During my childhood years, I lived in the tension between my disillushionment and near hatred for the 'burbs and my love for all of the normal kid stuff I managed to pad my life with around the hard center of abuse at the heart of my family. I ran through those streets, or skipped, ambled or rode my bike, as someone to whom they belonged: and in a sense I felt they did. Hadn't I earned the right--the need--to tear through the neighborhood, let loose after another grueling act of sexual violence?
I know the violence was in my stepdad, not in the 'burbs themselves, but I couldn't make that delination back then. To me it was all a tumbled mess, and I equated my neighborhood with wicked acts, with hesitant footsteps home and my face burning with shame from another insult lobbed my way.
I blamed the 'burbs for my misery, as I could not blame my stepdad or mother who fed me and kept a roof over my head. I couldn't even afford to acknowledge that they were the true culprits in my daily anguish. But the 'burbs couldn't defend themselves from my accuations, they were the background unfolding in streets and avenues and cul-de-sacs; in driveways and sidewalks, and patios bright white in the noonday sun.
I awoke summer mornings with the varnished hardwood of my bedroom floor glowing like warm honey, winking what seemed to be good will, and promises of good things to come. But the glow didn't last long; it hit me always where I was, that I was not safe (though I couldn't say why), and that there was something major missing which, once again, left me with a big hole in my heart. (Did I even know that that hole was due to being wrenched away from my dad and brothers? Did I allow myself to acknowledge that?) Wearily, I pulled myself out of bed and braced myself to face another day. Wistfulness permeated me with longings I dare not quite think of in too much detail. I wanted....oh, I wanted for this new day to not be like all the others which started with so much promise and ended so horribly. I wanted it to be a long, sweet day of sun and bike riding, of lollygagging with friends, and finding time to read, and not being bugged by any adult for any reason.
I couldn't think of this new day ahead of me without my heart drooping as I went about dressing for the day (hurriedly, in case he barged in on me), absentmindedly grabbing my nearest pair of cut-offs, already suspecting with dull alarm that I'd once again misplaced my skate key.
There wasn't any way to hold on to those first fleeting moments of hopefulness which greeted me each morning before my spirits sank; no method for cupping them safely in my hands and keeping the rest of the day (always a downward slide) at bay. I had no control over how the day unraveled. The best I could do was to plunge into my activities with fierce energy, thrusting myself into games of jumprope or hopscotch, or fast bike riding, until I was slowed down and brought to a halt by my mother's voice calling me home, beckoning me back from the safety of those streets.
I find it ironic that I felt safer on those streets than I ever did within the four walls of my home. Outside meant freedom from grasping hands, and unspeakable acts. The worst I had to fear outside was a skinned knee, or some pushy kid trying to boss me around. But these things meant nothing to me: I lived with a terrorist. The scrapes and bruises, both physical and emotional, held little power over me.
My childhood became a matter of zigging and zagging, dodging what dangers I could while grabbing anything I stumbled upon that made my life bearable: a book, a new friend, or the the lovely honey shade of my bedroom hardwood floor before my sleepy self was set in motion once more.