As I wake up, all I can see is darkness. I can hear scuffling and yelling in the room next to mine. I know it is happening again. All my life, this abuse has happened and I’ve done nothing about it.
I can remember the first time I saw it- when the father figure in my life grabbed my mom and pinned her against the fridge. The pain I saw going through my mom as she struggled was like someone scratching my eyes. The dryness of my throat and the squeak that came out of the three-year-old me when I wanted to help my mom was unbearable. To this day, trying to remember that is the hardest thing. Seeing my mom get hit was the worst. Standing in my little brown Carhartt overalls and remembering picking up her tooth off the floor and my dad yelling at me to throw it in the garbage. My mom walked out our front door, didn’t look back, and drove away in her green Pontiac Bonneville. I did not see her for two years.
When people yell, or get into little ‘fights,’ that triggers all the memories of my mom getting beat up by guys she thought she loved. Since I was a little girl, my biggest fears were fighting and car accidents. When I am at school and I see guys get in a squabble and someone gets pushed against the lockers, or one boy is yelling in another’s face; I see my mom and her other lovers, not the boys. Statistics show that one in every three women go through a domestic dispute with an intimate partner every twenty minutes. That is ten million women every year getting abused. This is not okay.
There is one thing that I will always remember- it will never leave my mind. It’s like this memory has been replayed over and over and etched in my mind. I will never forget the pain that my mom and I went through when she was with her fiancé. I have never experienced such hatred towards that man. I never wanted to be left alone. I am thankful that my mom chose me, and that I went with and we got out of that house, that relationship, and that time. After nine years of going through abuse, I will never forget the last time that my mom and I walked through the front door of our house. I had to take care of my seven year old sister because my mom couldn’t help the fact that she was at work, trying to make enough tips bartending to pay the bills. Her ex fiancé, Gator, didn’t have a job, he drank all day, and sometimes it was so bad that he passed out on the couch.
Thanksgiving day, 2015, my mom had to go to work in Eureka. She had set out a list of things to do to tidy up the house and to get a meal prepared. Little did I know; I had to do it. I knew I had to help, but I didn’t think that I would have to cook, clean, do everything and make sure my sister was okay. Gator had drank so much the day before. Then that day he woke up and started drinking, and fell asleep on the couch. I set my sister up in our room with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate with her favorite movie, Madagascar.
After everything that needed to be done was done, I went outside to chop wood to keep the woodstove going so our house would be warm. At around midnight, my mom came home after working a twelve hour shift. I had put my sister to sleep a few hours before, and I heard scuffling in the other room. I knew that they were fighting again. This time I wasn’t sure about what, I just knew that I wanted it to stop.
Being the experienced child that I was, I got out from under my three blankets, and climbed down the ladder to the bunk bed. I grasped my robe and shuffled in my camo slippers through the 45*F living room. The fire had run out, and there was no wood left in the house. I went to the bathroom to cover up as to why I was awake. I ran water over my face and the cool, refreshing feeling felt so fine. Hearing my mom yelling and asking him to stop made me realize that I needed to be a big girl and help my mom. I flushed the toilet as a distraction, and walked back through the dimly lit kitchen.
With the faint light coming from the lamp in the living room, I saw something on the floor. It was a crimson color. Blood. I followed the trail on the floor like I was tracking a deer after being shot in the woods. This trail led to the bedroom, where there, I found my mom lying on the other side of the queen-sized memory foam mattress. She had a bruise on her cheek that was starting to turn purplish blue. It reminded me of the coldness you get in your fingers when they start to freeze. I noticed that she had swollen knuckles and a skinned up wrist. Seeing her like this, I had a new hatred towards Gator.
He left. When I walked through the kitchen, I caught him leaving through the patio door and walking towards the woods. He didn’t know I saw him. But I did. I remember all the things that happened when I was younger. I hated fighting. It was my biggest fear. When my mom and Gator fought, I snuck out of my room to see what was happening. They didn’t know that I could see them, but I saw more than what I wanted to. This pain was what I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to remember, but it would stick with me my entire life.
My mom and I made a plan to break away from this life. I didn’t want to leave my little sister, but I had to. By the court order, I was supposed to be with my mom always on weekends. I didn’t want to have to leave my baby sister growing up with a monster of a dad in her life. I packed my bags and put them in laundry baskets so that it looked like mom and I were going to do laundry at the laundromat. When we got to the car, my sister came out and gave me a snickers and a Capri-sun juice box. I gave her a hug and said, “Don’t tell dad, but mom and I are leaving. Honey, we might not be back for a while.”
She went back to the deck, back to the front door, and Gator came to the door to add something to the “laundry pile.” He didn’t know that this was the last time that he would ever see my mom or me. I looked at him with an apologetic smile, because he didn’t know. I looked at Torann, one more time… not knowing if I would ever see her again. She had a tear in her eye, and a slight smile on her face. She knew, but she didn’t. At seven years old, getting told your big sister was leaving you, the big sister who did everything, the big sister who she called mom- was never coming back? That is something she will always remember.
“Bye mom, bye Rayna. See you soon,” she said.
To this day, my mom, sister and I can still go through the hurt that we have always gone through. The thing that agonizes you the most is leaving someone you love. That’s pain.