Today, I want to tell you all a story. A story about lies, bullying, drugs, and abuse. This story is about the time that I realized that I deserved better than the situations that I was put in. This story takes place back in the early 2000s, when I was roughly 11 years old, give or take.
I guess I’ll start from the beginning. Let me preface this by saying that I in NO way blame my mother for anything that transpired in this story. She was only trying to make things work with what we had, and the minute she was made aware, she removed me from the situation. I love my mom, and she has always loved me, and has always done right by me. This one is a long one, folks.
WARNING: Some people may find certain subject matter triggering.
Here we go…
Growing up, my mother could not afford a babysitter or daycare for me. When I was much younger, I would spend my afternoons at an afterschool program run by volunteers, playing basketball in the gymnasium, or doing arts and crafts. However, when I was 10/11 years old, and right on the cusp of finally being old enough (in her eyes) to stay home alone after school while she was at work, the program ended. Because of this, I bounced around between a few of her friends and family members after school, none of which really wanted anything to do with babysitting me. For a while, I would walk to my mom’s boyfriend’s mother’s house, who lived just a few blocks from the school, and she would watch me and her grandson together. Unfortunately, she didn’t really like me much, and said the two of us were too much for her, and I could not longer stay there.
The last “babysitter” that I ever had was one of my mother’s oldest friends. We’ll call her Carol*. Carol had a son my age, and we had grown up together. She lived near the school, and it seemed like a perfect fit. Her son and I would walk home together after school, then sit around and watch TV, or do our homework, until my mom came to get me. All the while being under the watchful eye of one of my mom’s closest friends, for a fraction of the cost that a center or actual babysitter/nanny cost.
Only, that’s not how it happened. Unbeknownst to me (or my mother at the time), Carol had no intention of watching me, or her son. She had other things going on in her life that were more important to her than us. At first, it was fun, because I was too young to know better. We would get to Carol’s, and she would stick around just long enough to let us into the apartment and make small talk about our day at school, and then she would either leave the apartment for several hours, or lock herself in her room for several hours. Doing what, I had no idea at the time. Most days, her son and I would entertain ourselves by watching TV. We were big fans of WWE wrestling, and spent hours cheering and jeering at the TV. Other days, we did silly things, like use Carol’s old camcorder to record fake news shows, or music videos.
One day, Carol came home earlier than usual, and found her son and I making a stupid music video in the living room. We had switched clothes (not in the same room), and were lip syncing to songs performed by the opposite sex. Her son had even stuffed two baseballs into the bra he was wearing. We were 11. We were just having fun. She disagreed. I was in the middle of my Backstreet Boys performance, when I looked up to see her standing in the doorway, furious. She started screaming, and slapping her son repeatedly, calling him a pervert, a faggot, etc. I stood there, horrified, as she threw him into his room, slammed the door, and then shut herself in her own room. I sat on the couch, alone, for the remainder of my time there. When my mom came to get me, I ran outside, afraid that Carol would get me in trouble if she came in to get me. I didn’t tell her anything.
Things seemed to go back to normal after that, and we never talked about what happened. We also never swapped clothes, or made music videos, again. One day, Carol told us that she had a doctor’s appointment, and asked her son to pee in a cup for her. He argued with her, saying he didn’t have to go, and he didn’t want to do it for her again, so she made me do it. Being only 11 years old, and pretty naive, I thought nothing of it, though I was confused as to why I needed to pee in a cup for HER, when she was the one going to the doctor. But, I did it. And in the coming months, I did it again and again. I didn’t tell my mom that either.
One day, I learned that Carol had gotten a boyfriend. He would come over sometimes, or they would leave together, and Carol would give her son a list of chores to do, because she had apparently started caring about the condition of her apartment. As soon as they would leave, however, his list would become mine. You see, the boy I had once called my friend had changed. He never wanted to play or do silly things with me. He didn’t want to talk to me while watching TV, or play with his WWE action figures with me, or even go outside. When he wasn’t ignoring me, he was being mean. Sometimes, out of nowhere, he would call me a mean name, or tell me I was ugly or fat, or wish that I didn’t have to be there. I didn’t understand it, and it sucked.
Carol had asked her son to do the dishes one day as she was leaving the apartment. The sink was overflowing with dishes, and he decided that he didn’t want to do them. No sooner had the door closed behind her, he grabbed me by the arm, and told me that I had to do them, or he was going to tell on me. I didn’t know what he was going to tell on me for, but I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I started doing them. Only, I had never done the dishes before. This, mixed with me having a bad attitude over him bossing me around, caused me to unscrew the top of the dish soap, and empty the contents completely into the sink. I then filled one side of the sink with bubbles. I made a huge mess, and never actually did the dishes.
When Carol came home and saw the mess, she took it out on him. I won’t go into details, but it was bad. And I saw it all. He tried to tell her that it was my fault, but she didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t want to get in trouble, and honestly, part of me blamed him at the time. If he hadn’t made me do it, and hadn’t been so mean to me, he wouldn’t be getting in trouble, right?
The guilt still sometimes gets to me.
And it only got worse. After several months of staying with Carol after school, I had wised up enough to realize that she wasn’t having me pee in these cups for normal doctor’s appointments. More than once, I had overheard, or seen, something that made it perfectly clear what was actually going on. The people coming and going, her disappearing out of the apartment for hours, or locking herself in her room all night. She did drugs. I later found out that she actually did a lot of them. Her boyfriend had moved in, and was usually stoned, or drunk, or both. He wasn’t a good guy. To any of us. But Carol would put on a smile and sing nothing but praise whenever my mom voiced her concerns.
One night, my mom and I were staying over later than usual. It was dark out, and we had all eaten dinner together. I was sitting on the computer in the living room with Carol’s son, playing Sim Coaster, when I saw Carol’s boyfriend out of the corner of my eye. He was coming out of the bedroom, and he was completely naked. My heart raced, and I kept my eyes on the monitor. From behind me, I heard the sound of what was later revealed to be him peeing on the couch, followed by Carol screaming at him at the top of her lungs. She started shoving and hitting him, still screaming. It all happened so fast, and my mom pulled me out of the apartment before the cops showed up.
That night, she asked me some questions. Questions about Carol’s boyfriend, and about drugs, etc. She asked me if there was anything I wanted to tell her. She told me that she still could not afford to have anyone else watch me, but that she would take time off work, or change her hours, or take out a loan, until we could figure out somewhere else for me to go. I just smiled and told her everything was fine.
But it wasn’t.
Carol and her boyfriend broke up. I kept going back to Carol’s, but the hostility and abuse seemed to increase weekly. Carol only laid her hands on me a few times, never doing enough to leave marks, but the emotional and verbal abuse that both myself and her son faced from her was terrifying. And confusing. I later learned that, because she was always high, Carol’s mind saw and processed things differently. Every situation, every little argument, she would blow up into pure insanity. I still don’t understand it to this day.
However, while she didn’t often put her hands on me, her son did. I’m old enough now to know that, while it was wrong for him to hurt me the ways that he did, he was hurting, too. He was hurting more than me. To escape everything, I would retreat into a book, or go for a walk, anything to get away from the situation. Sometimes, it helped. I even befriended this weird guy who lived on the top floor of her building. He was in his late teens, maybe early twenties, and sometimes would let me come in and watch TV with him. Yeah, no red flags went off at the time, and maybe it was innocent, but thinking back on it now, it was… odd.
But I kept quiet the whole time. I kept quiet for over a year. I dealt with the bullying, the name-calling, the hitting, shoving, scratching, blaming, lying. I put up with it all. Because I didn’t want to get in trouble, and I didn’t want to make things harder for my mom. I let her think that my slipping grades, my weight loss, and sudden disinterest in everything were caused by just about anything else.
But, one night, she found one of my razor blades on the bathroom counter. And I couldn’t keep it quiet anymore.
The day had started out normal, as far as normal went in my world. I was sitting on the couch, reading a book, when Carol’s son came into the room, and told me that his mom called, and wanted us to pick up the laundry in the apartment, and bring it down to the laundry room. I don’t know why, but I ignored him. He walked toward me, repeating himself, and I continued to ignore him. He took the book from my hands and tossed it across the room. I stood up to leave, and he shoved me back onto the couch. There was a small, American flag on the coffee table, left over from a parade we had all recently gone to, and he started to hit me with it. The end was pointed, and he jabbed me in the stomach and thigh several times, while I tried to shove him off me. I was taller, but he outweighed me, and I couldn’t get him to budge.
Overcome with fear and anger, I reached for his face, and scratched him. Over and over. I grabbed and tore at the skin on his face until he screamed and got off of me. He went to his room and called his mom, shouting into the phone that I had hurt him. I couldn’t move. My heart felt like it was going to burst from my chest. He shut himself in his room until his mom got home, minutes later. She immediately tore into me, telling me she was going to kick my ass, and that I could have scratched his eyes out. Luckily, she didn’t touch me, and my mom came to get me shortly after. I guess she had called her.
She screamed at my mom, and threatened to call the police, all while my mom stared at me, sobbing on the couch. She didn’t look angry though. She looked sad.
We left, and we never went back.
In the car, she tried to ask me questions, but I couldn’t answer her. I was shaking and crying, and everything seemed to be hitting me all at once. So we went home.
That night, I cut myself. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last time. But it was the first time I was caught.
After my mom confronted me, I told her everything. Every. Single. Thing. I told her about how Carol would hit her son, and make us take her drug tests for her, since she was getting high every moment of every day. I told her that Carol was never really there, even on the days when she was there. I told her about all the horrible things her son put me through. I told her that he hit me, and that she did, too. I spilled the truth until I couldn’t force my voice out anymore. She cried with me, and apologized for ever making me go there.
To this day, I still think she had no reason to apologize.
Shortly after, my mom got me a counselor, who helped me overcome the eating disorder I had developed, and helped me gain control over who I was, and who I wanted to be. And things got better. I never went back to Carol’s, and I never saw her again. Neither did my mom. I don’t know what happened to them, but her son didn’t go to my school anymore after that year. I took the bus home after school, and was finally allowed to stay home by myself. Things worked out.
When I was 14, Carol and her son reared their ugly heads once more in my life, when they confronted my step father while he was out shopping. Carol told him matter-of-factly that her son had heard a rumor in his school that I was a whore. That I was giving blowjobs to random guys, and sleeping around. Neither of which was true. I was still a virgin, and had only recently gotten my first serious boyfriend. My step father knew better than to listen to anything they said, and told them off. However, he was still angry. He and I had never seen eye-to-eye, and he confronted me about it in the most awkward, awful way possible later that night. I denied their claims, but he still felt the need to go to my mom about it. Luckily, she knew me well enough to blow it off.
Years later, and these horrible people were still trying to ruin me, but I wouldn’t let them. I felt sorry for them. What a sad way to live.
I never heard from them again after that, and I never took shit from anyone after that. Dealing with those people helped me develop a thick skin, and helped me gain more confidence and control over my life, and what happens to me. In a way, I guess I can thank them for showing me the kind of person that I never want to become.
16 years later, and I am still staying true to that.
I guess the moral of the story is that you are able to take back control of your life. Don’t stay stuck in a bad situation, and don’t let those bad situations define who you are. Whether you think you are too young, or too weak, or too alone to do something. You’re not.
You deserve better.
Thanks for reading, friends. Sorry about the length!
In response to The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Control.
*Names have been changed.