I’m having one of my days. I’m usually pretty bubbly and talkative. I love to joke around, sing, and dance. But then out of nowhere, it’s like this awful heavy feeling slams into me.
I’m having one of those days today. I’ve spent the past four hours staring at the computer trying to write something while I cry to Sia songs. But I can’t write anything, because of all the things I carry around in my head that shouldn’t be in there.
I decided I want to talk a little about some of these things. I’m sure I’ll regret this and delete this in a few days. Just sometimes when I write it down, then it feels like it meant something.
So trigger warning. I want to talk about some of the things that happened to me when I was a kid. Trigger warnings for violence and cruelty to animals.
First, I want to start by saying, I can not write any of this into one of my novels. I did try actually with my book Combustion. I couldn’t do it. I can’t write my own pain. I try to stick to writing other people’s stories. I hate mine too much. And I already sound so melodramatic….I hate how it looks in front of me, on the screen or on a piece of paper, whenever I do try to write it.
When I was eight years old, we briefly had a dog. Very briefly. But while we had it, that dog did not have a happy life.
The only person I’ve ever told this to before is my husband. I never even told my sisters about this incident.
One night, the dog peed on the carpet. We had this chain leash. It was a pretty thick chain. My mom was so angry at the dog for peeing on the carpet.
I wish I could put it all into words. It’s all in my head and I carry it around every day. The sound that dog made. I never knew an animal could make a noise like that.
And I was so afraid and I felt so sick. I was in the room with her and I couldn’t move or stop her. It felt like waves were zipping through me. Like all this movement was happening inside of my head. I thought I was going to throw up.
I didn’t though. I laughed. I couldn’t stop. I laughed hysterically, even though nothing was funny and I was scared beyond belief, because I thought she was going to kill it. I don’t know why I laughed. I heard myself laughing and I couldn’t believe it was coming out of me, because what I really wanted to do was cry. And the noise it kept making. It tried to get away from her. It was so small and helpless and my whole body was shaking and I knew I should help it. I wanted to. But I was a selfish creature. I didn’t want her to turn on me. She was swinging that chain as hard as she could.
Every time I think of that, I still hear the dog’s screams in my head. I hope it had a happier life with people who really loved it after she gave it away.
She was always giving animals away. She collected animals, ignored and mistreated them, then gave them away. So many animals. She hurt so many of them, but that dog was the worst.
Sometimes what I’m carrying around in my head is the day my sister was burned. “She burned herself on the grill.” That’s what we had to tell the EMT. And the story was repeated so many times that my little sister has a false memory of burning herself on the grill. I want her to understand that’s not what happened. But then again, I don’t.
That happened when I was nine and she was two. I can see her skin peeling in my head sometimes. Water didn’t help. I was so sure cold water would help. It peeled off one layer, then another, and another. Quick, so quick, and I was so panicked, What happens when she’s all out of layers? She didn’t cry. She stared at her arm like she was mesmerized, and sometimes it’s that numb, almost awed expression on her toddler face that rattles around in my head.
Other times, I can’t stop thinking about the first time I fought back. She hit me in the car. She was always hitting me, hitting my sisters. I was fifteen years old. Everything went red. She was driving fifty miles an hour and I didn’t care. I was so sick of being hit. I grabbed her by the back of her head, took a handle of dry hair and slammed her face into the steering wheel again and again. Somehow she kept us on the road.
And the story she told.
Poor single mother. Poor her. She was so young when she had her kids. The oldest, her father isn’t in the picture. No wonder she’s like that. No wonder she’s such a bad kid. Daddy issues. Anger issues. Poor single mother. She has her hands full.
I was driving home and she went crazy on me. Almost killed us.
And then I was the bad guy. And it didn’t matter that when I was eight she beat the dog in front of me and stuck that dog’s screams in my head for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter that I watched my sister’s skin peel off her arm until Mom came up with her cover story and called 9-1-1.
None of it matters. It happened. It’s in my head. I have to see and hear it in my head.
But there’s no justice in the world. She was never punished for those things. She lives a perfectly happy life.
There is no justice in life. Life is fucking senseless.
But I really can’t write any of this. Not in a novel. I really did try.
I’m just another person who had a miserable childhood. We’re a dime a dozen.
I’ve never valued family, because family is horror to me. Family is screaming and insults and blood on the floor and my baby sister’s body flying through the air and after there was always a huge dent in the wall. “I tripped and fell into the wall,” she told guests. I wanted to tell them that she threw my two year old sister into the wall.
I worked up my courage to tell people a few times. I told the neighbor once. I only told her a little of it. I’ve never told anyone all of it.
“You shouldn’t go telling your mother’s business.” That’s what she said to me. It was years before I told anyone again. But by then, I was so angry and she convinced everyone I was a rebellious teen. Everyone assumed I was making it up.
This is why I hate happy endings. When I was a kid, I loved Harry Potter. I convinced myself a letter from Hogwarts was coming. I used to wait outside for an owl in the summer. The disappointment was crushing. Please somebody come get me from here.
Years later, even after I was done believing in magic, I still had this sense that someday it would be okay. Someday there would be justice.
But it’s not okay and it will never be.
Sometimes her screaming insults are in my head. Sometimes I still believe them.
Jackass, retard, piece of shit, stupid, idiot, gross. You’re gross. I hate you.
And it was so constant that even when she was nice, I didn’t enjoy it. I was on edge the whole time. There was always a storm that came after she was nice. Sometimes she’d have a mood where she’d get real affectionate. She’d pull me onto the couch next to her and stroke my hair. I would tense up. I hated when she was affectionate. It was so seldom that it was absolutely terrifying.
Almost every story has a happy ending. It’s a lie. Life doesn’t always have them. And it isn’t because I wasn’t good enough. When every narrative punishes evil-doers and rewards the victims, it shapes us to expect that from life, and we can’t.
I can’t write my own pain. I’ve tried so hard to do it.
Even this blog post will disappear in a day or two. Watch. As cathartic as it is to put it out there, I can’t stand to be so vulnerable.
My goal as a writer is to tell stories of utter despair and tell them honestly. I think it’s because of all the things I have to carry around in my head.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop hearing that dog’s scream.