My purpose for blogging is so that I can safely revisit my past, my childhood and all the experiences that helped make me who I am. I want to disentangle those things in my spirit that were hard to live through, those things that at times I refused to experience and escaped from in one way or another. I want to extricate them from my soul, pull them out kicking and screaming, and stand them before me. I want to investigate them, revisit these memories, see them with different eyes; with the physical and emotional maturity I am capable of today. I want to relive them, feel them and then decide- is there something there I want to keep or am I ready to let it go?
I hadn’t thought of O, E or my childhood in a long time and suddenly it seems I’m being bombarded by my past. Writing about it was a good way to alleviate the tension that particular time caused in me, tension I wasn’t aware I still carried. There are things there I still need to revisit, rehash, revise and relive but that’s for another day. Today I respond to my friend, Craig’s, curiosity while honoring my memories of O and E; of the pain they caused and the growth they unwittingly spurred.
Last time I saw them was roughly 15 years ago. I was about 22 years of age and aware enough to know I had an addictive personality. Trying to avoid negative consequences I channeled my obssession into physical fitness. While my friends were out drinking themselves stupid, having unconscious sex with strangers and spending the day in a drug induced daze, I had my stash of Jane Fonda video tapes and my sneakers. I walked or, more often, ran 3-5 miles daily. The distance varied depending on how I was feeling; the more turmoil, the more energy to burn. This was in addition to two full-time jobs and a voracious appetite for reading. I ran away from my thoughts by keeping busy. This was the frame of mind in which the following events ocurred.
It was summer and I was visiting my family in my home town of Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was a long vacation and I was having a blast hanging out with friends, going to the beach (The picture I am using as a header was taken at that time), going out to dance with my brother and making new friends. At no time did this woman or her son cross my mind, they just weren’t part of the picture. Even with them living a few blocks from my home, they just didn’t exist to me. One day, while I was taking in my afternoon run, I noticed a strange looking woman staring at me. Uncertain, but curious, I stared back. The woman then greeted me in a warm and friendly manner, as someone welcoming a long lost friend. I had no clue who she was so I proceeded cautiously, not wanting to offend what could possibly be a friend of the family, but not being too eager either. The woman was very thin, and haggard- as if she had lost a lot of weight in an unhealthy way. She had dark circles under her eyes which were sunken into her face and her brown skin was pale. For the life of me I couldn’t make out her features as someone close to my family. I had been in the US for 3 years by that time, and had forgotten much. However, the moment she smiled, recognition splashed over me like a bucket of cold water, washing away any amicable facade set up in my confusion. I took a defensive stance and slammed iron walls up around my emotions. She noticed this and her demeanor changed. She knew I had just recognized her and she knew running into her this way was not a pleasant surprise. She knew I remembered. Even in this tense situation, she tried chatting with me but I couldn’t put up the pretense. Having lived the experiences I did in her home, at her hands, in her care… mindless small talk was the last thing on my mind. Usually, I am the type of person who has a quick, smart-ass answer to everything but the unexpected meeting put me right back to the age of 8. She spoke of the weather and all I could hear was the thundering of her fists on my back. She spoke of her work, and I saw her chasing her son with a broom. She spoke of her life and I heard the piercing cries of my brother being “disciplined” behind a closed door. I found myself watching her mouth move and not hearing a word she said, only thinking that she couldn’t hurt me anymore. I feared her as a child but as an adult, I was repulsed by her presence. She seemed so small, so obeisant; seedy. Right now I can’t remember much more about that meeting other than what I have written so far. I don’t recall even saying goodbye when we parted; all I remember is my running; watching the asfalt flow beneath me and hearing the pat, pat, patting of my sneakers on the street.
A couple of weeks later, I ran into E. Him I had not trouble recognizing, he hadn’t changed much other than the fact that he looked old; not older, but old. We had been in the same grade, and as far as I knew, he hadn’t been left behind, so I suspect he was about my age. But with his pale, wrinkled skin and that haunted look suffering leaves in your eyes, he sure didn’t look it. Again, I had been jogging when this happened. He was walking along on the sidewalk when he called out my name and waved. Recognizing him right away, I didn’t even bother to stop. I waved back to him-an automatic response with no care or meaning that I could have kicked myself for. An unconscious response, yes, but an acknowledgement I would have preferred not to have offered. Looking back at that day, I recall how emaciated he looked how saddened; his physique was lanky, almost anorexic. I remember wondering if he had contracted HIV. It was the early 90’s, so this wasn’t unheard of. Running into him was anticlimactic, especially since I had already run into his monster, I mean, mother.
Mom did find out about O and the things that happened there, eventually. It was purely accidental, a social worker with a degree in psycology made a few observations she shared with Mom and this led her to question me. Mom was pretty scary when she was pissed and the more I said the angrier she became. She flew off the handle! I am not quite sure what happened, how she handled it or when- being a child at the time I wasn’t privy to these details and I am fuzzy on the ones I was allowed to know- but my brother and I went unsupervised after that.
I told Mom about these encounters that same summer and I learned that E had had a terrible car accident, much like my Mom’s, and had almost died. That he had spent the better part of the year in and out of hospitals and well over a year in a full body cast. That O’s weight loss was as sudden as it seemed, due to her suffering her son’s misfortune in her own skin. That she had come to my mother in tears, begging forgiveness for the things she had done, as if Mom had had some hand in the fate of her child. O thought she did, Mom hopes she did…
Me? I am just glad it’s over.