
“Help! Help!” Not a single person could hear us.
My mind was a blur. For one second I was cowering on the porch. In another I felt Mom push me with her knee and I was sent stumbling forwards, running for my life. We ran past the first house, and raced for the door of the second. Mom let go of my little sister and knocked, panicked. A man answered, let us inside, and let us call the cops.
It was over just like that. My memory erased most of it, told mostly in passing by my mother, but I do remember the panic. I remember a fear that seized every muscle and stopped me from moving. I remembered my brother almost dying, the man's laugh, and Mom raising her hammer, shouting that she'd kill him if he hurt us.
I remembered that, and I was never the same afterwards.