What We Carry on Our Shoudlers

They say that when you go to prison, there’s something you carry in your shoulders, like a constant tension. You see it on the tattooed backs of soldiers, tense in their awareness. It’s a PTSD thing. It’s a traumatic experience that forever changed you and made you this ancy ball of pent up, nervous energy. It’s like the next sign of danger is around the corner and you have to be ready for it at all times. It doesn’t go away. Someone once told me that my brother looked like he had been to prison. He really asked me, “How much time has he done?” Our whole lives partner, our whole lives.

There’s no way to explain the heartbreak of loving a parent because you are a part of them and having them simply reject you, belittle you, imprison you, or abandon you. She kicked my brother out when he was a teen, just a kid. I had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and she woke up. She waited until I walked through the door and immediately slapped me. Screaming in my bewildered face something like, “I’m trying to fucking sleep!” How can I now? My brother couldn’t either. He came out with a fury inside of him for such an atrocity, for the sound of her open hand connecting my cheek was what jerked him from his slumber. Big brother defended me and basically told her that she was in the wrong. You should never want to experience the look on the face of a person who knows that they hold the fate of your life in their hands, at least, that’s how she saw and orchestrated things.

I went to a concert with our friend, really my brother’s best friend. I was allowed to go but not him; she had other plans for him. I did meth with my brother’s friend at the concert and thought Dave Mustaine meant me when he looked my direction, crouched slightly and squinted at the crown, then said, “Welcome to Lollapallooza, where you don’t know if it’s a dude, or a chick.” I had short, burgundy hair and was wearing Earth-toned clothing, and I absolutely did not have any tits. It very well could have been me he was talking about but perhaps it was merely the sun, lack of hydration, and the drugs. Either way, I fucking hated him after that concert. When I got home, my mother said my brother had run away. I’m sure there are a couple of other moms that took him in that would testify to the contrary. She abandoned a child that she bore and raised; what kind of monster does that?

She knew how close we were, and she knew that without him I had no one to defend me and no voice. I remember having to push her car with her fat ass over speed bumps in the morning before school, just so she could jump start the manual in second gear. Bullshit. Then we moved into a client’s house before I turned 15, where I was held captive without hardly any outside contact. I got to go for a walk twice a day, which was good for the dog, and I would immediately spark up a joint that I had rolled for such a lovely occasion. One time I went to the park and found some teenagers my age, so I though I’d let them partake. One girl in the group kept looking at her friends and nudging in my direction with her entire head while saying, “Dude” in an accusatory tone. I left immediately and frowned at the fact that I had been called “Sport” by my mother’s 72 year old client. It was why I wore makeup that day.

I wasn’t allowed to go to the school that was two blocks from the house. My mother told me that it was because they didn’t have enough proof that she lived in the residence. There is nothing that could have stopped a person like me from vehemently disputing the subject, were I placed in her position. Instead, I was placed in an advanced home school. I remember the entrance test only for one reason, it containted the personality test constructed by Jung and his wife. INFJ, the rarest personality type, making up less that one or two percent of the population, was the verdict. I was accepted in and excelled. During my Sophomore year, I was asked if I wanted to be valedictorian. I was so excited when I came home, I ran into the house and screamed, “Mom, they want me to be valedictorian!” “Why the fuck are you yelling, this is a senior’s home,” yelled my mother.

I wanted to go see my friends and tell them, and get hugs of pride. There was nothing like that from her; she just looked at me without moving her face or eyes and said, “So.” Each time she did stuff like that a little piece of me died inside, or so it felt. How could she not be proud of me? I was told that I couldn’t get a ride to go see my friends, but each time had only two hours in which I was allowed to be gone. I always tried to make her time limits. I was the only one who’d listen and abide by her ever-changing rules. It took 45 fucking minutes to ride my Coaster to the park where my friends kicked it. I’m sure I threw a fit, and I was fired from being my mother’s respite worker for the weekend. No more money for drugs!

That night my mother came to my door. I heard the turning of the knob and was knocked out of my sense of solitude after such an unfair moment. Had I only known how much more unfair it would become is what makes it so much more memorable. Slowly, the door eerily creaked open as she imposed her presence into my space, and met my eyes with a somber gaze. “I called the police. They told me that if you don’t turn yourself in to the mental hospital they’ll send an ambulance to come get you and forcibly remove you from my home.” Slack-jawed, I held my breath and her steely gaze, as I only interpreted those words as, “Checkmate.”

Apparently, some psychologists can’t read through facetiousness in the eyes of extreme irony. Here I was, about to graduate high school a year early as valedictorian, and my mother is making me go to a mental hospital on the accusation that I told her that I was going to commit suicide. Every stupid ass question that he asked me I met with extreme disgust, frustration, and natural, yet misplaced anger at the situation. He believed every word I said because I said it through gritting teeth and dared him to try to understand through seething, rage-filled eyes.

I was placed on a 72-hr watch, which is called 51/50, something my mother and I knew a lot about already. We had watched her place a previous husband into Mental Hospitals under a 72-hour watch, time and time again. As the door closed, separating me from my mother, also was the door closing to all the opportunities I could have had as a valedictorian. I growled in my Pantera voice as I watched the corner of her mouth slightly raise, her head shake from side to side in conquest, and her hand raise in a wave that came from just her fingers. I wrote a poem called “Wishes of Death” the next night inside the drawer of my dresser while high on acid. Turns out the orderlies didn’t do their jobs very well either and didn’t thoroughly examine the wallets of their patients back then.

Today, I celebrate my Independence in an entirely different way. I’m celebrating a different kind of freedom. Though both my brothers and I share the same gait, we also share the same sense of relief. We’ll all tell you that an old woman with frail actions and demeanor, donning short, curled and sprayed hair will raise the hairs on the back of our necks and cause us to gasp as we stand at alert. Loving our mother was like going to war, you can never come out the same person that you were before. I envy the people that have never met her. We fought for our independence and won. Like dragon slaying soldiers, we became our own Heroes, yet the shadow of that demon still haunts us.

Author: jessicaambateman

I am a survivor of childhood abuse on the verge of speaking out. I have waited my whole life to have the luxury of spilling my guts and blogging is going to become part of that journey.

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