Monday, January 12, 2015

Abusador / George's story part 6

From the corner of my eye I could see it coming. It was big and hard, and wobbled slightly as it cut through the air. The stale smell of alcohol washed over me as his fist connected with the bones of my face. The blood on the wall trickled slowly, spiraling ever downward. Vision, when you have it, lets you see the world as it is. My vision crept slowly toward the center of my eye, blackening my world as it faded. The last thing I saw before blissful unconsciousness took over me was my mom in a huddle on the floor. Her face was bleeding, and angry purple bruises were creeping over her arms – the kind of purple you only see in a stormy sky.

Home is a place in your mind where you go when you want to escape. Home, for me, had been non-existent in the three long years I had been lost to it. For most, a homecoming such as mine should have been like the prodigal son. But where love and warmth had always been, was now replaced by fear and made bleary by alcohol. My mom and brother, when my stepdad was gone, let me know how much they had missed me. These times were meaningful, but brief - fear of him returning was greater than anything.

I had two more siblings upon my return, so my mom was busier than ever. I knew she loved me, but I soon discovered that nothing was to be spoken of my time spent lost. It was better to forget it, and tuck it away into the history of my heart. I did not fit in. My home and mom, as I remembered them, had ceased to exist. I tamped down the memories of my real dad and brought them out stingily, to be savored one at a time.

My stepdad was a mason. Hard, heavy work – when he had it – filled his days. His mind was very intelligent, and he had lots of knowledge of things unknown to me. His passion was the violent history of Mexico and everything it entailed. He could recite story after story of Cauhtemoc, Pancho Villa, and the Oaxacan-born president Benito Juarez.

Mexico is a land bred with the warrior-like spirits of its ancestors. The blood-thirsty Aztecs took no mercy on their prisoners, but fought for their land against the equally blood-thirsty Spaniards. My stepdad, although born and bred a blood Aztec, had none of their fierce spirit. Instead, cowardice ran through his veins and came out his pores smelling of alcohol. He was drowning in it.

I tried to live my days as a carefree 9 year old should, but I was no longer carefree. My time lost had hardened me to a fine point and I would never be that little boy again. We didn't have much money, and my mom suffered trying to make sure we had enough to eat. When my stepdad would be paid for a job, he would disappear. Days later we would go out searching, only to find him passed out in a ditch or lying on a sidewalk. The money we needed for food gone, already coursing through his veins. The liquor permeated every inch of him. Still drunk, my brother and I would pick him up and half drag him through the streets to home. Alcoholism is rampant in Mexico, but the eyes of everyone still bore into me. It was a sad walk home, his feet dragging in between us.

To help my mom, my brother and I would sell popsicles out of a box. We would run to the Piramides de Teotihuacan where the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun and Moon resided. These were located approximately two miles from my house. Tourists flocked there and money was to be made. The art of selling something came very easy to me. The sun was hot, we were hungry, and the popsicles would melt if we didn't sell them quickly. We would scamper up the steep steps of the pyramids peddling our wares. Down the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Moon we ran, making money in the process from tourists near and far. When finished, we patted the wad of cash in our pockets and smiled. I would give most of it to mom, and bury the rest. I still believe I have buried money in Mexico.

Day turned to night and soon we realized we had stayed out too long. Rushing for home, we ran at top speed. I let Chucho run ahead of me so he reached the house first. As I ran in the house, breathless, a swift blow to the head knocked me to the floor. "Where did you get this money?" my stepdad screamed. "We earned it selling popsicles," I said, "I was going to give the money to mom." A fist to my ear sent me sprawling.

When you are abused, the world stops spinning and you are the center of it. I willed myself to an empty room that contained nothing but silence. The room became a vacuum as his blows rained down on me, but I heard nothing. My head was silent save for my mom's screams as she tried to pull him off of me. Her head went back in a whiplash motion as he backhanded her to the floor. Blood poured out of her nose as she tried to stand up to help me. I saw the helplessness on my mom’s face and all the pain and anger she was feeling. She wanted to help me, just like she had wanted to find me when I was lost. I could no longer hear as I was punched broadside on the head, but my eyes stayed on my mom’s as my dad raged on.

Suddenly he grabbed me and dragged me outside to a room that was unfinished. The darkness in his eyes was tangible - I could taste it and feel his hatred. I was not his son. I was born of another man to his woman. It mattered not that he had left my mom pregnant and alone with my older brother. Nothing mattered except that I, the one he wanted rid of, had suddenly come back to life after being found. He had willed me dead.

He stripped me of my clothes, and shivering, I stood there in the corner of the half-built room. My eyes, proud and unwilling to show fear, stared back at him. "Hold your arms out," he said. My arms went up quickly as I bore into his eyes. Heavy cement bricks were placed in each of my palms. "You will stand here until I say you can move." It's at these times that your mind will wander and you will think you won't make it. I thought of my dad and of how much he loved me. The memories of him throwing me into the ocean and learning to swim. The times he would come home and I would throw myself into his arms and he would hold me. I thought of the nights I spent on the streets and how I longed to come home. I knew now, that I could never come home. He would never let me. My arms burned with a fire so deep, and blood from the cuts on my face slowly made their way down my body. Like so many red little rivers flowing freely. He sat in the corner of the room just watching me and waiting for me to break. Abusers revel in the pain they are inflicting, and I vowed then, that he would never, ever see that pain reflected in my eyes.

Hours passed until he passed out in a drunken stupor. I dropped the bricks and ran out. I ran into the night to where I could breathe air not laced with the sourness of alcohol. I ran to where I could stand and stare at the horizon, now blooming with tendrils of pink and orange. The sun meant a new day and a new chance. I had been home a mere six months and had endured unending horror at the hands of a man who was weak in spirit. Nights spent outside our door because I was five minutes late. Blows to the head and gut so hard it took your breath away. My mom had endured these blows, and had endured them for years. This was her choice – but not mine.

I went to her in the early morning hours and sat quietly beside her. She brushed the hair from my face, and together, we wept tears of what was lost. What she had lost – a husband and children, buried and gone. I knew, at almost 10 years old that I had lost the rest of my childhood. It was gone, and the only thing to do now was move on. I told her I was leaving and she knew, down inside, that it was the only way for me to live. If I stayed here, he might eventually kill me.

I left that day with a few clothes in a bag, my heart filled with sadness, but my spirit soaring because I felt free. I headed to the bus station a little older and wiser. I asked the man behind the counter what bus went to the beach. I found myself traveling along a palm-lined road that led to Acapulco. The bus deposited me beach side. It didn't take me long to meet up with others traveling along, because Mexico is a land filled with people always moving - trying to get somewhere. I found myself around a fire on the beach with other young kids who had left home for various reasons. The stories poured out of each runaway, every one of them teary-eyed telling stories of abuse, neglect and rape – boys and girls alike. I felt connected to this weary band of travelers. I spent several weeks here with the sun on my face and oysters in my stomach. It felt like a reprieve from the violence my dad had bestowed on me. Talk soon turned of travel and moving on and my ears perked up. I asked what they were talking about.

"Do you want to hitch-hike with us to el norte?" they asked.

I rolled this around on my tongue. The north. The United States. Little did I know what this simple question would mean and how it would change my life. I pondered this, thought of everything I had been through in my 10 years and simply looked at them and said, "Yes, I'll go."