1. Fran Stekoll says

    I was an only child. I didn’t want to have only one. In 1958 I was confined to bed to avoid a miscarriage. My Doctor made house calls. I was given several
    medications to alleviate losing my baby. My friends and neighbors were very supportive. My 2 1/2 year old daughter Lee Ann became my care giver. She would bring in the mail, the milk and my lunch daily. My husband did all the shopping, the laundry and cooking. In my 9th month the medications were stopped and I went into labor and delivered naturally. My daughter Sheri stopped breathing. She had several malformations. Her right ear was attached to her shoulder. Her legs were windblown. Her face was asemetrical and every other vertebrae in her spine was malformed. I was told she would never walk. We went to several doctors and to crippled childrens society. Her ear was restored with flesh from her hip. A brace was placed on her tiny feet forcing them to straighten. Every other vertebrae was not normal but on opposite sides of her spine which gave her a severe scoliosis. Today she is my perfect child. Had her spine been normal she would’ve been six feet tall. Her face is perfect. She is my blessing. We are very close. It’s as if the cord was never severed. My older daughter Lee Ann is the best Mother and has 5 grown children. Sheri has 3. I can still feel these precious babies as if they were born yesterday smelling of baby magic. To me they were the softest things in this world. Together we have
    overcome the hardest things in our world.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      What a journey you and your family have had. My granddaughter was born with a deficient right arm and some mental issues that have resulted in slow social development and learning. Even so I can only imagine the challenges you faced with some very severe problems… what a miracle that she is able to have such a normal life.
      Thank you for sharing this story with us.

    • Terry Gibson says

      What an incredible story, Fran! I am so happy both of your girls are doing so well and that you have the joy of grandchildren. I have to tell you that I love this sentence: “I can still feel these precious babies as if they were born yesterday smelling of baby magic.” It makes me smile. It reminds me of how deeply in love I fell with my niece from the day she was born (I was there) until three when I had to move away for her well-being.

    • Ilana says

      Fran- What a beautiful love story. I think the strength with which you and your children faced this made it so beautiful. I am in awe. Thank you for sharing this story with me. IM

  2. Jim Dowling says

    On October 9th a masked man boarded a school bus with a gun. He shouted out a girl’s name, located her, and shot the girl in the face and neck.

    The girl’s name is Malala Yousafzai and today she is in critical condition, fighting to stay alive. Why? Because Malala is a dreamer. And she’s a girl. Malala wanted some things we take for granted. She wanted an education, hoped to become a doctor some day. Both those aspiration were deemed a threat by religious extremists who have banned the education of girls in the parts of Pakistan they control. This kid dared to go public with her aspirations and all the roadblocks standing before her and other children. And, world-wide, people were listening. Malala had to be silenced.

    Malala is a powerful symbol for many things in a place where intimidation has held change and reform in check for years. A place where dreaming and hoping have become dangerous pastimes. Malala, the child too brave for her own good. It’s incredible to think she’s only 14. The attempt to silence her has sparked outrage, inspired many to speak out in Pakistan. Temporarily, the extremists appeared on the defensive, though lately, they’ve let it be known that they may target any news media who continue to condemn their actions. At the least, Malala has set something in motion that may, down a long road, allow her and others to realize their dreams.

    I hope she makes it.

    • says

      I think of Malala everyday and I hope she makes it–and that her sacrifice leads to an uprising that changes things for Pakistani girls forever. I have a fifteen year old daughter who takes her education for granted–so this really has hit me hard, too.

    • Ilana says

      Jim- Malala truly is a hero. I shall add her to my prayers. Whatever happens she has already accomplished so much. Thank you for sharing the story. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thanks for writing about Malala, Jim. This story has impacted me as well. While I deeply appreciate Malala’s light, innocence, and unintended shero-hood, I am so very angry about another young life being damaged in possibly irreparable ways. However, I will let the soft, with its deafening resonance, reign inside me. I won’t let the violent destroyers of young women consume me again with hatred and disillusionment. Heal, Malala, heal.

    • Debbie says

      I am in awe of this little girl’s courage. I think about her daily and hold hope that she will heal and once again find joy in her life. And I wonder at the grown men with guns who were so frightened by her truth.

  3. Hazel Muller says

    This is truly a great example of softness against hard thnigs. I don’t think that we can say quite yet that softness has overcome the out of control religious fanatics in that area of the world but it is more than a good start.

  4. Hazel Muller says

    Long ago I had a friend who was bipolar. When he had an episode he nearly always went very high, he didn’t think he was God, he knew he was. We were living in British Columbia, Canada at the time and he decided he must visit his parents in Quebec. We arranged for the visit and went.
    His parents met us at the airport in Ottawa and everything was “Bussi – Bussi” with kisses and hugs as we began the long drive across the bridge into Hull and on out into the Quebec country side. But about a day after we were there the stress of being cooped up with his father began to show and he lost it. He went up on the roof during the night and was calling the gods to come down and get him. In time his father was able to talk him down off the roof. But his father was a strong Austrian man with very definite feelings of being the authority and what he said was law. And therein lay the problem. Soon his father was trying to physically control my friend and shouting at him. I had known that my friend had episodes of mania and had experienced them before and had learned the best way to handle them was with a soft voice of firm persuasion. I could not let this situation continue or someone was going to get hurt, badly.
    In a firm but quiet voice I told the father and mother to sit down and not to get up, I would handle this. I softly told my friend to go to the bedroom and be quiet. Big breath. Next I told the father to go and sit quietly in the bedroom with my friend and not to say anything while I would call an ambulance and get my friend taken to the hospital that he need to go to. I told the father that my friend was my responsibility now and he did not need to worry about it.
    I called 911 and, of course, got a French speaking person who said the also spoke English but it was not good. They kept asking me if my friend was drunk . . . how many drinks did he have. No, he is not drunk. He needs to be taken to a psych hospital. Can you do that? I was put on hold while they checked. “Yes,” came the answer after a long time. “Okay,” I said, “if you have only small men send 4, if you have big men 2 may be able to handle the situation.” After what seemed like forever, the arrangements were made.
    I hung up the phone, hesitated a moment to get my thoughts together and went to the bedroom. I told the father to go sit with the mother in the living room while I talked with my friend. “You are going to go to the hospital. You need to get dressed because they will be here soon.” My friend looked at me with a “do I have to” look and I nodded my head. He got dressed. I said in a steady calm voice, “Go sit at the bottom of the stairs so you can go when they get here.” Again I got the look. Again I nodded yes. He went to the bottom of the stairs. I went and sat with him. Soon the ambulance was there and he said he did not want to go. I said, “I know you don’t but you know you have to, right?” He nodded yes. The ambulance attendants reached for his arms to restrain him and I said, “You don’t have to do that, he will go with you.” I looked at my friend, “Right?” He nodded yes and went with them.
    After all the information as to the hospital he would be taken to and all I told him I would come in the morning and see him.
    I went back in the house to find the parents waiting for me on the steps. “How did you do that?” the father asked me. “We have always had a big fight and things get broken. You just don’t know how awful it is? How did you do that?” To say that they were in awe of me is an understatement.
    “He trusts me and on some level he knows that he is out of control and doesn’t know what to do so by speaking in a soft firm voice, not arguing or forcing him to do something, he knows I am right and co-operates with me.”
    “What happens with my friend is not your fault, it is what happens in his brain that causes his behavior so you need not blame yourselves. It is difficult for parents and children not to act and react to each other.” We talked for a long time and they hugged and kissed me and thanked me for my help and concern.

    • Ilana says

      Hazel- I grew up in a world where yelling was the favorite way to communicate and control. Your story proves all of that wrong. What an inspiration. (Just wish I could send it to my dad….) IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hazel, I’ve been on both sides of this story–the one in a deep depression, panic attack or with suicidal impulses, and the quick-thinking, calming voice guiding a friend, stranger, or myself, in or through a crisis. You were incredible and your friend was obviously in the best of hands. Thanks for sharing this story!

    • beverly Boyd says

      I too have had the experience of being with a friend as she went through a manic-depressive episode. It apparently was not the first, but I had never seen her that way. I was much younger, inexperienced and having my own emotional crisis, but when you get a call at six in the morning from a friend saying she has seen the devil in a vision and needs to warn me, you don’t question, you just act. So I was willing to do what needed to be done, put it all in God’s hands and asked for guidance every step of the way. By the end of the day, most of which I have total recall, she had been taken to a nearby hospital. When it was all over I experienced the emotions I had been shielded from all day but was thankful for being able to “show up.”

  5. Jennifer Ire says

    I had been in the US, in New York City for less than a year, when my mother moved out with my sister and left me with the apartment. I was working and working on getting into college and very busy. The super was a Hispanic man whose normal voice was loud and who used his bilingualism strategically at times. I was a newly arrived Trinidadian, speaking British English with an accent. The ability to converse and to understand each other was challenging and very funny at times. The super who was taller and heavier than me also had a habit of raising his voice to try to make himself understood. Although, I had a sense he also was trying to assert authority over me, a wrong move on his part.
    One day he came up to and into my apartment to talk with me about some repairs that were needed. As the conversation went on, we were trying to agree on a time and day, his voice escalated to his almost shouting. I remained calm and asked internally for help. Then I had the sense to begin to lower my voice as I answered his questions. After two or three question and answer rounds I noticed that he was standing closer to me, head bowed to hear me and that his voice was softening, so I continued my way. In no time we were conversing quietly and soon were laughing together and came to an agreement. I was relieved, happy and thankful for whatever or whoever led me to do that in the moment. What was remarkable was that the super and I remained on good terms until I moved out about a year later.

    • Hazel Muller says

      What a wonderful story! It does work to lower your voice, I have used it many times with out of control people. Saved my life once.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I can see you doing this, Jenny. Men with booming voices still frighten me as I equate loud, male voices with anger, intimidation and the certainty of physical harm. I need to do lots of work in this area and will remember this story as I encounter situations like this. Thanks and hope you are doing well!

      • Hazel Muller says

        This is a piece that I wrote at the time of one of my friends “episodes.” The whole of this process is just amazing to me, how people have the capasity to have such deep swings.

        The Other Guy

        He was not dressed in his usual impeccable style with polished shoes, pressed suit, silk tie with matching pouf in the outside breast pocket; his hair perfectly coifed. Instead he had on a western shirt, tattered leather vest and jeans so tight they pulled his slightly sagging ass up and held it taught and firm in the back pockets. On his head was a leather hat with a rattlesnake headband. The head of the snake had its mouth open wide, ready to strike front and center. A bandana was tied over the shirt sleeve at the biceps and three green parrot feathers had been stuck in under it. His feet were crammed into an old pair of well-worn boots.
        This was not some costume for a play; this was the flip side of a very intelligent, successful businessperson who had succumbed to the pressures of his life and once more had slipped into the manic state beyond the control of the norms of himself and society. That place where anything can happen because he has taken that one step beyond the limited view of the “normals”. He is now in the realm of the Gods. It’s not so much that he becomes immortal but that his view of everything becomes expanded with the possibilities compounded exponentially. His brain is flooded with frantic messages from every nerve ending in his body. The pressure to do things rages within him like a fire fueled by pure oxygen and he races from one activity to another frantic to do them all.
        When this cycle has ended, the cowboy clothes and the “other guy” are tucked into the back of the closet, as he turns back into Mr. Business.

        • beverly Boyd says

          What a great description. I loved your details. The pouf on the silk tie and carefully coifed hair juxtaposed with the too tight jeans holding the sagging ass up into his pack pockets gave such a graphic picture of the extreme your friend exhibited in his manic state. I’m glad you added this to your response.

        • Debbie says

          Great line about the jeans holding up his ass into his back pockets! Made me smile – so graphic. I also enjoyed this description of the manic mood – very well done.

  6. Ilana says

    A Magical Combination of Hard and Soft.

    Soft? I’m sure no man wants to hear himself described that way. The word evokes images of a middle aged couch potato. It’s the word used to describe someone who is out of shape and weak. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. My Zander has a magical kind of softness that I’ve never seen in another living soul. His muscles are hard and strong. His hands, when I squeeze them in moments of unbearable agony, are like warm blocks of cement, unyielding, dependable and solid. He isn’t going anywhere, no matter how hard I need to crush his fingers. They stay that way; through panic attacks, nightmares, the devastating effects of memories and new assaults. Zander is always there; strong, hard and dependable.

    But the softness, that’s where his real magic lies. I’ll never forget that night I awoke from a particularly horrible dream in a full on panic. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even cry. He folded his warm body around me. Soft and malleable, it fit to my shape perfectly, protecting every trembling part of me. Hard and soft at the same time; he protects and he sooths. When the world outside is cold and hard Zander can be soft and warm. I rest my head against the chest that is hard and strong but at the same time soft and nurturing. When those arms close around me I know that everything is going to be okay.

    This magical co-existence of hard and soft is not just a physical thing. Zander can do it with his attitudes and behaviors too. The magic made its presence known a little over a year ago when Zander and I embarked on this dreadful journey together. It began on a day when I needed him to be hard, solid and unyielding. “Ilana.” He repeated patiently. “What you went through was incest. You’re not a special case. You did not deserve it and nothing about you makes it what it wasn’t.” He was steadfast in the face of my desperate need to play down my nightmarish childhood. As much as I argued he held firm that I had rights. Rights which had been violated, rights he was willing to fight for.

    Then I needed him to be soft, flexible. The first several months of my healing were filled with nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks and panic attacks. Some days it took all I had in me not to cut myself to ribbons. This left little time for folding laundry, cleaning or cooking for my family of five. Zander saw what was happening to me and he did the best he could to pull my weight as well as his own. Sometimes I still need that and he’s even better at doing it now than he was then.

    My Zander is by no means perfect. I do realize that in my writing I tend to give him a bit of a halo. Rose colored glasses are an important tool in maintaining my healthy marriage. He is a dear man, an exceptional human being but he does make mistakes. He gets tired. He gets frustrated and upset. Sometimes he doesn’t get anything. He just doesn’t get it. We’ve had our share of screaming fights, believe me. At those times he’s hard, the cold hard anger of a man who’s been pushed to his limit. Then, when he calms down the magical softness comes in. He lets me explain things to him, he listens and he learns. “Oh my God. I had no idea…” The awe, sorrow and respect in his voice always make me feel stronger. Beliefs he had before are let go as he softens his understanding of the world to let in what I have to share with him.

    Less than a decade ago Zander insisted that “Blood is thicker than water. It doesn’t matter how you feel about your brother. He is family and you will be there for him.” Now, he understands. Now he supports my decision never to speak to Andrew again. He is soft, yielding; willing to listen and change his whole way of viewing family. He is hard, strong; promising to stand firm in the face of whatever assault my brothers or my past my try to hurt me with. A magical combination of hard and soft.

    With your permission, I’d like to share a poem that wrote itself in my mind when Zander and I had only been together a few months. It is more true now than it was in 1999. I cannot share the title because it is a play on his real name. Thank you for letting me share. IM

    Beauty is only skin deep
    But this goes straight to the bone.
    It’s in his eyes, it’s in his arms
    I’ve found myself a home.
    A heart so big, a heart so strong to hold the whole of me.
    All of the good and all of the bad.
    He loves me when I’m happy. He loves me when I’m sad.
    And then that love, it builds a trust.
    He lets me love him too.
    Believing every word I’ve said
    Knowing all of it is true.
    He lets me hold him, see his soul.
    The way that he sees mine
    Living naked, unashamed and unafraid.
    Until the end of time.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I read this last night and had no words. Today, I’m almost in the same place. I feel a well of emotion on its beauty, Ilana. Maybe I can articulate that to you a couple weeks but, for the moment, this is all I have.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry- I feel like such a hypocrite because my healing has been so hard on both of us lately that we’ve had it out a few times. We’re still together, though, so I suppose that means we’re surviving this. Looking forward to meeting you in person. Thank you again for your kind words. sIMz

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – I always enjoy hearing of a relationship that nurtures both participants. It gives me hope. Thank you.

  7. Paula Hill says

    In the wake of silence, I walk through a forest
    made palpable
    by the drone of an insect beating on the tympani….
    Light from the sun, or is it the Full Moon in this darkened place?
    glides down a shaft to touch the black pupil of my eye
    giving glance to the remarkable in evergreens, and
    heralding in the workings of Pluto
    made stealth within deciduous skeletal remains through mid-autumn’s stirrings…
    My pedicured toes crunch the leaves, sending Gaia’s scent
    wafting through limbic memories, mixing the child with this me,
    so recently walking the forested floor this sixty-fifth time.
    Grieving for Spring and summer, so quickly gone in a nighttime of frost…
    The deer, the squirrel, the bear and osprey, the quail and bees…
    Do they mourn? or is acceptance their Buddhistic lot?
    Without the snow of winter, and the glistening of raindrops on the leaves to
    lighten the load upon this soul on this sad day,
    I have difficulty seeing beyond the underworld of life…
    My father’s passing, my mother’s debilities,
    The graying and balding of friends’ heads….
    The troubles in my temple, my body, adding hints of a future demise…
    My lover’s nimbleness fading….
    The walls of my home are chipping, the rug is marked with soil marks from the soles of shoes that have brought in the decaying compost….
    The vacuum is broken, the hose filled solid with debris….
    A fire has burnt down 80,000 acres in the forest across the lake from our seasonal retreat.
    The hope of our country’s, the world’s finances churns dim for the 99%…..
    But as I hike on the climb of this arduous hill, my heart pumps blood through my legs, my arms, my mind, my organs, giving reminder of life and the glories of surrounding colors, the calls of a single bird hidden in the yonder…..
    I awaken to the caw of a crow in the light of early dawn….
    A cute puppy joins with an exuberant bark…
    And the baby next door… her little feet patters on the wooden floor with an exhilaration
    and glee of newfound movement….
    I vicariously join in with the senses the new morning brings….their meanings call loudly
    into my soul….

    • Debbie says

      Yippee! Paula – I have missed your special style. I so enjoyed this piece. I was actually thinking of you this evening as the words to my own post starting forming in my mind. Their rhythm reminding me of some of your work. Thank you so much for taking us on the walk through the woods.

  8. beverly Boyd says

    ………”Let’s you and him ” fight” (1934 Popeye movie, and Game identified ……… Eric Berne in the 1960’s)
    Mile’s voice was soft: rounded off at the corners so he could slip in and out of a conversation almost unnoticed. He looked so much like his year older and more loquacious brother, neighbors sometimes called Brian, “the quiet one”. His normal mMarier was usually to quietly observe as his more verbal siblings interacted without noticing much of the dynamics of what was going on. That ability to read the room was one of his attributes that made him an all-star “Little League” and later “Babe Ruth” baseball player. He didn’t even need to use his voice to direct his team from the catcher’s vantage point and his teammates learned to trust his ability to read the other players.

    When he was five years old I put him in a play therapy group. While the children were playing with a group of trained aides, the doctor took the parents off to session of our own. He wanted both parents to attend, but Jack was “too busy, and you can take care of it.” One day Dr. Halpern suggested that children sometimes get their parents fighting. Jack was not there to hear this information and I didn’t take him too seriously, though I did resolved to tell Jack about it. I thought I was too smart…too aware. I had been an education major, and I had not justy read, but studied, Eric Berne’s recently published “Games People Play” and learned about the transactional analysis it was based on. Certainly I would have caught on to it if Brian were setting us up to fight.

    That noon, after picking the other children up at daycare, I was fixing lunch for them. Actually I was fixing lunches, since toddler, Marie and three-year-old Rickie and Brian had different self-feeding capabilities. Marie, who had given up her morning nap, was beside herself with hunger and sleepiness and began what had been, for the last few days, a routine of crawling out of her high chair, crying inconsolably, and screaming if I dared to touch her… It was not a pretty sight. Into this scene of chaotic domestic bliss, my husband, Jack, decided to come home for lunch. If he was willing to wait I had some nice lunchmeat and rye bread for a sandwich. Otherwise it was PB and J. He decided to wait and while he was doing it he could balance the checkbook.

    After a moment he called to ask what the amount of the check I wrote at the exchange store was. I couldn’t remember without looking at it. He pressed on. I asked him to wait. Then it happened: From his place at the table Brian dropped an almost unnoticeable comment. Immediately I recognized my cue and knew what my line was. I also knew that, if I said it, Jack would come back with some exasperated remark and we would be fighting. Hmmm. Is this really happening? I didn’t respond. Brian threw in another comment: Again I didn’t respond. As a third comment was lobbed into the room in his soft voice I thought, how many of these does he know? I was beginning to feel exhausted by trying to stay so present with this dynamic and at the same time proceed with fixing four different lunches and trying to be sure Annie didn’t succeed in throwing herself out of the highchair. Thankfully, that was the last of his repertoire. From his vantage point at the table he was able to see me in the kitchen and Jack at the desk. He looked back and forth a few times as we continued our work. Then with frustration he said, “Why don’t you two just fight?” The subtext seemed to be, “I’m doing my best to help you out!”

    Occasionally over the years I noticed times when it was Brian’s siblings that were thrown the cue line and a minor disagreement turned into an argument sometimes, but not always, involving Jack. Then one night when Brian was fifteen, we were all gathered in the den watching TV. For all nine of us to be comfortable on the side of the room where we could see the screen took some negotiating. Those soft voice lobs started coming, escalating a simple plea for space or a more comfortable position into something much louder. Almost automatically, Jack demanded the offenders leave the room. One after another his six siblings were ordered to leave and go to their room. “But, Dad” only evoked a repeat of the order and soon it was just the three of us left. By this time I had lost the thread of the story so I decided to “go to my room” as well.

    I while later, when Jack came to bed I asked him if he had been aware of what was going on…how Brian had set him up to send each of the kids to their room. He shook his head in denial, so one by one I recalled each scenario. When I finished he shook his head in agreement and with a bemused smile said, “Not bad!” It seemed he admired what Brian had done. I gave up in frustration. I didn’t think it was likely I could enlist Jack in helping stop the game.

    I’m thankful now, that they are all grown up and have children of their own, Brian has given up that game. We all enjoy getting together. Brian’s voice is not so soft anymore and he uses it more loudly to join in and be part of the often boisterous conversation.

    • beverly Boyd says

      sorry for a couple of weird typos: First line: “Brian’s voice was soft” fourth line: His normal manner.
      I think the rest reads okay even with a few typos.

          • Cathy says

            I’m enjoying reading the stories, as always. I’m so glad I stopped in after my absence. Laura, that’s so nice of you to give the writers comments. It means so much when the invisible audience is not silent also.

          • says

            thanks Cathy for stopping by! I try to comment as much as I can, but my face-to-face commitments to my writers sometimes takes precedence. but I love watching this community grow with such kindness and generosity of spirit. not to mention writing talent!

    • Debbie says

      Beverly – amazing that you could detect Brian adding this dynamic to conversations. Fascinating! And we sometimes kid ourselves into thinking the children don’t understand what is going on.

  9. Ilana says

    Dear Writing Community- I was once given permission to post something that did not exactly connect with the prompt. I have been dying to share this piece of my journey with you so I hope that invitation still stands. It was written for my Wings (incest survivors) writing group. The prompt was “What I would say to my abuser now.” This is a fanciful meeting between me and (not) Andrew. It was a frightening piece to write because there is an intense flashback and it is the first time I used the word “Rape” to describe what he did to me. Anyway, thank you for allowing me to share. My apologies if you aren’t comfortable with it. sIMz

    I Said What I’d Come to Say

    “The fact that you call yourself a father is nothing short of obscenity. Still, I suppose I should thank you for that. It was the catalyst that finally made me face all of this.” I simultaneously shrugged and ground my teeth. The conflicting gestures of nonchalance and white hot rage spoke to the confusion swirling in my heart. Giving up on understanding it, I secured his hands behind his back with a zip tie. Not too tight, though. I didn’t really want to hurt him. It was a hard wooden chair, not built for comfort but he was bound for my protection, not to make him suffer. Looking at his hands I became nauseated that I had touched them. I hurried to the sink and washed my own hands in water so hot it was painful; lots of soap too. Methodically, I dried them on the soft towel my mind’s eye had placed on the rack in this make believe room. Then I perched on the edge of the lavish sofa that faced his chair and took off my high heels. I tucked my feet underneath me and arranged my skirt carefully around myself, wondering what I was going to do next. ‘I’m scared.’ I thought, but I wasn’t even sure what I was afraid of.

    “You’ll never believe me.” I said to his sleeping form. “You’ll always remember our childhood through that distorted lens that paints you as the victim and me as the spoiled princess you were sacrificed for.” Oh God, how it hurt just to look at this man. “You fucking bastard!” I suddenly flew at him. My right hand came hard across his cheek. Again, I ran to the sink and washed him off of my hands with scalding hot water. Then I turned to watch the deep purple bruise begin to rise on his cheek. He did not respond. He was unaware the blow had even been delivered. He would be unaware of all of it. I couldn’t actually talk to him. He couldn’t have the opportunity to respond. I knew what he would say and I couldn’t bear to hear it. His denial, his patronizing forgiveness of my invented memories was so painful that it just might kill me this time.

    I tried to sit down again but couldn’t do it. As soon as my body touched the couch I shot to my feet and began to pace the room with mounting anxiety. “What good is this going to do?” I hit him again; the other side of his face and this time with an object. I didn’t want my skin to come in contact with that putrid flesh. I could smell him, his breath, his body. It was the smell of my prison. In my childhood that smell had accompanied the pain, the fear, the shame, the incredibly trapped and powerless feeling he had always inflicted upon me. Another bruise formed on his sleeping face but he remained completely ignorant of it.

    “I was a child!” I screamed at him. “A child and you destroyed me!” Now I was circling his chair in angry, frightened steps. My feet were sweating through the stockings and I was afraid I’d slip. “A little girl.” I came around to the front of his chair and stopped there to face him. “A little girl who never got the chance to love herself. I was five years old the first time you put your hands on me.” The shouting had stopped. I found myself kneeling on the floor, my skirt flowing around me. “Just a little girl.” I cried. My voice continued to get softer, pleading. “You put your hands on my most sacred intimate parts when I was so young I didn’t even know they were mine. You turned me to garbage before I had a chance to be anything else. Then you hurt me; twisting my arms behind my back. Oh God I wish I had allowed you to break them. I wish I had ignored the pain and defied you until you broke both my arms, both my wrists and every finger.” I stopped and looked up at him, shocked at my next words but knowing I had no choice but to say them. Unable to draw breath, unable to think and yet absolutely certain that I meant what I was going to say, I stood up. My voice rose with strength and clarity. “I wish I had allowed you to kill me.” As soon as I said the words my strength was gone. I crumpled to the floor again, sobbing. “But I gave you exactly what you wanted. I begged you to stop. I apologized when I had done nothing wrong. Anything to stop the pain and the fear, anything to survive.”

    My fists pounded the concrete floor as if somehow it would open up and I would find relief there. I could feel the carrot in my throat. The one he had orally raped me with when I was eight. It was covered in paprika and garlic powder. The spices got sucked into my nose, throat and lungs as I fought to breathe. They burned me. They burned me and it was my fault; if I had just held my breath. If I had just not said that I liked carrots he wouldn’t have forced it down my throat.

    The flashback folded around me and it got quiet. Like a silent movie that I was watching from the inside. I could see the kitchen; the refrigerator to my right, with the poster from Barbara what’s her name, the piano teacher. ‘I want YOU to practice 15 minutes every day.’ That’s what I’d been looking at that night in 1982 as the spice coated carrot was forced down my throat. It was at a funny angle because my head was tipped all the way back under the weight of the assault. I was standing, clinging to the counter to keep from falling over. And all I could think the whole time was ‘I deserve this. I asked for it because I said that I liked carrots.’

    The nightmare swirled around me again and dimmed. I found myself back on that cold concrete floor sobbing. Then with a sudden dignity, I rose and walked back to the couch. I sat in it and carefully put my high heeled shoes back on. Standing, I faced him, my voice once again filled with courage and strength. Tall, confident and self possessed, I began to speak. “I was a child and you destroyed me. All those years I lived without a self, without an ounce of pride or a shred of dignity, yet somehow I survived. Now I am an adult and I will never let you hurt me again.” Then I turned and walked away. I said what I’d come to say and it didn’t matter that he hadn’t heard a word of it.

    • Debbie says

      Wow! Ilana, this feels like such a huge step in your healing – naming it, addressing him. I am honored that you wanted to share this with us. Thank you.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Debbie- This was a huge step indeed. It challenged so many things that have been holding me back. It meant a lot to share it here and in the Wings Writing Group. Thank you for your acceptance and support. It means so much to me. sIMz

    • Terry Gibson says

      This is so intense and powerful. I ride the waves with you–the rage, sadness, violence, confusion, pleading, tears, and the restoration of ‘dignity,’ as you put it. How did it feel to write from that place? I find it intriguing and can’t help but toy with the idea of trying something similar myself.

  10. Debbie says

    Soft; water.
    Slipping into the welcoming warmth.  
    Limbs suspended, weightless.
    Sensual droplets teasing down your neck.
    Rocking gently in the nurturing rhythm.  
    Safe.  Comforted.  

    Hard; the landing.  
    Falling face first,
    heart first,
    ass first into life, loss, gravity.
    Forward motion slamming abruptly
    Into the angles and parapets of reality.  
    Pain. Shame.
    The landing.

    Soft; love.
    Against all odds,
    Melting the icicles in our hearts.  
    Opening new channels for joy.  
    Bringing back hope.  

    Hard;  cruelty.
    Abuse, neglect.
    Twisting poison into back into life.
    Leaving scars of grief and hate.  
    Dark shrouds of depression.

    Soft;  faith.  
    Surrounding the soul with possibility.  
    Gently nudging us to believe.  
    Pointing out the blessings.  
    Gratitude. Peace.  

    Hard; faith.  
    Demanding risk.
    No guarantees.  
    Choices with accountability.  
    The high road.    
    The unknown.  

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- What a beautiful combination of hard and soft. It is lovely and striking. You have a talent for poetry as well as the narration and description that we have seen in your other posts. Keep up the writing, keep up the posting, keep up the inspiring. IM

      • Paula Hill says

        I’m so glad I looked again at this site….The polarities in your poem are marvelously expressed….zen simple, clear and potent…your perspective of faith spurs a thoughtful insight into your broad circumspection of life….

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