Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Color Red

The nightmare always starts the same. I’m in the bathroom, leaning over the sink. Watching
it turn red with my blood.  The sharpness of stark white turning red are vivid. A combination of disbelief, anger, and the desire for
recrimination are the mix of emotions I feel. My face feels like an explosion of pain has hit me head on.   I become aware of someone standing over me, to my side. As I look up, I see my adoptive mother… poised to hit me again… A look of rage is in her eyes, how dare I run way from her….. She is so close I can feel her breath on me…. I wake.

For decades I’ve had the same nightmare or a variation off it. I wish I could say that it was just a bad dream, but it’s an actual event that happened to me and I'm going to write about it for the first time. Like most people who have survived abuse, its an unwritten rule that you don't talk about it. Well (pardon my French) fuck that, I'll be 44 in a few days.   

My red nightmare starts

 I had fallen asleep reading in bed one night with the lights on. My adoptive brother had come home from a late night out.  He opened my door seeing my lights were on.  I was sound asleep.  As he woke me, I was groggy and I rolled over on the book I was reading.   He thought I was trying to hide the book I was reading, when I rolled over on it… laughable now I know, but I handed the book over… I wasn’t trying to hide anything… I fell back asleep quickly.  Soon he had woken my adoptive mother, and now she didn’t like what I was reading.

  I’m going back up slightly for context and clarity. I was put into special education at the age of 9 when my world fell apart.  My junior year I walk into my special ed English class to find an ‘English as a second language’ class reading Moby Dick in comic book form.  I asked to be moved to another English class, to find out this is all they offered, this is it when it comes to special ed English for a junior.  I ask to be removed from special ed, and I’m told that it isn’t that easy and it will take time.   I work an agreement out with the teacher, she will give me a reading list, and if I read and write a book report on each of the books on the list, I do not have to come to her class.  I don’t recall the exact details of the agreement now, but I agree to read and report on so many books a month. If I hold up to my end of the agreement, I don’t have to be subjected to the comic book classics in her class.  I’ve always been an avid reader, and even as a freshman my reading comprehension was at a college level, so this is actually a great arrangement for me. Looking back, I recall that nearly all the books on her list were by female authors. Pearl S. Buck, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelly, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Brontë, and Jane Austen are the authors I remember.  The book list was by author, so I would read several books by the same author then move on to a new author.
So Daphne du Maurier was the next author I was working on, the book was the Jamaica Inn. The library at school only had the Jamaica Inn in a reader’s digest book compilation that was titled “Six Gothic Tales

I’m not really sure what it was that set her off about the book. The cover art? The reviews on the back calling the tales inside “spine tingling”. It really doesn’t matter, when a Narcissist is angry, all logic is gone.  My adoptive mother confronts me, it’s the middle of the night. I explain I’m reading it for English class, and this is the only way I could find the book in the school library. I’m accused of “lying”…etc..etc..  In the end I just simply tell my adoptive mother that “It’s late, call the teacher in the morning… you can confirm with her that it’s required reading… call the school library in the morning… you can confirm that this is the only format they have the book in”. Rather than back down and maybe admit she was wrong (something a Narcissist will never do) she declares that none of this maters, because I was going to read the other stories in this book! And I’m lying!  What can I say to this? She has made up her mind, so I simply say “Call the teacher and the library in the morning, it’s late and I’m going back to bed”

Before I knew exactly what happened, my adoptive mother slugged me in the face with enough force that my head snapped back. (edited to add: I have since recalled that she called me "Ungrateful" as she hit me) I stood there, numb with pain and shock… holding my head at the sharp angle it rested in. The pain exploded across my face. I started to feel blood pouring from my nose, and I ran to the bathroom. I made it to the sink just in time for the blood to start streaming out of my nose and fill the sink.  I watched the stark white sink turn red with long drips of my blood.   As the shock of it set in, I became aware of my adoptive mother at my side… She had rage in her eyes, I could tell she wanted to hit me again… because how dare I run away from her.  Then she saw the blood, and her body posture relaxed slightly… I could tell she wasn’t going to hit me again.  Now all she wanted was for me to stop the blood, turn the water on… make it go away.  Deep down I wanted to smear my red blood everywhere and on her.  Slowly as the shock started to wear off, and as I watched the blood stream out I had this very clear thought. "I will never forgive you for this, I will never forgive you".  Not that it mattered, because never once did she ever apologize to me over this, never once did she say she was sorry….or that she would never hit me again…. Never again did she mention this incident. If it were not for the fact that my adoptive brother witnessed this, I am positive that my adoptive mother would deny it ever happened. For the next 20 minutes they both stood in the bathroom doorway, giving suggestions on how to stop the nose bleed. I repeatedly begged them"to just go away, and leave me alone" but they did not. I know that if I would have tried to close the bathroom door on them, it would have precipitated more violence toward me- But at this moment in my life, I really just wanted them out of that small bathroom, and to be alone....but I was denied that.

At this time I had always feared her, but now I really feared for my safety when she was in a rage. There had already been a few ugly incidents between us in the previous months leading up to this. In one incident she broke my bedroom door down to get at me, and started hitting and pulling me around by my hair. The door frame still bears the scars of this event despite my efforts to repair it with spackle and paint in my early 20's.

At this time I was in the grips of bulimia, and flirting with anorexia when this happened- obviously I was struggling for some sense of control in my life. For the next week my nose would bleed on and off, I was sent to the school nurse several times over it. I had some facial bruises on the impact site that I tried to cover with makeup. The nurse asked me about this, and I had the opportunity to have CPS called…. But didn’t.   
I felt like a powerless coward for not reporting her, but I realized that it was the only home I knew… and where would I go? I knew that I would be disowned the moment I really put my foot down and really stood up for myself…. This I always knew….  
A former teacher and friend at the time also suggested calling CPS, but again I knew that I would be entering state care for good until I turned 18 if I did this…. It was an unspoken threat. She had already told me she had thought about taking me back to the adoption agency. Weekly she would tell me how much she disliked me.  Had the re-homing trend with adoptees being going on then, I have no doubt that my adoptive mother would have done that to me.

In the end, I was finally disowned when I did finally stand up for myself at 36, twenty years after my Red nightmare started... But the imagery of the dream remains the same each time, the  stark white sink turning  red with long drips of my blood.

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