The house was full and loud and busy. Silence was not a quality it had inherited, but neither was she built for it; with open arms for doors, and massive rooms to lounge or lunge into, she was youthful and she stood firm. Large houses should have loud, vivacious families and oh boy! Did she ever!
My bedroom was situated on the far side of the 'L' shaped house, the last one of three adjacent to my sisters, both younger than I, who had by now fallen into a blissful sleep. Our stationed bedrooms rested on the first stroke of the letter 'L', a cleaned carpeted corridor enclosed our portion of the house by a single door on the far side away from my bedroom, whereby a toilet, a bathroom, a shower, and a single wall (that stretched between my sister's rooms) upon which rested singular photographs of us hung in accordance to our bedrooms, not our age. All this had been part of the package. We had the full view of the front lawn and the street we lived on, not much of a view but there aired a sense of freedom to it; A lookout point, a meeting ground for friends who had lived close by, and before my stepfather had arranged burglar bars to be nailed in, it was an escape route.
My biological sister would sneak out most nights, begged me to not say a word to our parents and naturally, I did not. If I had known what she was really up to, I would not have let her escape those evenings, but she is who she is, audacious and restless, palpable since birth, ravenous for the companies of friends and boyfriends and strangers, which got her into insufferable arguments with our parents, and I naïvely remained loyal to her at her detriment.
Stepping out of our cordoned off part of the house, we would step onto the tiled foyer, which served more directly to our right because directly in front of us was the walkway leading to the kitchen and to the entertainment area; The entertainment area was grandiose, it served as a quint dancefloor surrounded by a succession of glass doors that could be unfolded, allowing the room to expand out and onto the courtyard like a waking giant stretching. It was perfect for parties, perfect for summer evenings, just perfect. The kitchen overlooked the entertainment area, which too seemed like an 'L' shape within the 'L' shape of the house. It stretched from the entry point, stopping in front of the back door and with a sharp left, you would find the kitchen sink and a decent sized pantry tucked away adjacently, which my mother turned into a laundry room. Kitchen cupboards laced both sides of the 'L' with a stunning new age gas stove that could be turned on by the click of the button and an oven that stood at your height. This kitchen served us well for a mediocre family of 5, including the dogs, cats, mice and rats we had for pets.
My parent's room ran down the foyer and represented the short part of the letter 'L'. Their room was once a granny flat. On the one end was the en-suite bathroom, a rather decent looking one at that too, and their room ran straight down, passing several well-spaced cupboards, their master king-sized sleigh bed which overlooked the courtyard, my father’s makeshift office which he used as his playpen, and directly after that was the backdoor leading out onto the backyard and opposite the large Oaktree;
That Oaktree had met many seasons and likely lived in peace and quiet before the neighbourhood was developed around it, but there it stood stoically in our backyard, firmly rooted, gracing the heavens with its branches and showering below it with shade, or it metamorphosized signally the beginning of Winter by powder coating the lawn with an exhibition of brown leaves.
I would play for hours on the grass bedding, whacking a ball around with my hockey stick, teaching my youngest sister how to play; Every now and again I would accidentally hit excrement from the dogs (those that were so embedded into the lawn I must have missed it while clearing it out) and it would go flying over the wall, or directly onto her. “Hey!” she would yell in all her seriousness, but be it as it may, we would both charge up with laughter and forage around for well-hidden dog shit to smack about. It was fun. Her laughter was lively and encouraging and mischievous, it was damn hard to deny her or deprive her of anything, and I didn’t want to; She was the youngest and I was eleven years her senior. I felt dutiful and responsible for her. I wanted to prepare her for the world outside these walls, despite the fact that I had not yet been fully exposed to its magnanimous nature. I bonded with her the moment she was brought home to us from the hospital, and as she got older, her personality and temperament began to show; Her complacency stood with a sense of compensation toward us, but it did not quieten nor did it stunt the modicum of her contrivances; Her intelligence peeked quite early, a brainy one that kid, and to top it off, her emotional intelligence was as bold and as powerful as her brains.
At the expense of leaving my body, knowing full well what is to come, I fly into the night far and beyond in search of otherworldly delights and there in its capacious splendour are colour spectrums unidentified, aching to be acquainted with the lunacy of artists and their matrimony between vision and their technique; The Chiaroscuro, the Gouache, the Tempera, the silhouettes and the shadows that which they see in the corner of their eye must lavish the canvas, must stir the soul. Music notes frolicking about, waiting to be berthed into their respective genre’s and, composed into melodies from vehement musicians, whose fingertips ink the manuscripts with their blood; They must filtrate those ears who will listen, they must charm the soul, lives depend on it. The imagination cannot be left hidden, disregarded, discarded, when there are Galaxies wildly loosened only accessible to dreamers and dream makers, whose only compulsion is to awaken the words into literature, only ably written by the dismantled hearts of novelist and poets who are capable of romancing tempest churns between Scylla and Charybdis; They write to immortalize forgotten moments into memories, unravelling enigma’s, transcribing, translating, educating.
I stealthily pass by the ancients, who are always launched upon their thrones, their libraries of legendary accomplishments attached to their sides; They bicker amongst each other like old men whose prides are as paunched as their bellies. Their perpetual blabber is as inconsequential to me as is my efforts to shift history by engaging with them. “It ain’t going to happen!” I whisper to myself. The Milky Way is next, I think to myself, I’ll stop by, grab a milkshake, and who knows, I shrug my shoulders, grinning about those impossibilities, I just might bump into Hera. I’ve been meaning to ask her about the spilt milk incident - Poor Heracles, just a babe then, gets the whacking of his life; It’s always the children who pay for their father’s sins; The world of Greek mythology introduced itself to me in my early teens. The journeys, the stories, the anguish, the wraths, the geographical evidence, these were not myths written to amuse our minds, these were facts. I dedicated years of my time bathing in these scriptures, and what I’ve learnt. Oh! The things I’ve learnt!
The splendours of the Greek gods and goddesses were that they were flawed and they knew they were. Their controversies emblazoned the heavens; The three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades brawling irresponsibly like stubborn boys, causing catastrophic capricious weather storms, of lightning and thunder sporadically bouncing about like ping pong balls, while tempest seas gather their armies of high crested waves, and haunt their troughs with the wailings of winds, forcing a war between well-mastered ships and the eluding mountainous shoals, and if push comes to shove, the earth below will rumble and roll with an ache of tremendous blows, and belching cannons open fire high up into the sky, parading their fury by spewing out their guts; They have forsaken their mortals who, if it weren’t for them, would not survive; Immortals are thus so because we chose to believe in them - We created them, through our fears, our victories, our accomplishments and prosperities, and then through strife, poverty, disease of the flesh and of the mind. We continue to believe because it dresses the wounds.
There were no gods rescuing me, in the quiet of the night and always at the most vulnerable hour. The Fates stood silently outside my window, spindle, thread and sheer, knowing full well, and without fail, the reverberating gong upon the hour.
In the thick of the night, while the walls of the house enveloped silent sleeping bodies, I hear the heavy of each footstep, hauling his gelatinous fatigued body, slurping the air in the hallway, and leading up to my room. Like an implosion in space, his breathing would chock the air as he came closer. Quietly he opens the door. It does not creak. His yellow teeth can be seen brightly by the only existence of natural light that illuminates my room, the moon. My body that had been at ease shrivels up like the appendages of a small Octopus on a dinner plate swimming in soya sauce about to be eaten alive; My body is locked. If I pretend to be sleeping perhaps tonight he will leave me alone, thought I to myself, but the febrility and malignancy of predators are only cured by the inevitability of old age, or by death.
My room grows silent and then icy cold as the duvet is lifted and like a joke, our juxtaposed bodies lay back to front and I am embryonically incomparably tinier than him; I lower my breathing, almost to a stop, as fear renders me paralyzed. I just want to die, I think to myself, Please. Let. Me. Die! I implore in prayer, in telepathy, anything, conjuring any god, deity, and daemon, Is there anybody out there listening? I plea in hope and faith, but the impecuniosity of my state goes unheard and I cannot circumvent the foreboding hours that lay ahead, of every night, of every day; I am young but old enough to know right from wrong, tenderly so, I am indefensible, and he knows it. He tries to manipulate his fingers between my unhindered arm that I have firmly cemented against my waist. He tries not to aggravate the situation, but rather coos into my ear; “I just want to hold you for a bit.” says he, this man. I reply with faintly untenable words; “I’m not in the mood, dad.”
This particular obscure uprooted memory of mine that I wilfully dove back into, struck a nerve of curiosity. At first, I thought why those words? Of all the words you could have sentenced together in your defence, why for christ sake did you utter those words? Perplexed by the predicament for several days, it finally dawned on me that, I chose a set of vernacular words that would soften the blow to his vanity for my defence, but I too in those moments hoped that he would offer consideration and note my discomfort. “I don’t like this, dad!” - Hope is a faceless friend in the midst of a fight; It is a con artist, a disloyal sadistic companion that only arrives at your despair, dangling that carrot in front of you, enlisting you to continue on, “Believe!” It astutely whispers. “Hold on just a little longer” and at your peril, you listen to its palaver. Why had I not abruptly left the room? Because I was paralyzed by the frost encrusting the room, the bed, the moment? I am once again in the midst of my shaming, my initiation, my rite of passage, one of life’s hard lessons, and so I am doubtful and because of that, I am still unclear of his motives despite life’s intentions, so I don’t move or talk loudly, I don’t want to offend the man in the likeliness he turns on me with ferocity.
He tries again after my reply. Poking his fingers around, trying to squeeze them through to touch my tummy. He succeeds at my acquiesce inability to maintain physical strength. I can feel his unauthorized fingers parading around; I would imagine his thoughts were, YES! Success! I win, I win! Like a petulant spoiled fat kid that nobody wants to play with, except that I feel worms crawling all over my body at the notoriety of his pleasure; He lightly drives his full hand, palm flat, around and around my tummy as though stroking a dog, his bad breath stagnates the air I’m trying to breathe, his giant plumpy fingered hands swirling, tickling about. He is testing my endurance, my boundaries - I shudder at the grotesquery of those years, the makeup that hid those vices, the veil I wore woven by Echo. This particular feeling, amongst many, the chicanery stain of his grotesquery, would remain bound to me forever. It has shapeshifted, but always feeding, forever wanting me to peer at myself in the mirror; “Look at yourself! You are disgusting! Unworthy! Obsolete!” - This is a marriage between mind and body, it cannot be seen, it cannot be heard and neither sympathized with by anybody unless the harrowing deed has moored itself onto you too.
I think to myself, Protect your breasts. Protect them like your life depends on it. I do my best by barricading my tiny breasts with my forearms, grimacingly clutching them tightly. I think to myself, Crisscross your arms! Cover as much of yourself as possible. He notices or doesn’t, I am not sure, but he continues to lasciviously trace his fingertips around and around my tummy as though mapping entry points of treasures, marking the spots; Measuring me by width and then by height, outlying my crisscrossed arms with the contingency of stroking the outline of my breasts. He leans over slightly and coos, “You feel so nice.” I cringe and reply, “Please dad, I want to sleep.” He ignores my plea and carries on; Following the linear pattern, he ventures down to my pubic bone, but by now my body had been as stiff as a cadaver and completely tightly woven into the foetal position, that he could not breakthrough. He huffs and scuffs and leaves my room, finally.
I tried hard for years to transform myself into something minuscule; small enough to fit inside a top pocket, but this never works and I never do and the house I am being raised in is no longer a home; It’s a prison that would ultimately transmogrify my self-esteem of which will be my undoing.
His ransom came at a very high cost, one I spent years paying off and perhaps I never will.