Dreams and Reality

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's about the blurred lines of tortuous memories from my childhood and the dreams after the birth of my second son. The story-line goes between the two areas and the confusion as to the idea that my dreams (of killing my two baby boys) could actually become a reality without my conscious being able to separate whether I'm dreaming or not...it ends in my suicide to spare my sons as well as leave my body to ask God what the purpose of my life actually meant in the grand scheme of things.

Submitted: December 04, 2015

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Submitted: December 04, 2015

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Dreams and Reality

Written by Aimee Michelle

in 1996

Based on true facts


Carla woke up covered with a light sweat that made her body feel clammy and cool to the touch.  She was also trembling, and it took her a moment to realize exactly where she was; that it had all been a dream and the relief was truly overwhelming.  She turned onto her left side and started to cry softly into her pillow because the dream had been so very, very real and the guilt she felt was painful, even now that she was awake and innocent of any action.  She had woke up before the screaming had stopped and she wasn’t sure if she had actually screamed herself, but then supposed not, because her husband lay next to her, still asleep and apparently oblivious to her trembling body and rapid breathing.

She briefly considered waking him up to tell him the dream, because she needed to be held so badly now, but she also knew that if she did, his ‘concern’ would result in a quick orgasm (for him), and that wasn’t at all the kind of concern she wanted.

What she desperately needed, was the reassurance that what she had dreamt was simply the result of life’s continual pressures and that it had no bearing on her mental state of mind.  She needed to have someone tell her, that in actuality, she was a good mother, not some insane woman who constantly dreamed of various ways of murdering her own babies!!  She knew in her mind, that although she was not any more prepared for motherhood at her age than probably sixty percent of any other 21 year olds, she certainly didn’t want to kill her own sons!!

The clear memory of the dream disturbed her (and also the remote possibility of its reality.)  She also knew that sleep (for that night anyway), wasn’t even remotely possible, so she quietly slipped out of bed, put on her robe slippers and going into the kitchen, she made a pot of coffee.  While it was brewing, she sat at the table and stared out into the black darkness of the back yard.  

When the machine clicked off, she slowly got up, shuffled over and filled a mug, the first of usually three before noon....caffeine helped her get her housework done, and unlike most people, it actually calmed her nerves.  She sat back down and took the first sip of the scalding, hot liquid and thought again about her constantly being plagued by nightmares – humans have no control over what goes on in their minds when they are asleep, and so part of her brain rationalized that fact, but what disturbed her the most was that she never had the sweet, romantic, delicate dreams that her girlfriends had...she had been overwhelmed by nightmares since she was 12 years old (the same year her mother had remarried after seven years of caring for four young girls by herself with only a small pittance of child support by the pedophile who she considered their father.)

She thought about the absurdity of the dreams she had, but recently, they had been so real, that she realized with a certainty that alarmed her, that this last one was actually possible and THAT was truly terrifying to her, because recently the lines between what she dreamt and the reality of their occurrence was becoming blurred and she was powerless to stop her mind from separating them. 

The dreams about her sons (as compared to the nightmares that she had been having for over 9 years), had started about three months previously.  She felt unnerved about the fear of her own sanity being eroded slowly each night.  It wasn’t just the dreams either, it seemed that everything she saw or touched or smelled lately brought on an cascading stream of memories that she thought she’d buried deep in her subconscious years ago (like how vinegar reminded her of dying Easter eggs).  It didn’t seem fair to be mentally tormented like this, and she had recently begun to question her own sanity, realizing with absolute certainty that for as long as women have been giving birth, they have also been quite capable of killing the very life they had carried within themselves!! 

She got up and went to retrieve her dream-log from behind the shoeboxes in the hall closet (dreams or not, they were a private pain to her and she didn't trust any place in the bedroom...Doug had a way of finding her poems and short stories once, and made her feel totally inadequate and that she was wasting time that could've been better used doing something else...so she had taken to hiding stuff from his prying eyes!) 

She sat down again, sipping her coffee and read over a few of the previous entries before adding this latest one.  Her skin tingled as goose bumps covered her arms, and she started to write her latest dream:

It was night, and before her stood some two-story apartments.  They were clustered together and were dark and empty looking.  She had her two sons with her and they each held onto one of her hands.  They showed no signs of fear as she took them into the dark building directly in from of them.  She knew why she was taking them there, and went about it purposefully.  

In dreams, the abstract becomes logical and so suddenly they were all in a small empty and dusty room.  She somehow knew it was the basement, and a single light bulb lit the room dimly.  She found that she now also carried a gasoline can in her hand, but didn’t remember having brought it.  She also realized that she was no longer in her body either...she was sort of behind herself and in a corner, watching like an onlooker, unable to do anything but watch the bizarre act unfolding in front of her without emotion.  

She watched herself pour gasoline around the room as her sons stood there quietly, so small and so beautiful.  They had a look of curiosity on their faces, but said nothing.  Their faces seemed sort of animated, like dolls – very beautiful dolls – and from her vantage point, they looked unearthly.

Doug was her first-born, and had a halo of golden curls that just touched his shoulders, and his brother Michael had soft curls of auburn hair that glistened in the dim light.  

She saw herself sprinkle death all over the floor, but she couldn’t seem to move out of the corner to stop herself – this stranger who was preparing to do what only a monster would be capable of doing.  She watched as she walked slowly over to the door and then seemed to be in her body again as she lit a match and dropped it to the floor, feeling a sense of numb relief and yet felt no sense of guilt whatsoever.

The room wasn’t exactly engulfed in flames, it was more like a small flicker that grew slowly until it was a low wall of fire, over which she could see her babies standing on the other side.  She watched as their faces melted into those of confusion and disbelief (which was something she didn’t want to see), so she turned and walked out of the room, locking the door with a key that was suddenly in her right hand.

She now found herself outside the buildings, and it was the sound that suddenly shocked her out of her trance-like state...she was not only stunned by the fact that she had not been ‘aware’ of the lack of noise, but by what she was now hearing quite clearly.  It was like she had returned to her senses and she was suddenly aware of this hideous act she had just committed, and panic struck her like a bolt of lightning, driving her to her knees.

She knelt there in the grass, listening to the screams of sheer terror from her sons, which sent a feeling of ice-water through every vein in her body, ending in her stomach and whatever she had eaten for supper came up hot and sour on the grass beside her.  The sounds coming out of the basement window were now high pitched screams of growing panic and she could hear Doug Jr. screaming for her as clear as a bell....
”Moooomy...moooomy....fire....fire”  He was only four, and Michael was three, and although there was nothing she could do at this point, she started to run towards the building as if she could somehow stop the inferno that now engulfed it, but the building seemed to recede further and further away as quickly she ran towards it.  Her feet felt like they were in quicksand, and she had woken up with her feet tangled up in the sheets.

WHY, was she having these nightmares???  Her sons were no different than any other kids; they slept well, made her laugh with a joy that filled her entire soul, and during her waking hours, they were simply the most amusing and satisfying aspect of her life!!  They cried when they were hungry, whined if they didn’t get their way, but what child doesn’t??  

They were 15 months apart, so it had been really hard right after Michael had been born (because Doug was being potty-trained), but people had been having babies for years, some closer in age than hers, and more of them. 

So the fact that she was possessed by nightmares was truly confusing to her, and the seemingly, the only sort of rational thought that made even the slightest sense was that the problem was in her own brain....

A friend had given her some sleeping pills to help her sleep deeper, but they made her feel groggy and totally without energy the next day, so she preferred not to use them.  She enjoyed the way she felt when she smoked about a half a joint, and since it had pretty much the same relaxing affect, that was what she did when she felt her body tense up and her mind started to wander.

Her small family of four seemed to sense something was wrong, but she got so confused when she tried to explain her absent-mindedness to her husband, so she had simply quit trying to share her emotions with him.

As she sipped the last of her black, now cold coffee, she kept hearing the screams in her head...she had heard them before, but hearing them from her sons was strange...the screams were filled with an agony that was so high-pitched, and so petrifying, but they were not the screams of a small child...but those of a young girl...but in her dreams, it’s what all screams sounded like.

She felt that perhaps she was having premonitions.... like when she was 13 and had dreamt of her older sister’s car accident the night before it actually happened (and nearly exactly as she had dreamt it.)  

The very thought of actually acting out her latest dream was so frightening, that she found it harder and harder to control the tears that now made a small pathway down her cheeks, and she slowly wiped them away with trembling fingers and wiped them on the front of her robe.

Why didn’t she dream of murdering her stupid husband???  He was the one she detested, always taking off with his friends whenever he felt like it.  It was his aversion to work that they’d had to accept public assistance (she hated the word Welfare), and his minor drug dealing scared her, but at least it brought in a bit more money and kept her in a steady supply of herb (which also calmed her in a way pills couldn’t seem to do).

She felt that writing down the dreams and memories of her strangely twisted life, would maybe provide some sort of insight someday.  Perhaps she should show them to a shrink and see if she indeed had a problem with her brain...maybe she was having these dreams because she was losing her sanity and somehow her conscious mind was simply trying desperately to hold on, because the love she felt inside, was stronger than this subconscious need to destroy the two people in the entire world that she truly loved.  No, it was deeper than love, she absolutely adored her sons, to the point that she had kept ‘diaries’ on each of them during her pregnancies, recording her physical changes, and after they were born, what they ate, where they went, what they weighed and measured each month, and just information that really no one but her honestly cared about!!!  

She loved the way they smiled, the way their skin smelled after a bath, their breath while they slept, the way they looked at her, and every thing they did was new and interesting to her...the diaries were simply an outlet for her (although in her heart she secretly hoped that they would someday be read and enjoyed by her boys when they grew up.)

She had fallen in love with Doug Jr. the moment the nurse placed him in her arms, and she was simply in awe that her body was capable of creating something so beautifully formed, and couldn’t imagine anything more amazing....and then Michael was born a year and a half later and once again she was overwhelming with feeling of amazement because he was just a beautiful, just as perfect, but completely different...similar and yet so special...the genetic link but with individual combinations.  

Both of them had been unexpected, and with Doug Jr., the pressure of whether she should keep the baby, get married or have an abortion was enormously stressful for her at an immature age 17 1/2 , but they chose marriage (even though neither of them were in love), and absolutely not ready for parenthood let alone marriage!!  Michael had been conceived 6 months after his brother was born, and the relationship as man and wife had sort of drifted along like a boat without a paddle let alone a rudder...two people, barely out of their teens, trying to become adults without a clue as to what was required of either of them...and so one day simply followed another...

She found her thoughts returning to the dream again, and a wave of guilt came over her and she suddenly found herself feeling nauseous.  She remembered the dream she’d had a couple of days ago:  She'd had stuffed Michael into a glue bottle while out in the garage.  He kept getting smaller and smaller in order to fit into the bottle, and then she had thrown it across the room and it had rolled into a corner.  She’d ran over, picked it up;  and totally appalled at her behavior, she pulled at his red curls (now covered with white glue), knowing that he was dead and that she didn’t want to see his tiny face.  She had thrown the bottle across the garage harder this time and it had shattered and she had woke up, again covered in a light sweat that covered her from head to toe.

Then there was the dream of the swimming pool with huge multi-colored boulders beneath the water.  She was trying to drown Doug Jr., and on one of the boulders sat a tiny pair of tennis shoes.  She had gone to her sons’ room and one at a time, had lifted them out of bed, and carried them into her room where she snuggled each one on either side of her, while Doug Sr. slept the sleep of the dead.

She couldn’t remember how many dreams she’d actually had before she started to record them, but in the last two or three weeks, she had written down about 45 that she remembered having over the last couple of months.  

She was mentally exhausted and it was reflected in her waking hours as she struggled to even care for what happened in the reality of her life....it was like it was as much a dream as her nightmares...only no one died....and she found herself feeling a sort of regret that she couldn’t explain, the dead perhaps would remain that way after all - you can't murder a corpse.

Somewhere she had heard or read that dreams were actually an escape mechanism that the brain permits to happen to avoid insanity.  It provides a sort of release valve for the tension that could actually become reality if it were not allowed to escape through dreams.  The brain is an incredible organ that puts self-preservation foremost in it’s priority, and she believed that it was able to heal both mental and physical pain.  It would do it’s best to keep the body going (because it had to in order to continue with it's own existence), no matter how hard life gets; but that dreams were something humans have, and we are incapable of controlling them anymore than we can stop breathing.

She believed too, that the minds rational sense is over-ruled in an insane person, by the impulse to act out something considered to be morally sinful, and so there is no sense of right or wrong, and therefore there is no fear of punishment or guilt when the sane side of the personality is taken over by the insane, so there can be no rational thinking.  The climax of the act of profound evil isn’t even considered in the mind of a demented person.  Maybe people who destroyed other peoples lives had dreamt of what they wanted to do sometime earlier, and simply finally had the insanity to do it, and so they felt no remorse at all.  It was merely a sick way of fulfilling a dream...the part of their brain that controls their emotions regarding moral right or wrong, suddenly didn’t make any sense, so they made their dreams a reality, because while they were dreaming it, it seemed so real and somehow satisfying anyway.

She tried to understand this strange thought pattern as she finished her coffee, which wasn't even lukewarm now, and not really worth finishing.  She got up slowly and returned the dream-log back in the closet and poured a cup of fresh, hot, coffee, and sat down once more to think about her pressure, and where it could be coming from...(because there had to be an underlying issue), but all she could come up with was her problems with big Doug himself.

Motherhood was extremely complex, but she didn’t like to think that she was losing her grasp on it entirely – it had been going on since Adam and Eve – and everyone else seemed to be quite capable of handling their parenting difficulties...so what if these thoughts continued until she was consumed by nervous anxiety and unbeknownst to her, or anyone around her, she was a psychotic murderer simply waiting for her mind to snap??

She found herself thinking of the ‘borderline normal’ people in her own small world, and her stepfather snapped into her mind like a photograph.  

Had he acted out his violent dreams or had he simply been able to switch from being a normal person, into someone who was so cruel, and so imaginative in his punishments, that he had not needed to give any forethought to his behavior because it was already imbedded in his perverse brain.  Thinking back, after five years of not seeing him, she realized that he would simply go from being rational to exploding into violent fits of rage that were so terrifying, that his being allowed to live among civilized people seemed wrong on so many levels!!

She still had a lot of confusing thoughts about what had caused all his torment and only recently had she realized that the reason was pent-up anger, mixed with deep insecurities and quite possibly his own childhood.

No one had bothered to explain it to her (probably because they had no clue whatsoever to how the mind of a maniac works any more than she did), and analyzing it herself had taken up so much time, and concentration, and she still had not come to any firm conclusions....the thought of her stepfather acting out his impulsive fits of anger made her wonder about whether she too would start acting out her dreams, unable to stop because they would somehow seem logical on some bizarre level!  What if she developed a split personality that relieved her rational mind of suppressing this obvious obsession of murder, and that this altered state of personality would allow her to actually act out her own worst dreams if life became too stressful and her ability to cope failed her??

She wondered whether your personality actually “split”, or if you simply brought out your true self after "pretending” to be normal for so many years?  If so, was it noticeable to the people close to you, and if not, then how did you get away with it?  It made her wish that God would have forced her stepfather to dream his violence instead of letting it explode at the expense of her and her sisters.  She was left with a lot of memories and emotional scars that forced her to think of events that she would rather forget but couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried.

She had loved him; there was no doubt in that.  He could be kind, and was truly handsome and he was the only ‘dad’ she knew.  Her mother had left her so-called-father when she was five, when it became known of his sexual abuse of first her older sister, then her, and then her younger sister. It had been when she was able to put words together, that she had told her mother what he was doing...so although she had divorced him, Carla had been told in times of her mothers stress, that it was basically Carla’s fault that they had to struggle to exist, and why they had no father to make their lives easier.

Her mother had married again when she became pregnant with Carla’s little brother and their lives changed not only abruptly but profoundly.  They went from living in “The Gardens”, (which was subsidized housing), to a newly built, four bedroom house in a real subdivision, with their own yard.  

His name was Don, and he bragged about being a boxer in the Army, and as if to prove his strength, he would walk around the living room on his hands (the coins he purposefully put in his pockets falling out as she and her sisters scrambled to get them).  Other times he would do a dozen push-ups with their mother sitting on his back.  They were definitely impressed, especially when he would lay on his back with his hands on the floor next to his head, and one at a time, each of them would get to stand on the palms of his hands as he carefully lifted them up and down sometimes as much as a dozen times and then setting them gently down.  When they weren’t impressed with his strength, they learned to be terrified of it...his fury could frighten her into such a panic that she started to wet the bed at the age of 12½.  She had developed fears of cooking, the sound of a belt being whipped out from the belt loops, sunsets and sudden noises.  She suddenly had Hyperekplexia, which supposedly disappeared in infants after a few weeks.

The man that her mother always claimed was her so-called-father came back into their lives after she had remarried.  Carla had never even seen a picture of him, but in her minds eye, she knew what he looked like, and after seven years he was reintroduced and became a part of their lives that forever changed hers. Carla detested being with him and always made sure she sat the furthest away from him when they went anywhere. 

Being naive, her mother had thought that having more time with her new husband and son would be wonderful, and so she had allowed their so-called-father to take them to county fairs, and even water skiing at Lake Naciemento after making them custom single skis.  The only unbreakable rule, was that he had to have them home before it got dark, which meant getting up very early for the long drive to the lake.

He bought them leather jackets with long fringe, and jewelry and just suddenly began giving them gifts that Don couldn’t afford...he had a large family to support now, plus a mortgage as well as opening his own business called Modern Movers, putting food on the table and paying bills meant not enough money for the frivolous presents a single man, living with his sister could very well afford.

All Don could afford to take them was on camping trips in a modified van, in which he created fold down beds, a large table/bed, and their baby brother had his own crib mattress and side rail that was over the engine in the old V.W. bus...he was truly a very clever man and Carla adored him.  He had built them a play house in the back yard, with a brick floor, and a cot, and pretend stove, refrigerator and even the shutters on the windows were made of bamboo!!  They used empty cans and boxes to stock the little cupboards, and to them it was a castle.

As a matter of fact, she honestly believed that in between vicious fits of rage, it seemed that he truly liked her best (but not at all to be confused with love.) She sort of thought this because he would wake her up with a quiet whisper and gentle nudging of her shoulder, in the middle of the night to load up the V.W. when they went camping.  It was only she that he woke up and she felt a strange pleasure in working next to him.  

They would load up the converted bus and picking a place on the map, drive for hours and camp.  One time they drove all night, and finally stopped where they thought a lake was, only to find that it had dried up years earlier!!  He made it fun though and they spent the day exploring the dried lake bed, finding things that had fallen out of pockets and boats decades earlier, and then had laid on blankets under a black dome sky with nothing on the horizon, with billions of stars twinkling overhead...it seemed magical to her, and it remained one of her favorite camping memories.

It was over two decades before Carla actually connected the abuse from him to visits from their so-called-father, and by then it was too late...had this correlation been made earlier, she perhaps could have prevented a lot of tortuous punishments...hindsight is truly amazing!!  

Just as this thought came into her head, another memory suddenly sprung into her minds eye.

She’d been climbing in the rafters of the garage where Don had laid boards across the beams so they could play there on rainy days (when they weren't using the playhouse in the back yard.)  It had pieces of furniture stored up there, and Carla loved to stay up there for hours.  They would climb up a ladder, lean it against one of the 2x12's, move one of them back and then climb up.  They would then replace the board so they wouldn't fall. One day, one of her sisters had forgotten to replace the board that they sat on, so instead of sitting, she fell about 9 feet and seriously sprained her right ankle.

Their mother was in the hospital having a hysterectomy after another miscarriage, and so her older sister, Gwen, being in charge, decided that Don needed to come home from work to look at it.  When he came in, it was obvious that he was in a black mood...prompted by the fact that they’d gone skiing with their so-called-father the week-end before...Carla simply thought he was mad because it was possibly another medical bill to pay.

Actually, he had no intention of taking her to get it looked at – he had his own solution.  After he’d come in and glanced at her swollen ankle, he went into the bathroom, turning on the hot water tap.  He then walked into the kitchen and put two big pots of water on the stove to boil.

Paula, her younger sister by two years, happened to be in the house at the same time, and unlucky enough to have a bunion on her left foot.  He ordered them to roll up their pant legs, and go into the bathroom, which they did looking at each other with growing anxiety.  Don came in a few minutes later and poured the boiling water from the pots, first one and then getting the other, into the already hot water in the bathtub.  

As he instructed them to sit on the edge of the bathtub, they tried to quietly explain that the water was much too hot, and that maybe ice would work better, but one look at his face told them that they were wasting their breath.  They tried begging next, because they knew that without their mother to intervene, they were totally at his mercy (not that it mattered, she had never stepped in during any other punishments, but at least her presence would’ve offered a glimmer of hope – so Carla pleaded with Gwen to say something.  Don asked Gwen to stick her hand in and test the steaming water, and she quickly dipped it in and out and announced “It is a bit warm”....Gwen knew better than to contradict or irritate him in anyway while he was in these moods, since she was still recovering from having a steel rod inserted in her right thigh bone after he slammed her into the closet door frame in a fit of anger.  Not realizing that it was cracked, she had went to school and while running track; the thigh bone snapped in two and the bone come out through her skin.  He never hit her again, but she was still terrified of him.  As far as Carla knew, not even the doctors questioned how the femur of a healthy track runner could suddenly snap while she ran.

Don got down on his knees between Carla and Paula, and putting a hand on each of their injured legs, he shoved their feet into the scalding water which reached mid-calf.  There was a moment of absolute silence except for the sharp inhaling of as much air as their lungs could hold, and then the screams came – agonizing, frightening, excruciating sounds of absolute agony.  

For years, Carla wondered how the neighbors could live so close, and to hear such screams and never once think to call the police – never, for over three years – not once did the police get called...by anyone.

After about 10 seconds (which felt like 10 minutes), Carla had finally wrenched her leg out, and she started to pull at Don’s hair and claw at his neck to make him release Paula, but it was useless, he was unbelievably strong and now he was concentrating all his energy on Paula.  As Carla continued to rip at his hair and dig at his bull-like neck, Don suddenly bent over and bit into Paula’s thigh.  Paula began to slam her head against the tile wall behind her and out of her lungs came the most intense, bone-chilling scream that Carla had ever heard; the same scream that would haunt her dreams for years.

She had continued to punch and pull at Don who had become a beast, and after he ‘d finally spent the last of his rage on Paula’s thigh, he simply released her; who after snatching her leg out of the water, fell to the floor, weakened by the pain.

They had helped each other to their room, crying and trying to comfort each other as much as themselves.  She’d had to use crutches for nearly a week and Paula had 2nd and near 3rd degree burns on her foot.  As for her thigh, he had bitten through her light denim jeans in a couple of places, and looking at her bite later, if he had not stopped, he would literally taken out a chunk of flesh...that’s how vicious he’d been.  Later that day, they had driven to the hospital so he could visit their mother, and since they were not allowed in, the two of them sat on a bench beneath a large maple tree eating the ice-cream cone he’d stopped and got them from Dairy Queen - he'd even said they could have two...they didn't.  

Carla came back to her confusing reality staring deeply into her cup, seeing sister’s ashen white face, skin stretched taunt across her cheek bones, with the muscles in her neck standing out like rope cords because she couldn’t scream any louder or stronger.   The sun was just coming in through the window blinds in the kitchen window now quite brightly.  She glanced up at the clock above the refrigerator and saw it was now 6:30.  The kids would be waking up soon, as would Doug Sr., each demanding breakfast.  

She got up and putting the cup in sink, she decided she could use a shower...she felt like her pores were clogged with oil and felt she was smothering in her own skin.

By the time she’d finished (she’d decided to wash her hair as well, and shave her legs for a change), 45 minutes had passed.  She wrapped a towel around her and walked into the kitchen to see why it was so quiet, and found a note on the counter.  Doug had said he was taking the kids and dropping them off at Paula’s and then going fishing with his buddies.  He’d be back with the kids before dinner.  That was it, no “I love you”, “Have a nice day”, nothing....but for some reason, she was overwhelmingly relieved that the house was empty for the day, and that she wouldn’t have to say a word to anyone; do anything she didn’t feel like doing and she was, for lack of a better word, somehow happy.  

She hung up the towel, combed out her hair and put on her robe – it was too much trouble to get dressed and she wasn’t going anywhere anyway.  She lay down on the unmade bed and closed her eyes for a quick nap and fell asleep almost immediately.

“Fifteen...sixteen...seventeen...” Carla counted to herself as Don brought the thin leather belt onto her butt and the backs of her legs.  Her thin underwear sheltered her from only his eyes as he continued to hit her with a steady rhythm, her small body wedged tightly with one of his short but powerful legs placed under her, and the other locked firmly over the top to keep her from wriggling free...not that she was going anywhere. He had her head pinned against the comforter covering the bed he shared with her mother with one hand, while he used the other to “tear her ass us” – his favorite terminology. 

“Twenty-one...twenty-two...she continued to count in her head, hoping that he would stop at twenty-five, but he passed it with a controlled tempo as if he were in a trance.  

She had stopped her screaming and begging (even included a hysterical “I love you” for good useless measure).  The initial pain that had stunned her became a numbing reality, and now she merely counted with the thought that if she counted, she had some vague sense of control.

He had snatched her out of her room by the hair and had dragged her down the hall to the bedroom because she had forgotten the water sprinkler in the front yard....when he'd come home from work, the precious water was all the way to the gutter at the end of the block.

At first, she’d had no idea of why he just grabbed her by the hair.  He’d thrown her down on the big double bed and started beating her while telling her why in the same even tempo that he struck her with the belt...it was almost like he was in a hypnotic state of some kind, and she had long ago drowned him out by inwardly counting, now praying that he would stop at 30.

Twenty-six...twenty-seven...she counted, and then he just stopped...just like that...he just stopped.  She thought to herself that maybe she’d miscounted (or perhaps HE had), but in any case, the belt had quit coming down on her body and for that she was grateful.  As if still in a trance, he then released her head and legs and getting up, he’d simply walked out of the room...a stupid thought had came to her suddenly – how could he have the energy to move?

She’d lain there sobbing quietly into the bedspread, her butt throbbing and her legs ignoring her efforts to try to stand up.  She knew that he’d really hurt her this time (she had never counted past twenty before), and silently thanked the God (who had forgotten all about her in His dealing with the entire universe), that she had been spared the three additional whacks...it almost felt like a miracle.

She could see in her minds eye what her butt would look like tonight (and how hard it was going to be to take a bath, sitting carefully in the warm water and gently peeling off her panties as the water became slightly pink when she came to a raw part); and how the bruises would look next week and the week after that, when undoubtedly the welts given today would be opened up with what seemed like two beatings a month.  Although her gym teacher had seen the bruises, she’d never said anything to Carla about them; never called the police or said anything to her mother.  Carla thought it was enough that she was allowed to sit in the bleachers when she was especially bruised.  To this day sunsets were impossible to simply enjoy...the pinks, reds, purples - even the shades of blues ruined such a beautiful gift every single evening from the God she had learned had no place for her in His world.

After a few moments, she got her body to cooperate, and she say across her bed, crying fresh tears of agony and comforted herself by repeating over and over “I HATE him...I HATE him...I HATE him so much.

She slowly opened her eyes with a quiet sense of sadness and found that she was weeping the kind of hot tears that come from a burning sorrow so deep in your heart, that they don’t have time to cool down until they have traced a silver path of moisture from your eyes to your mouth.  She tasted the familiar saltiness as they slipped in and she swallowed to keep them captive in the same body that freed them in the first place.

Her relief of being in no physical pain now was overwhelming, and she up and rolled a joint.  Doing something with her hands somehow felt that she was accomplishing a minor chore, but she knew she was simply avoiding doing what necessary housework she was neglecting more and more often.  The laundry had piled up into small stacks of separated pieces of the lives of her family.  Towels, washcloths, big and little shirts, big jeans and small miniature ones that were covered lovingly with embroidery and patchwork she’d spent hours doing so hers and theirs matched.  She loved the fact that she and her boys could wear jeans that had the same handiwork; colorful peace signs, and white doves, with multi-colored patches cut from shirts either Doug or she had worn out.  It was her way of recycling and yet expressing her own style – no one could say that they knew where she’d bought their clothes, because one of the first things she did, was to add something personal to store-bought stuff to separate it from what everyone else was wearing...simple things like changing the buttons. 
 
She was unconscious of the reason why she did this, but a deeper probe into her mind would have revealed that she did it because she had never felt that she was equal to anyone else – she was always set apart and was just different – but it was never in a positive or unique way – it was because she was ugly, stupid and not anywhere close to the level of worthiness of anyone else she knew - which meant changing details so  she and her sons wouldn't be confused with the rest of the world that God so loved that He sent His only Son.

She wandered slowly through the living room, seeing but not seeing the toys strewn about the room, not even bothering to straighten the pillows on the couch.  She touched the frame of a picture that had been knocked off balance some time earlier, and as she realigned it so it hung straight, she mentally filed away her thoughts of inadequacy that she was unable to even keep a picture on the wall properly anymore...and suddenly realizing that wanting to do even the smallest of things was now unimportant and meaningless.

She sat down in the rocker that she read to her sons in, and taking a lighter from the drawer in the table next to her, lit up, inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly.  Her mind seemed stuck in some kind of a time-zone gear, and she felt her grip on reality start to slip slowly away, but it just felt good to just disappear into the fabric of the cushions.  She wanted to remember the bad stuff...it was like purging a shrimp...put it alive into very salty water and it would swallow and then regurgitate it’s bowels into the water so that when they were boiled, you didn’t have to de-vein them...that’s what she was doing now, purging her mind, but it never seemed to empty itself...one memory would simply be replaced by another:

She was told to have the dishes done by 7 o’clock, and it was 6:58 now and she hadn’t even started...she was 13 and had gotten involved in a game of dress-up with her sisters, using thin bedspreads and long strands of fake pearls.  Her stepfather had gone to store for beer and cigarettes, and she thought they had more time.  He’d come up behind her while she was bending down to get the dish soap from under the sink, and when his steel-toed boots connected with her butt, she was shoved under the sink, hitting her head on the pipes and knocking over bottles of Windex and Pine Sol. 

She had pushed her self back out, spun around in terror just in time for him to grab her by the hair on both sides and carry her over to the refrigerator, where he started to slam her head repeatedly into the freezer door.  She couldn’t bring herself to look into his eyes even thought his face was just inches from hers.  He’d smashed the back of her head over and over again until she felt she would just faint, and suddenly she was on the floor...she looked up and he was standing there with two clumps of her auburn hair in his still clenched fist and was staring from one to the other stupidly – as if wondering how they had the audacity to disconnect from her scalp before he was finished with his fit.

It had taken nearly a year for her roots to recover themselves, and the process of growing again gave her a look that resembled a clown she’d seen once, and how his red hair stood out in two clumps on the mask he wore.  

That memory was immediately followed by another:

He’d caught her in a lie (meant initially to save her butt from another onslaught of his  thin leather belt), but her punishment was to write “I will not lie to my mother or anyone else”, one THOUSAND times...It had taken nearly four evenings after dinner and before bed, to complete it.  At one point he had come over and covered her small hand in his enormous one, and as he squeezed her fingers around the pencil, he said “Only crazy people write with a slant, write straight up and down”.  He told her that he was going to save all the paper (which after the third day, became opened up grocery bags), to show to her future children letting them know what a liar their mother had been.

That was probably the weirdest punishment she’d ever gotten, but certainly not the worst.  She relaxed a little and put her feet up on the hassock thinking that writing all that had not been mentally stressful.  It was simply mind-numbingly repetitive.  She got up suddenly and went out the back door as if even being in the house was somehow confining, and climbed into the hammock that Doug had strung between two of the oak trees in the back yard.  

She finished smoking the last of the joint, closed her eyes and the next thought that flashed into her mind was so intense, that unknowingly she curled up slowly into a fetal position in the hammock and cringed.

“Who are you?” Don had asked.
“Carla” she’d replied, wondering why he was asking her such a stupid question.  Her mother and he had been married nearly 4 years by now and he knew full well who she was, and as her name came out of her mouth, a stab of annoyance and fear entered her mind.

“WHO are you? He’d asked again, accenting the first word to let her know that it wasn’t a question that had anything to do with her name.
“Carla Leigh” she’d answered, her stomach starting to feel warm and her knees to start to become weak.
“WHO ARE YOU” he asked with such intensity that she was truly stunned for an answer.

“Carla Leigh Thomas” she said firmly (she thought); because she had no other names to add, but she knew as she said it, that that too was wrong and he was about to tell her why.
She could see him silhouetted against the window, and he was sitting on the edge of the recliner her mother had given the previous Christmas.  In the fading daylight, she could see the veins that were starting to stand out in his neck, a sure sign that his blood pressure was going up and he was about to lose it.  As far as she knew, no one else was in the house.  She’d come in through the garage, but there was not a sound, and now her panic began to overwhelm her senses - it was just her and a monster.

He was still staring at her when she quietly said “I don’t know who I am”, I mean, what else could she say??  The change that had come over his face was bizarre...like he’d come upon some profound realization and he sat further back in the chair, and sort of smiled at her, looking incredibly handsome and not deadly at all...it was almost like he had the answer to all her questions and like a good father, was going to enlighten her with his wisdom.

“I’ll tell you who you are...you’re nobody...because in order to BE anybody, you have to BE somebody...and you’ll never be anybody...so that means that you’re nobody...get it? Then he’d turned his head to stare out the window at the fading sunlight with that stupid smirk on his face, and she had walked slowly to her room.

Of course she hadn't gotten it at all, but she couldn't say anything because her emotions were in such turmoil that she couldn't exactly think straight.  A part of her that had never been damaged or injured in any way was suddenly crushed.  She never mentioned the conversation to her mother ever but it had a very profound effect on her basic personality.  She couldn’t help up feel much less worthy now, and although later on her confidence would be slowly lifted up to the level of not-quite-a-complete-loser, she found she couldn't deal with even the slightest rejection...from anyone or anything...so she just withdrew from situations in which the essence of her being could possibly be questioned.

As she lay still curled in the hammock, she realized that her body felt cramped and she slowly stretched out her legs and yawned slowly, like a cat would...first one part of her body and then another.

Finally she felt that every area was relaxed and at peace...but she couldn't seem to relax her mind.  She lit the joint that had gone out, inhaled and exhaled again until it was too small to hold without a roach-clip, and not having one on her, she dropped it into the grass.  She then laid on her back and put her hands over her head and starting at her fingertips, tried to will each fiber of her body to relax...she'd had gotten about to her waist when she fell asleep.  When she woke up, she did it slowly, first hearing the sound of a lawnmower from a neighbor’s yard about two houses down.  There was a slight hint of a breeze blowing a soft coolness over her body gently, bringing her back into consciousness.  The sun was at the four o’clock position, and she had to consider the fact that she’d done absolutely nothing all day.  She had just slept, but she felt so drained and somehow exhausted. She knew that she had dinner to prepare and the kids would be coming home any time now, so she slowly climbed out the hammock, drifted into the house ordered pizza. 

She puttered around the house for the next 45 minutes until dinner was delivered and she put it into the oven to keep it hot while she put napkins and paper plates on the table and waited for the house to fill up with her life as she knew it...a husband and two children and fast food for dinner.

The boys came in bubbling over with conversation and laughter talking about their day with their cousins, and gave her a complete run-down on their every move it seemed.  Her heart smiled as she looked into the clear eyes of her sons and she listened carefully to every word they said, even though they talked over each other most of the time, it made her laugh that they wanted so much to share their memories with her.

She was listening intently when big Doug came in from putting the car in the garage and flopped down in a chair.  The boys raced off the throw their coats and toys they’d taken with them into their room and (as asked by her), to wash their hands for supper.  Doug was in a foul mood, and his grunts of obvious disgust were heard around his loud chewing as he swallowed the pepperoni pizza in large bites, and she could make out a few words "do shit....here...lazy...hell....” and then it was just his loud chewing.  The boys had come to the table quietly and took small bites, chewing softly and glancing uncertainly at their mom.  They seemed to know innately when to keep quiet, but Carla knew they were upset about his ramblings and didn’t want to make it worse.

When they had finished their meager meal, she cleared the table, and took the boys up to give them a bath.  This was one of the things she truly loved about motherhood.  She had given birth to these little, now-grungy bodies, dirty after playing hard all day, and as she cleaned off the grime and began to uncover their smooth, flawless skin (well, a boo-boo or scab was always SOMEwhere), she suddenly had a vicious thought rush into her head: she saw herself holding their heads under water until they quit moving.  She imagined herself doing just that, and suddenly jumped up and ran into her bedroom and closed and locked the door breathing hard and fast.  

She broke down in hysterical crying holding a towel tightly to her face to muffle her sobs with the corner of the blue terry-cloth stuffed into her mouth.  If big Doug heard, he’d really have a fit.  She cried for a few minutes and then stopped just as suddenly.  Why was she sitting here crying over something she hadn’t even done?  She got up, splashed water on her face and tried to control herself.

She went back into the living room to ask Doug if he would get the boys into pajamas, but when she saw him already asleep in the recliner, mouth wide open in loud snoring, she simply went into the kitchen and as she started to clean up the remaining pieces of pizza, she realized that the boys were still in the bathtub!!  She finished washing them, dried them carefully and helped them put on their pajamas and brush their teeth.  They were almost old enough to do all this themselves and she felt a deep sadness that time was going by so quickly.  She lay down on the lower bunk, and Doug Jr. climbed over her and snuggled up to her left side as Michael climbed in and got into his normal position under her right arm.  She held the book in front of her head, with a small head resting on each of her upper arms, and quickly kissed each sweet-smelling head...her heart felt like bursting with joy...she LOVED reading to them each night...she wanted to do that every night until one day in the future they would maybe say they didn’t want her too....but so far they seemed as interested in the stories she read as much she was in reading them.

It was nearly 7 o’clock by the time she’d finished the book, and after she’d unwrapped herself from their small bodies, so relaxed next to hers.  She helped Douggie into his top bunk and kissed him goodnight, and after climbing down from the ladder of the bunk bed, she kissed Michael and tucked him in.   After exchanging “I love you” six or seven times, she walked out of their bedroom, leaving the door open a crack so they could see the hall light until they went to sleep.

She thought briefly about maybe baking a cake or cookies or something that would pacify big Doug, and maybe she’d feel better too, if she accomplished at least one small motherly type duty.  She got the cookbook from the drawer in the kitchen and realized with a tinge of regret how long it had been since she’d opened it.  

Looking at the red-checkered pattern, a feeling of dread came over her she couldn’t control and she slid down the wall, clutching the book to her chest and felt herself disconnect with her body as another memory overwhelmed her:

She was 13, and she’d carefully put spoonful’s of the cookie dough on the baking sheet and placed it in the oven.  She took home-ec in school and was learning to enjoy combining ingredients to create something delicious to eat.  With her mother working at Woolworth’s as long as Carla could remember, she and her sisters were at the mercy of Gwen, whose idea of cooking was to combine everything in one pan and cook it. 

It wasn’t until she’d had cocoa at a friends house that she realized it was made with milk, not water like Gwen made it (because she had drank all the milk their mother had bought.) 

Meals at home were scanty and that seemed alright because Carla was never left hungry, she just never had what she would call a ‘memorable meal’.  When her mother re-married, Don expected sweets to be made each and every week, with a variety of cakes, cookies and for the first time (for Carla), a store bought mix of chocolate cookies (how could she mess these up?)  

She was excited as she opened the oven and pulled out the baking sheet, and then horrified to find that all the cookies had melted into one large mass, filling the pan from side to side, but thankfully, didn’t pour out over the edges.  Frantically, she racked her brain trying to think of what to do....Don was expecting cookies.  She snatched the box out of the trash and read the instructions (after taking home-ec, she carelessly assumed she only had to mix and then drop spoonful’s onto a greased baking sheet...how hard could that be??)  But as she read the word “Brownie”, her heart started to beat faster and about that time, he walked into the kitchen because the chocolate smell WAS delicious.  

He got that look on his face that let her know that she had just done something worth punishment, and said “Those are not cookies.”  She’d sheepishly showed him the box, and after telling her how stupid she was, informed her she could sit and eat the entire pan of brownies...so she had, trying very hard not to bring them up after she was almost done.  As she ate, she thought about the pork chops that she’d burnt the month before...there had been a dozen; the burnt popcorn; the chicken with the wrong spices; the burnt bacon; the pie that refused to get solid so she'd stuck it in the freezer, but Don knew it was messed up.  

Then there was the cake that she put in the oven without noticing the rack had been put back in with one side lower than the other (her mother had cleaned the oven earlier), making her cake lopsided...she’d carefully filled in the lower side with frosting and smoothed it over to the higher side, but as her luck would have it, he cut into the wrong side...she had ALMOST hurled on that one, because eating an entire cake in one sitting is a LOT of cake...especially when half of it is mostly sickening sweet frosting made of powdered sugar!!

She got up slowly from the floor; feeling a bit dazed and put the cookbook back in the drawer.  She felt so inadequate sometimes when it came to cooking, but she just couldn’t seem to do anything right in the kitchen.  Going into the bathroom, she got one of the pills her friend had given her and swallowed it dry and then crawled into bed...if Doug wanted to have sex (they didn’t make love), she would either be relaxed enough to let him, or she might not even know it happened – it was that quick with him...maybe he would just sleep all night in the chair and she’d have the bed all to herself for a change.

She curled up into a tight ball and waited for the pill to work.  She needed to get out of her mind for a while, which was ironic, because it was her mind that held her captive, but this was the only way to stop the visions from running over and over in her mind like a bad movie...when she was awake and conscious, the thoughts seemed to come from HER, but when she was asleep, she somehow knew that it was her SUBCONSCIOUS, and so in a strange way it was out of her control – although neither thought made any sense when she bothered to think about it....lately, both her dream life and her day-dream life were starting to run together so quickly, that she had very little time for reality to actually be a noticeable part of her life - it was like walking in her sleep - another thing that she'd started doing when she was 13.

She was climbing a tall metal tower, it was night and sky was clear as she carefully put one foot and then the other on the rungs of the ladder that took her slowly upward.  She guessed the tower to be about fifteen or twenty stories high, and it sat in some sort of a bay.  When she got to the top, she could see faint lights of the homes that dotted the shoreline below her.  She could see a barge (which looked quite small from this vantage point), off to her right.  Now that she had reached the top, she noticed that there was a sort of padded bench attached to the tower just off to her left.  She didn’t consider WHY it would be there, but she felt that if she could climb onto it, she could appreciate the view while she was up there, so she carefully moved onto it.  She could feel the cool ocean breeze blowing her hair about, and the air felt good on her face and arms.  She lay on her stomach and pulled with her hands at the top of the edge of the bench, and felt it give way a little, but just as she was on it completely it gave way.  She pushed it away from her as she fell so it wouldn’t be in her way...as if that mattered.  She quickly turned over so that she was facing the sky and felt the wind blowing through her shirt as she fell.  The stars were like those she saw in the desert when they went camping.  She figured she had about fifteen seconds before hitting the water below, and turned her thoughts to the God she would face in that split second, and began to line up questions she wanted answers to:  

Why was she ever born; why to that family; what kind of God would purposely create a person to be the butt of humiliation, torture, ridicule and pain; was He so desperate for entertainment that He had created her as some kind of cosmic joke; what was going to happen to her now; and then she thanked Him for her beautiful sons and apologized for not being a better mother.  

As the wind whistled past her while she fell, she opened her eyes and stared at the stars that shown like diamonds on blackest velvet and waited for relief to come in the form of death.  Just as she was near the water (she could even smell the salty air and hear the waves gently breaking on the base of the tower), she woke up...

She woke up so abruptly that the count of 14, flat on her back, and felt lost to be in her bed...her anticipation was destroyed by the reality that she was STILL a wife, a mom and a strange numbness came to her heart; because she had made her peace with death and it had failed her.  

She wanted to cry out of sheer frustration, and then suddenly a thought occurred to her and she wondered if there was such a place near her.  This somehow made her feel a bit better - like it had been some kind of heavenly vision, and she tried to steady her legs as she got up and put on her blue jeans, a light tee-shirt and tennis shoes.  

She ran a brush automatically through her hair without looking in the mirror, picked up the keys on the dresser and quietly went into her sons’ room.  She stood looking over their angelic sleeping faces, kissed them each softly on the lips and whispered she loved them forever and left the room, closing the door.

She swiftly but silently went through the dining room, then to the kitchen and got the bottle of pills from her friend and her stash box.  She glanced into the living room, and saw that big Doug was still asleep in the chair and going back through the kitchen; she cautiously opened the back door and closed it without a sound behind her.  

It was only then that she realized that she had stupidly left her purse in the kitchen, so very carefully she re-opened the door and snatched it off the counter.  

As she went around the side of the house to go out the gate, she hoped that the dog next door had been brought inside (not that it mattered, Doug wouldn’t wake up to that), but the silence was so encouraging to her that she didn’t want to bring any noise into it..she was living out a dream finally and didn't want to be woke up for any reason whatsoever.  She slipped into the side door of the garage, and after ever so slowly opening the big door, she got into the car,


© Copyright 2018 Amie Michelle. All rights reserved.

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