With the storm came her freedom…running from the thundering within. ~ Natalie
With my intense focus on education, it is pivotal when you’re trying to dig yourself out of a black hole. Often times, we cope by distraction. Taking our minds away from the more serious problems at home. I always found friends at least to take my mind away from the harshness and dysfunctionalism I lived with. I realize now I wasn’t the only one. There were other kids my age who were probably experiencing the same thing or worse. As young as I was, it felt as if I was the only child who was neglected and abused; it becomes an isolation and you keep it to yourself.
My friends never suspected anything and it wasn’t like Janis and Nick were beating me and screaming at me everyday but there were those moments that they absolutely should have controlled their vices that affected me so deeply.
The validation is realizing your not the only one who came from a dysfunctional home. In the interim visiting with my grandmother kept me from going crazy. It was just her and I and we understood each other perfectly.
I remember the look on Janis’s face. It was obvious she regretted a great deal in her life and that included me. The tenebrific, dismal situation was that life wasn’t going to improve for her and certainly not for me as long as I was living with them. Like Janis, I had regrets as well. I never took piano lessons even though a man from the church in the community had pointed out my potential to Janis. Later in years I purchased a baby grand piano which I play some now. I mostly make up my own music which is very therapeutic. I would love to go back to my piano lessons once I commit and find the time to do this consistently. Because in anything in life it takes practice and discipline.
Other things I missed I never got braces. I never went to a private school like my brother did. We never, not once, took a vacation. I never owned a Barbie Doll. I loved ballet and again no ballet lessons. I remember so vividly extending my legs at the age 11, like a ballerina, twirling myself, practicing thinking I can do this as well.
While Nick and Janis were at work there was this precious time all to myself. It was my own world in the hours between 3:30 and 5:30. I’d come home from school and do all my chores first. Vacuuming the abstract green carpet from the country store and as I said the best way to describe this, “it was as if the Green Giant had come in and thrown up on the opaque carpet.” There was so much potential in me and if I had had piano lessons and ballet lessons I wouldn’t be sharing my story with you. Even then I knew I wanted to excel in all the arts, but it would be Math that ultimately led to my freedom.
In sharing and writing my chaotic existence, everything that I had done or wanted to do justified my behavior in retaliation. I was trying to survive; sometimes muttering to myself in a soliloquy. “I can’t wait. I can’t wait to leave this place.”
Why couldn’t I have had better parents? Who were they (Nick and Janis) to take out the belt and belt me and leave welts on my fair skin? One time, just for a boy who was talking to me on the other side of the wall. Another time it was so humiliating, I was growing up and I had put my hair in pink sponge curlers. A boy I liked from school knocked on our front door unbeknownst to me. Nick led him to my room with me in pink sponge curlers. I was so shocked and embarrassment I ran to the bathroom and locked myself in it. Nick laughed like an idiot.
The tumult in my mind was taking me away from my spirit. Each day that passed I started slowly disassociating from myself. Nick’s ignominious behavior had started to destroy us; our spirits. I felt justified that every brave thing that I did from the age of four was what I needed to do to survive an endless succession of being exposed to the most deplorable behavior.
Once at the age of fourteen after Janis and the Lyncanthropic silver wolf were fast asleep, I did another stupid brave thing. I wanted to escape the madness of existence of always sparring mentally, verbally, and emotionally with Nick. I was tired of his drinking and Janis’s manic outbursts to assault his iniquitous drunk performances. I was tired of their terrible altercations and blowups. So I finally broke and wanted out.
At 1:30 am, I slowly dressed myself, took the keys for the Chevrolet Malibu from the kitchen drawer, tiptoed to the door, the full moon lighting a perfect escape. I got into the car, turned it on, put the car in R, backed out and left; driving myself 30 miles south to Santa Fe; no license; no driving experience. It was my first driving lesson; alone. I still remember the stick shift needle, P for Park, R to Reverse, then D to Drive. Pressing the gas and hoping for the best, running away permanently. Never to return again. I steadied the wheel while learning to press the gas pedal. Then the brake pedal to the gas pedal, jerking at first. Measuring distance and learning to stop at a stop sign or a red light. I chose the back way out of town. I wasn’t scared until I arrived in Santa Fe. Then the reality of what I had done hit me. I would avoid traffic and any police around. I found myself in downtown Santa Fe really not knowing where to go. It was barely daybreak. I drove around aimlessly and waited till daylight and I went to Cathy’s house. I really don’t remember the rest other than I was complaining for the first time of my situation at home to everyone. Nothing really came from it other than Nick hated me more and I him.
My brother’s first driving experience was at ten years old. Nick and my little brother had attended an annual picnic event; alone. Janis refused to go; she knew the drill. Nick would get drunk and probably embarrass her and me once again. So Nick got drunk as a skunk and Miguel drove as far as he could before finally stopping at a pay phone to call us. Janis and I went to bring home Miguel and Nick home in one piece. I drove the truck back with Nick practically passed out. He couldn’t understand that it was me driving the truck. Nick asked in that inebriated stuttering voice “Well, where’s Miguel?” I didn’t even bother to explain. I just looked at him and thought. “And this is my life.”
But life and things got stranger. I remember now that at the age of seven, Nick would like to tease me and tickle me leaving me feeling strange. Janis was there and made a comment I can’t remember exactly. Something in Spanish to the effect:
“No Juegue con ella de esa manera.”
“Don’t play with her like that”.
I think she knew of Nick’s perverse sexual behavior. Writing about this, it feels ugly to acknowledge this happened. I just remember making a conscious decision to stay away from him as much as I could. The shameful thing was that I had to protecting myself and Janis didn’t a damn thing to protect her daughter.
Then something happened to exacerbate the ugliness in life. I was nine or ten and we had arrived at Nick’s father’s farm. I remember his father would love to hear me speak in Spanish and I would tell him stories. One of his favorites was when I was having a real discussion with my real grandfather Jose, my mother’s father. I said to my grandfather in Spanish,
“Stoy sufriendo del las El Morranas.”
“I’m suffering from hemorrhoids.”
Nick’s father would laugh while spreading jelly and butter on his bread while drinking his coffee. I was always happy to be there at Nick’s father’s ranch. I’d go watch the pigs in their pen in the mud munching on grain, corn and everything else they could eat. I would go out of my way to pet them, scratch them and they grunted and seemed to like the attention.
On this particular day, I went to the outside room where all the feed for the animals was stored. Grandpa was there (Nick’s father). I said hello. He turned around to hug me and then he put his hand on my breast. I totally freaked out but I managed to break free of him, push him back with all my might and then I ran. From that day forward, I made sure I was never alone with that man called a grandfather.
It is clear to me now that as I write about this, Nick and his father were complete strangers to me and they were dangerous. I was shattered that someone I trusted could do such a thing. After I found out that Nick was not my real father, I wondered about his father’s behavior. Did Nick’s father choose me as a victim because I wasn’t blood related? Did he attempt to do this with his other granddaughter that was not biologically his? Or did it not matter and he molested his other granddaughters who were biologically related to him? Years later, Janis told me the story of Nick’s older brother having sex with a paraplegic young girl. I gather it wasn’t consensual. All of this was adding up in my mind, there were some serious sexually perverse issues in this family. I wonder most of all, what would I have been like if none of this had ever happened to me. How much saner, brighter, stronger, happier my life would have been without such horrific experiences. But sometimes maybe even most of the time, we are exposed to something that changes us inside. I remember Oprah admitting and the psychologists on her show saying, molesters take a child’s power away, their innocence, their happiness and their freedom.
I now know there are countless children who were exposed to some sort of sexual abuse or maybe even rape. Oprah Winfrey was one of the first celebrities to talk about her damaging sexual abuse experience; sharing her own horrific and heroic story. I think most woman and men who were sexually abused found this to be extremely important that Oprah was willing to tell the truth openly and discuss the aftermath of how our lives were destroyed. But more importantly, discussing these experiences openly vindicated and validated our feelings. Oprah’s opinion was that no matter how small or minor the abuse that occurred, it was still a violation and hurt many of us trying to live through it and move passed it.
Life Goes Forward
Until All The Past
Comes Rushing Forward
Understanding The Challenges
That Molded Us.
Nick was so obscene and indecent. He wandered around the house in his underwear. I hated this. The least Janis could have said to him was, “Put decent clothes on.” This man had no rules, no shame, no decency and no integrity. He was a mess and a lunatic.
I remember him laying on the floor in the sunken living room on the forest green shag carpet, his back against the sofa. His shirt unbuttoned because of the fire, he was continually adding logs into the fireplace. As well as to the fire that raged in Janis and me. Nick adding more fuel, disgusted, sickened to the nth degree, tolerable only through our ability to tune him out. What a blessing when we were able to tune him out. But it didn’t always work. As always Nick was drunk and exhibiting ignominious behavior. On one of his travels, he landed up in Juarez, Mexico. He started to tell a grotesque story of strippers and whores right in front of Janis, my grandmother, myself, and Miguel who was already seven. It was disgusting and detestable. He was slurring his words, pausing, losing his train of thought due to the alcohol and being out of his mind. He was the very demon in my eyes.
I started having secret fantasies of his death. His appalling and irreverent behavior was perverse and unending. When I was ten years old, I wished they would come take me away and I would be placed with a made up fantasy family.
I hated, just hated, Thanksgiving Day. It was not the icing on the cake. The most uncomfortable depressing performance was Nick’s drunkenness and stupidity. I wondered what was I giving thanks for, every year, the performance was the same. By the time, everything was prepared to eat, Nick sat at the head of the table slobbering, drinking and eating like a caveman. Janis would look at him and if looks could kill that would have been a blessing to us all. I couldn’t wait till he finished and would pass out for hours. That was our consolation prize for the yearly performance, him laying like a drunken fool and snoring like a pig.
Nick taught me to drive a stick shift driving the old 1939 Ford. It was orange and made quite a statement. The steering wheel was huge, maybe 24 inches in diameter. He said I could drive this vehicle and I was not persnickety at this point. I had a reputation around town as the young girl with long dark brown hair driving the old Ford. I used to pick up my brother from little league and a few of his friends came along for the ride. When I had to make a U turn, I’d always land up on the sidewalk or median with a big bounce and my little brother and his friends would laugh. I made sure to do that a few more times just for their enjoyment.
Nick was a farmer. He had the greenest thumb where in New Mexico to turn dirt into soil is real magic. When you drove down our street, you couldn’t miss the house with the green yard, flowers and a garden filled with sunshine and tasty vegetables. Even in the dumpy old rental house, there was plenty of space to grow a garden and he did just that. As fate would have it, he was under a large apple tree in the yard when rain, thunder, and lightning struck only a few feet from him; but it missed him. Yes, I know I sound disappointed. Yet another brush with death, he narrowly escaped.
By the time, I finished with eighth grade, Nick had built a new house with all the money he and Janis had saved paying dirt poor rent and the money that he didn’t save for my college education. The problem was the new home was in another town 35 miles north of Santa Fe. This was the crux in my life that would prove to be the most challenging.
In eighth grade, I was center stage and everything was revolving around me. I was vice president of the student council. I was also one of the drillettes for our sports events, which is better than being a cheerleader because we were dancing to my choreography. I had straight A’s, I sung solos in my music class and won for Sweetheart Queen. I was told by Nick not to run for Sweetheart Queen. His rationale behind this order was beyond me. But he wasn’t going to stop me so I ran anyway and won. Before the big event and dance, a couple of my spies and donation fund raisers went to Nick’s office unintentionally asking for a donation with a picture of me taped to the jar. When they came to Nick to ask for a donation, he looked at the picture and started laughing pulling out a ten-dollar bill to donate. The next thing I knew, I was Cinderella and my little helpers went to work looking for a dress. They found it, it was beautiful. One of Rosemary’s sisters had a long dress made of midnight blue velvet. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I wore a crown and cape and carried the Queen’s wand. I chose Christopher to escort me. He was a state championship wrestler and was terribly shy. Nick and Janis were invited to be there to show their support as parents and to take pictures. Nick looked a little proud but as far as Janis, I could never tell what was going on in her mind.
The Sweetheart Queen was to be escorted down the red carpet to her throne. I sat on my throne dying for the music to start because I loved to dance. Politely, I waited one complete minute for Christopher to ask me to dance. Everybody was coupling up and starting to dance, so I asked Christopher and Christopher said, “I can’t dance.” My reply “Well, you think you can’t dance.” I grabbed his hand and demonstrated just a few basic steps to start moving. He did and looked terribly uncomfortable. But I danced and twirled and smiled. After that I asked Christopher if he didn’t mind if I asked other boys to dance. He immediately smiled and there was my answer and boy did I dance.
Here I was as Sweetheart Queen. “Be brave my queen.”
Here is a Queen who is more than her court hoped for. Fiery and Independent.
“I Don’t Care About The Members Of
The Court and Their Menial Minds
Only I Can Decide.”
There Was Complete Silence
Two Were Conspiring Her Coup d’Etat
“Una Mujer Flaca Nenesesita A Comer”
“What Did He Say?”
“Your Majesty He, He…”
“Why Are You Stuttering Say It.”
“He Said, You Are Thin And Should Eat More.”
Stoically, Looking At The Prince
“Tell Him I Eat Plenty.”
“He Should Pay More Attention
In Pleasing Me.”
“That’s What His Visit Is For.”
The happiness in me was too good to be true, still yet a tomboy, lanky and no real curves until the middle of eighth grade. My secret crush for years had been my best friend’s uncle Raymond who was just four years older than us. He used to tease me and call me Blacky; it seemed fitting with my long dark hair and Blacky the horse I loved immensely and still do. I’d get offended and he enjoyed getting on my nerves. But then like a pink rose, I blossomed right before his very eyes. I started plucking and shaping my eyebrows. I was wearing mascara, lip gloss and eye shadow. My body started changing as well and Raymond noticed this. He was like the Fonzy on our block. He was always working on his two cars; a candy red Ford Fairlane and a Chevy Nova which he raced in Albuquerque.
Before we moved, I asked Nick and Janis if I could throw a going away party for myself. I had a lot friends and I was pretty popular. I don’t think I really understood how moving away would impact my life. I was on a complete high.
The party was on and it turned out to be quite a party. There must have been at least 50 teenagers, maybe more, and in the ugliest dirt poor rental home no less. I didn’t care I just wanted all my friends to come and they came. Music was blasting, balloons, dancing. Then Nick did something that blew everyone’s mind including mine. What was his rationale behind such an immature, impulsive act? He spiked the red fruity punch with rum. That was an extremely foolish act on his part not to mention the consequences for aiding and abetting numerous teenagers to get drunk and out of control. Janis had made tea sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, guacamole dip and a cake. So everyone started enjoying themselves more except for me. After dumping the first rum spiked punch bowl, Janis made more punch to put an end to that potentially explosive disaster. Then the local wino, who always leaned himself against our wall to drink, invited himself to the party. The next thing I knew, he had dumped a full plate of sandwiches into his brown bag, smiled and danced his way out.
Little fires started breaking out and I landed up being more of a chaperone than the guest of honor. Someone came and reported to me that there were a few who were smoking pot behind the big garage. I didn’t smoke pot and never cared to so I went straight to that group and asked them to put out their paper thin homemade joints. Before 10:30 pm, I stopped the party and told everyone to go home. It didn’t quite go as I planned. But it could have been a lot worse…now on my way…not knowing the next barrier and crux in my life….
“I just felt the wind of a new day, a new life, a new alchemy. Whisked away to a place of peace. Perhaps such happiness comes at a price.” ©Natalie Keshing
Continue the story with The Beating
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