Sunday, March 25, 2012

Selected Entries: The Captivity

A regular Selected Entries for July 2004 will come later, but I feel that the journal entry I wrote on July 18, 2004, really epitomizes the experience of the month for me.

I was sixteen years old and staying for a summer in Decaying State with my birth-mother Anne, whose petty antics, when questioned, quickly escalated into psychotic misbehavior. By the middle of July I was being held against my will by a mentally unstable woman who threatened my life and denied me any communication with my legal guardian.

July 18, 2004

Today has been an absolutely terrible day.

Yesterday Anne and I got into a huge argument because she came home and nearly had a nervous collapse over some unwashed dishes. She actually had the theatrical idiocy to leave the house in “disgust.” In truth the only dish that I had was a single tea cup, which I was still using at the time of her outburst. When I pointed this out to her, she suddenly had no desire to discuss the matter.

So then I said, “Well, if you don’t want to talk about it when I want to talk about it, then just don’t talk to me about it.”

In this innocent statement I should have seen my awful error: anyone as easily offended and as fanatically self-righteous as Anne would have seized the moment, and seize it she did. Flaring up into full holier-than-thou, unjustifiably assaulted, horribly violated stance, she exclaimed with unimaginable indignity, “How dare you!”

I am honestly not making this up; she actually said it. I had committed the one truly unacceptable sin: not accepting frivolous rantings as legitimate and telling her that I had no intention to indulge her in them. Her tirade soon spread from dishes to all matters, no matter how unrelated.

She proceeded to tell me that I had conned my way to being invited to Grand Ma Normal Family's house and that I had done so by complaining to her about how miserable I was. In truth, I have told my grandmother only that I am a bit bored and want to do something productive, so I decided I’d take up her offer to help out around the house. Of course, I am quite accosted, but with my grandfather’s current medical condition that knowledge would only serve to exacerbate an already enormous strain on my grandmother's shoulders. I just hope that I can make things somewhat easier for her.

So, anyway, Anne says, “You’re in such a rush to get down there and help her, but you won’t help me!”

And, without exaggeration, I stood completely still for several moments, mouth open and everything, flabbergasted by her self-absorption. Still not quite over the ridiculous comment, I explained that Grand Ma’s dying-husband situation was a bit different than Anne's situation, at which point she further underscored her mind-numbing selfishness by screaming, “So what!?!”

I told Anne that for all she understood me she couldn’t read a book, let alone a mind. I told her that she was mediocre, at which point she told me that Marie, my adoptive mother, was the height of mediocrity and also that Grand Ma Normal Family was “a piece of shit” and “Native City white trash.”

That’s absolutely not true.

Grand Ma may not be as intelligent or well read as Anne, and she may not come from a scholarly or noble background, but she’ll always be a thousand times what Anne is.

My grandmother gives until it hurts and refuses to take, offers a shoulder to cry on and hides her own grief, flowers praise and allows herself none. She is, in short, the best person I’ve ever known. I’ve never once heard Grand Ma brag about her intelligence, money, marriage, or anything besides her grandchildren. And Anne has the gall to refer to her as trash.

The confrontation escalated and only ended with Anne calling my father and forwarding the boldfaced lie that I had called her a “worthless piece of shit.” Ironic, isn’t it? Here is where Anne miscalculated. My father knows me well and realizes that I just wouldn't speak that way, something he assured me he believed when I spoke with him this afternoon.

This morning I called Grand Ma and told her that I’d love to come tomorrow (as she originally suggested) because not much was going on here. Grand Ma asked me to request that Anne meet her in Beautiful Town tomorrow around twelve. I learned, much to my anguish, that Uncle Mustache had offered to take me to Sweet Aunt's house as recently as three days ago, in which case I’d be free and safe now. I called Anne to seek her approval, and, imagine, she was highly affronted. She went into a little speech about how I had completely gone over her head and how she was tired of my bullshit. At the end of my rope with her pretensions, I told her that I didn’t care what she was tired of and hung up the telephone.

I called Grand Ma back and she offered to send Uncle Mustache to retrieve me right away, a fantastic idea that I stupidly put on hold so as to get my father’s permission. Before I’d even hung up with Grand Ma, Anne called her husband Angry Man's cell phone with an order that I not have access to the telephone.

This is when I knew that a drastic course of action must be taken, for Anne had crossed the line from annoying drama queen to a woman who was trying to exercise nonexistent authority by cutting me off from my family and holding me against my will. Knowing that I must override her with extreme prejudice or become trapped, I left the house in search of a pay phone. When I could procure no means of public communication I returned home, ate, went over to Uncle Nose-Hair's house, and used his telephone. I reached my parents and told them everything.

My father assured me that some form of transportation would be procured tomorrow, Anne's wishes being inconsequential. For two glorious hours I thought that I would be rescued, and what a joy it was. You see, through her general malice and maddening conviction of her own superiority, Anne made a snake pit. In was in her decision to sever communications with my family that she implanted a feeling of desperation, of no escape. She got to my father and told him that she wouldn’t take me home tomorrow. My father told me to hang on and that there was nothing he could do.

Anne has decreed that Uncle Mustache will not be able to set foot on her property, which, if I recall my law lessons, makes my confinement here illegal because Uncle Mustache would of course have my father's blessing.

Lies spread to her entire family have turned against me any ally I might have here. She has infected co-workers and even my adoptive mother Marie with her vile theories, driving one of her male friends into such an uproar that he was reputedly ready to come over here and “drop” me. That she can entice a grown man into hitting a teenage boy shows the extent of her vicious manipulation.

She told me complete falsehoods about my father, claiming that he was fed up with me and amazed at my selfish nature. He denied this completely but Marie seemed a bit sucked in, which hit me like a knife to my heart.

Then, after I hung up, Anne went into a violent fit of shrieking in which she said that she wanted to slit herself with razor blades. She also started crying about being bullied as a child and Angry Man told her to get over it.

She often blames current traits on her mother or her grade school peers, and dwells constantly on the memories. I went through the same thing and recovered fully, without having to hash it over five times a day. Now, even hours later, she’s still calling every family member she can think of to whine. At present she’s telling Aunt Smugly Superior I am so vicious that I will drive her back to heroin addiction, self-mutilation, and “the depths of Hell.”

She’s also gone on extensively about how she won’t take me to Beautiful Town because Grand Ma Normal Family and Sweet Aunt would “crucify” her. She told Angry Man earlier that she was going to beat the crap out of me, tie me up, and then kill me.

She just finished discussing with Aunt Smugly Superior how my parents are “living the lie” and how my father destroyed her in a single day. Also, my parents apparently “laid the groundwork” for everything that’s now happening. I am truly afraid for my safety, as these rantings have been progressing all evening. Lord help us.

She’s referred to me as “a monster.” All of this when Marie is urging me to show Anne the respect she deserves as my mother. My father says that I quarrel with Anne because we are so alike. I have to believe that he is wrong, for if he is not, what do I have to live for? I’d rather be dead than be as tiresome and as oppressive to those I love as she is to me. I can’t wait to leave here.

Church comforted me a great deal this morning. I hope God will wrap me up in His Love, along with Grand Ma Normal Family, who needs it, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Amidst all the poems uncovered from years past, here's a new one:

No more tears will fall for you
It doesn't mater what you do
No more drops will hit the ground
And from my throat will come no sound

No more will fear wrack my frame
No more will I take the blame
No more will a boy believe
You lost when you could not deceive

No more tears will fall for you
No matter all the hate you spew
No more doubts will plague my night
Your twisted lie was never right

No more will I try to please
Nor your wrath move to appease
No more ground will I bequeath
To you who are so far beneath

No more tears will fall for you
I do not weep for what's not true
No more will the hard tears run
You are not worth them----not worth one

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another Gem

While unpacking my room, I found yet another old poem. This one is from at least a year ago, but given recent events it seemed timely.

It's called "To Father:"

You have never had the spine
To do the things you should
To love your children as they are
And be the best you could

You have never had the will
To see things as they are
To clear your head of dust and drink
And drug-begotten stars

You have never been a man
I doubt you have the parts
I'm tired of your early ends
And all of your false starts

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Week At My Grandmother's House

Mine and Powell's intended five-day stay in Native State turned into a week-long vacation on account of my grandmother's unusually positive disposition during the time we were there.

"We're staying five days?" Powell complained before we left the Farmhouse. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Why?"

My brother shook his head.

"Too long."

It is true that time with my grandmother typically has a sharp expiration date; after four or five days she'll have an apparently baseless spell of irritability that quickly grows intolerable. This time around, though, her geniality maintained throughout.

"Why don't we stay longer?" Powell proposed several days in. "I'm having a really good time."

His eagerness to prolong the event and her quickness to behave in a way that would make him want to likely stemmed from the same fact: Powell is leaving in less than a month's time for Marine bootcamp. Our days spent in Native State were the last time either he or my grandmother could see each other before that happened.

Whatever the cause, I'm glad of the result.

Our week there was one filled with relaxation, excellent food, and the comfort that Normal Family's good-natured, pleasant company brings.

In Weird Family there is always a tinge of madness to the most mundane gatherings, the shadow of a needle or a gun impressing itself on every conversation. In Hick Family there lingers a latent hostility, an unspoken possibility of violence that is never too far from the surface facade of crude jokes and belly laughs.

In Normal Family we play card games.

And for someone who didn't grow up with this, for someone whose relatives thought drunken fistfights were normal, boring card games are invaluable.

Of course, "boring" is perhaps not an accurate label.

For while Normal Family is, as a rule, prosperous, settled, stable, and non-violent, it is as filled with characters as either of the more unsavory branches of my line. There's Liberal Cousin, who, with her husband, had the wonderful audacity to mock my mother's incorrect English at one of Marie's own dinner parties; Cool Cousin, who got drunk with my grandmother and me during her last visit and proceeded to lead us in a Tibetan prayer chant; Rowdy Cousin, an eighteen-year-old college freshman who continues to enjoy running around in the dark with a blanket over his head; and, of course, the eminent and aptly named Aunt Crazy.

In case all of these names are confusing you, let me lay out a brief family tree:

Grand Ma Normal Family is Aunt Crazy's sister and Uncle Responsible is Aunt Crazy's husband. Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible have two forty-something daughters, Liberal Cousin and Cool Cousin, who are my first cousins, once removed.

Grand Ma Normal Family has three children: my father, Tall Uncle, and Sweet Aunt. Tall Uncle married Tall Aunt and birthed the gigantic Tall Cousin (who's eighteen) while Sweet Aunt, married to Uncle Mustache, is mother to Rowdy Cousin.

Hopefully that clears things up.

In any case the Normal Family gathering, held on Saturday, March 3rd, in honor of my December graduation, was one of the highlights of the trip.

Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy wrote me a check for $100 and Sweet Aunt and Uncle Mustache gave me $75 cash, whereupon I realized something rather depressing: each of these relatives, though under no particular obligation to me, had done more to celebrate my earning a degree than had my own parents. My father and mother, in a show of generosity, gave me $50 and a free pass from all room and board until June--a promise they quickly broke by insisting I pay them $100 a month for food. Boy, I can't wait to leave here.

While I was in Native State, though, it was easy to forget about shenanigans elsewhere. A good part of the Normal Family cohort was assembled at my grandmother's house--Aunt Crazy, Uncle Responsible, Sweet Aunt, Uncle Mustache, and Rowdy Cousin--and Rowdy Cousin had even brought along a possible addition.

"Powell," I said. "This is Rowdy Cousin's girlfriend, Goofy Girl. Thomas and I met her last time we were here."

"Hi!" the seventeen-year-old exclaimed, showing off her zany sideways smile.

"Hey," Powell said.

She must have noticed him staring a bit, because she added, "Sorry about my nose."

"No," Powell replied, looking at the still noticeably off-center feature. "What happened?"

Goofy Girl smiled again.

"I tickled my sister too hard and she kicked me in the face."

"Okay, you're definitely in the right family."

Early in the night Goofy Girl was treated to Aunt Crazy's catchphrase ("It's hard out here to be a pimp!") and giggled like a helium balloon.

"It's a good thing Liberal Cousin isn't here," I said, invoking the daughter who disapproves of my great-aunt's affected ghetto mannerisms. "You wouldn't be able to do that."

"I can do that stuff in front of Liberal Cousin," Aunt Crazy asserted. She stopped and thought. "Well..."

That act of hesitation brought more laughter than the original joke, and if we hadn't had enough to be mirthful about we certainly got it when Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy regaled us with tales of their topless-bar exploits during the 1960s.

"Oh, Responsible," Aunt Crazy moaned, covering her face as he went into the story. "I was twenty years old!"

"I had to carry her out of there," Uncle Responsible continued. "I mean, I was there unwinding with a bunch of guys who I was in engineer training with--and then there's Aunt Crazy, downing drinks like a champ. I took one look at her and knew it was over."

"How often did you two do this?" I asked.

They shared a look.

"Once or twice," my uncle said.

"Not like, every weekend?"

"No, no," he forced some laughter. "No, we weren't like that."

The whole table cracked up at the awful lie and even Sweet Aunt said, "That sounds really convincing, Uncle Responsible."

The night concluded, as nights with Normal Family members often do, with a card game.

The video doesn't quite do it justice--nothing would--but it gives a glimpse.

I really like these people. I'll be happy to return for Easter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

She Exudes Such Brilliance

"Hey, BB, I can speak Italian," Pie told me as she walked into the kitchen on arriving home from school.

"Can you?" I asked. "What can you say?"

"I can say 'bakery' and 'creamed cheese.'"


"Which one do you want to hear first?"

"Hmm," I mused. "'Bakery.'"

"Pasticceria," she said, assuming the awful but precocious accent of all young children trying to speak a foreign tongue.

"And how do you say 'creamed cheese?'" I asked.

She threw her arms open and, in the same overdone dialect as before, exclaimed, "Philadelphia!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Sun

In the hot rains that were once my glory
I taste only salt
And in the scorching winds across which I sent golden embers
To coat the world in a cloak of shimmering beauty
There now drifts only the ashes of what I once was
And can never be again

It perhaps would have been better
Had I slogged across the ground
Knowing none but the acrid flavor of burnt soil on my tongue

But I could not help to rise into the heavens
And was not spared the awesome vista of the glittering firmament spread before my arms
Its countless fiery orbs arranged across my alabaster skin as if they were but gems for my adornment

Now I bear the agonizing vision
Of the empyrean at the pinnacle of its fragile beauty
When I rivaled the sun for brightness
And made even the night a blazing twilight of eternal summer

Before I fell
Was hurled from the throne of stars
Before the light that illuminated the sky was torn from my veins
And I was left discarded
To grace the field as a common weed

The earth is brittle here
The clouds a mockery of dullness
To one who once commanded them

My midday fire is receded from everywhere
But my memory
Where it lingers in horrific greatness
To remind me of my unworthiness
And of all I lost

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Idiot

I was taking a shower the other day in Grand Ma Normal Family's bathroom when my 22-year-old brother Powell opened the door and casually sidled in. This didn't strike me as unusual; we Our Family brothers have a long and proud tradition of holding bathroom chats, normally while one of us is in the shower and the other is on the toilet (a fact that has lent these encounters the somewhat misleading name of "poop showers").

What I did think was weird was that he didn't say anything. That's not how a poop shower works. Where was the warm greeting, the idle chatter? Where was the vaguely foul odor?

"Powell?" I called.

The curtain flew open without warning and I was greeted with the insuppressible image of Powell, all six feet, three inches, and 230 pounds of him, clad in my grandmother's nightgown and shower cap as he wielded a knife over my naked body and hummed out the screeching theme music from Psycho.

Puberty's touch on me was, to be generous, light, and when I am surprised or frightened my voice reverts quickly to the maiden-like pitch of a 12-year-old. As such I sounded suitably dramatic as I shrieked with terror during the several seconds it took me to figure out that I was not about to be murdered.

"Damn it, Powell!" I screamed, drawing the curtain closed while he cracked up in the background.

"Come on, dude," he said, resuming his customary spot on the commode. "You have to admit it was kind of funny."

"I mean...yeah."

Ten minutes later we were in the kitchen, where my grandmother was wiping her eyes as she chopped potatoes.

"Do you know what he just did?" I asked.

"Know?" she responded. "Hell, I helped him pick out the outfit."

Powell guffawed and she threw some potatoes into a bowl.

"You should have heard yourself," she said. "When that scream came through the wall I laughed so hard I made myself cry."

To my look of exaggerated shock she replied, "I'm sorry, BB, but your grandfather did that to me when we were young and he knew how terrified I was of that movie. I've been wanting to get someone else with it ever since."

"Grand Ma, you're awesome," Powell laughed.

"Great," I muttered. "I think we just established the worst family tradition ever."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Turn Away

Please turn your brown eyes away from me
I can't look at them
Without seeing days long wilted
And the skies whose soaring heat I did not embrace

The blooming wreath of your greatness
Is a painful flower
In whose shining petals is all I refused to be

I am a black sun
Not to shine on beings like you
But rather to illuminate the corners of the night
The recesses where discarded stars and forsaken songs huddle alongside the frail adolescents
Whose glorious veneer was swept away in the tide of your brilliance

I am the detritus you left behind
Or never knew

And for that I burn against you
But, far more,
Against myself

Thursday, March 1, 2012

To Native State

Powell and I are leaving on a five-day trip to our grandmother's house this afternoon. It promises to be fun.