Como luceros fríos

Sobre el olivar hay un cielo hundido y una lluvia oscura de luceros fríos.

09 June, 2008

Summers and holidays were the worst. My mother would be at work during the day and, if I couldn't find a friend's house to stay at, I'd be with my father all day. There was a library. It was far, but still within walking distance. It was almost like school. But sometimes (often) I'd get grounded for looking at my mother wrong or something equally ridiculous and then I'd be stuck at home. With him.

I loved school so much. It was a refuge. It was the only one I had. They couldn't ground me from school.

He would follow me all over the house, from room to room, on some flimsy pretense. I had to keep moving. Pretend to be too absorbed in a tv show to see him. I could see what he was doing, but I could never acknowledge it. I couldn't really read while he was looming. I needed volume, noise. I'd pick up the phone and call a friend. But that was a risky one. Sometimes, after he'd gone too far even for my blurry boundaries, he'd think I was calling to tell on him. He'd start to get defensive. He always hated me being on the phone for any reason. You don't need to be calling anyone, he'd always say. Oh, yes, yes I did. I needed it. Because for those minutes while I was on the phone, he was too scared to do anything. But he'd order me off it quickly, tying up the phone lines all the time, he'd say. He refused to get call waiting.

So he'd follow me.

The bathroom door had a lock. It was a flimsy one. There was a metal key we kept in the hall cabinet. It wasn't a regular key. It was more like a tool to disengage the lock mechanism. You'd stick it in a slot on the doorknob and the lock would pop open. I learned very quickly to take the key with me into the bathroom. He'd yell at me. What if you fell in the shower? I couldn't get in to help you. If I fell in the shower, I'd be dead and not have to deal with your shit anymore, I wanted to say. But I never answered. I never acknowledged the question. Just like I never acknowledged what he was trying to do. Was doing. I never acknowledged that anything was going on at all. Well, almost never. I forgot the key once. Only once. He came in while I was in the shower. He said things that I won't repeat, but I remember every word of it. Get OUT, I told him, NO. Amazingly, he retreated. After I got out of the shower I retrieved the key from the cabinet, went to my room, and locked the door. And trembled.

I never had a moment's peace in that house.

When I first moved to the city where I live now, my ex-husband and I were staying with a couple I'd been romantically involved with, but no longer was. The man, T, would follow me from room to room, looming over me. He would walk into the bathroom when he knew I was showering. He invade my privacy and he would corner me and make comments about my body. Just like my father. I lived those few months in constant pain in my back, my shoulders, my neck, my jaw-- all from the tension of feeling like prey.

I'm in my 30s now and I'm painfully uneasy sitting with my back to a door. I can't stand to have anyone near the bathroom when I'm in it. I hate for people to surprise me, startle me, come up behind me, to watch me when I don't know they're watching, or to touch my back. He calls me up and he wants to talk to me. And there are so many things I can hear his voice saying. This is why nowhere is ever home for me. Nowhere is ever safe or restful. I'm never, ever quite at ease. This is why I overreact, why I forget things, lose things. Because, somewhere, sometime, someone will always be stalking me. He's old and sober and far, far away. But I've carried him here, with me.


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