So, I’m ready to start revisiting the idea of writing about my past. At first I thought I’d just continue where I left off the last time I tried to write about it, but I realized I still wasn’t really telling my story. I was throwing out general ideas and avoiding the details of my experiences, just as I always have. These experiences are hard to share, hard to write about, hard to relive as I look back on the memories. I didn’t know where to begin. It wasn’t possible to just start at the beginning. There’s too many gaps in my earliest memories, and the others come in a flood that is impossible to keep in chronological order. I’ve been reading my friend’s blog as she attempts something similar, and realized she began with a specific memory instead of trying to cover everything at once. That helped me get a better idea of how to approach it, yet where to begin. Then it struck me to reread things I wrote throughout my elementary, middle school, and high school years and to start to tell the stories behind some of these.
This will be a series of posts that I’ll try to do every so often and will be more focused on my family life, specifically my relationship with my mom, and have little to do with my trans story. Looking back, I realize now that my trans identity was always with me, but for so much of my life I pushed it back and buried it in order to focus on what was happening at home. Some that read my blog have read the poem this story is about before, others may simply know I feel very attached to the concept of dragons to the point of having a tattoo of one but don’t actually know why. So here’s how my poem, Imprisoned was born:
She had been drinking for some time now as we sat there watching TV. I don’t know why I kept doing this, I knew it always went the same, and yet I couldn’t leave her alone. If she was alone she’d get even worse and she’d come downstairs to us and then my two younger brothers would be involved. There was also a part of me that still wanted to think I could help, I could make things better, even though at that point I’d learned long ago you can’t help somebody that doesn’t want to be helped. So there I was, sitting on the dark green leather couch watching TV with her as she sat on the red brick fireplace hearth blowing the smoke from the clove cigarettes she was going through like candy into the fireplace hoping it’d go up the chimney. Next to her was a half-finished glass of sprite and cheap whiskey, probably her sixth one by this point, having gotten started early that evening.
Whenever we watched anything she’d always ask me questions as if I’d seen it before or had some insight that she didn’t have. Why are they doing that? What’s happening? Who is that person? It took a lot of effort to not let my frustration with the questions come through in my voice. I just wanted to watch it and all these questions that I couldn’t answer were distracting and making me miss things. If I were careless enough to let this annoyance come out, however, I’d quickly regret it, so I made sure to keep an even tone when I spoke. After all, annoying questions were better than most the things I dealt with, and if that was all I had to put up with in a night, it was a good night.
This many drinks in, however, she was no longer asking questions. Instead, she sat there swaying slightly with her eyes mostly closed, cigarette in her hand, mumbling. This was something that I always found disturbing. Everybody talks to themselves to a certain degree, weighing the pros and cons of a decision before them for example, but this… this was different. Whenever she did this, she wasn’t talking to herself, she was talking with herself. It was as if there were two or more people in there and she’d argue with the others. There had been times in our lives when my brothers and I had been downstairs in the finished basement that served as our rec room and we’d hear her shouting. At first we thought she was on the phone with somebody, perhaps our grandmother or one of our aunts, but when one of us would venture up to the kitchen with its clear view of the living room, we’d find that the phone was on the cradle and she was shouting at nothing, nobody was there but her. It always started with the mumbling, though, the whispered indecipherable arguments just barely audible through the noise of the TV. I tried to ignore it, after all sometimes it never went any further. While disturbing, mumbling is just mumbling.
She opened her hazel eyes and turned her foggy gaze towards me, “It’s all my fault.”
“What?” I felt every muscle in my body stiffen in anticipation of what was to come. I didn’t need to ask what, but every time it was so sudden. Sometimes it would happen when she had barely even started drinking, no mumbling preceding it, just sitting there having a conversation, feeling almost normal for once, fore I was old enough now to realize this wasn’t normal, this wasn’t what being home was like for other kids. I’d be almost happy almost relaxed, but then somewhere a switch would flip and this would come. Tonight the mumbling was first, though, and that usually meant it would be worse.
“Everything that happens is my fault, I’m a bad mother.”
“No, mom. You’re not a bad mother.” I think somehow, after all that had happened, I still believed that. It felt sincere as the words left my mouth.
“If I wasn’t a bad mother, you’d do your homework and the boys wouldn’t fight so much. Why won’t you do your homework?!”
A report card had arrived in the mail the month prior, proving that I hadn’t been doing my homework yet again, and she always had a way of holding anything I’d ever done over my head months, even years, later. I never failed a class, aced every test, and did great work on any assignments I had time to work on in the classroom, but doing any sort of school work from home was something that I had been struggling with since I was about 10 years old. I couldn’t deny what she was saying.
“I don’t know.” I knew she hated that answer to this frequently asked question, but I really didn’t know. I had no answer that she was going to approve of. I always had the best of intentions when it came to my school work. I wanted to do the homework, I didn’t want to give her a reason to yell at me, and I really did want to be the student I knew I was capable of being. When it came to actually doing it, though, I never seemed to quite get there. Any homework I did manage to finish and turn in was done at school, often within an hour of when it was due, and still would get perfect or near perfect scores on those.
I watched as her eyes began to bulge out and her face redden with the rage that was about to be unleashed. My breath was quick and shallow as the fight or flight instinct fought against me, but shouting back or leaving would only make things worse, I knew, so I sat there with the tears building in my eyes. I blinked them away, and told myself that I refused to cry.
“You are evil,” she shouted. “I hope you have a daughter that’s as terrible as you so you know how it feels! I don’t know what I ever did to deserve having you! I hate you!”
“I know,” I whispered, lowering my eyes because keeping eye contact was too much. A tear slid down my cheek, and I silently cursed at its betrayal.
“Are you crying? Don’t you cry!” She stood suddenly, swaying but still able to stay on her feet. She came toward me, her feet landing with a heavy thud with each step she took. “I’ll give you something to cry about!”
“No, please,” I heard myself begging, my voice cracked. I was beginning to lose this battle against the tears. I felt her hand grab at my wrist, gripping so tightly that there was no hope for escape. She pulled me to my feet so hard I almost fell forward, yet somehow in her drunken state she remained upright. Still holding my wrist with one hand, I saw her other raised high. I remember when I was younger I once had the nerve to try to tell her she couldn’t do this, it was abuse. It didn’t stop her, what I got for it was a few extra whacks and her explaining to me that it’s only abuse if it leaves a mark. Even at so young an age I was able to read the undertone of what she was saying, “Go ahead and try to tell somebody, there’s no evidence, they won’t believe you” and she knew exactly how to inflict maximum pain without ever leaving a single mark.
As her hand started to come down and she pulled on my wrist to turn my rear end towards her, I tried so hard not to flinch. If I could just take it, just hold it together, it’d be over with sooner and I would be sent away to my room to think about what I’d done. I knew it was better to just stand motionless, but the instinct to try to pull away took over at the last moment and I turned, her open palm only landing a glancing, yet still painful, blow to my hip.
Her eyes somehow widened and bulged out even further, and in the middle of the chaos and fear, I remember thinking for a fleeting moment that her eyes were going to pop out of her head. When I realized what I had done when I turned away from her strike, I could no longer hold back the sobs and began to cry full on.
“Don’t you pull away from me!”
Again her hand went up, again it came down, and again my body betrayed me as my free hand moved back in an attempt to block some portion of the spanking. Again her anger was fueled and again she yelled at me not to resist her. I closed my eyes, tears now streaming down my cheeks. The next blow hit home on the left side of my butt and I felt the sting of it through my jeans, radiating out through my hips and lower back. I felt three, four, I don’t know how many more strikes, each one hitting with enough force to make me stumble forward a step. She yelled a few more words about how bad of a daughter I was and asked me how I could do this to her. I managed to blubber out “I’m sorry” a couple times between the sobs as she ranted. Finally, with the last I’m sorry, she said “No you aren’t” with a look that told me she would make me sorry just as she had given me something to cry about, but sent me away.
I remember walking out of the room, cheeks moist from the tears, but the crying had stopped. As soon as I turned the corner and she could no longer see me, I flipped her off from behind the wall and let my anger wash over me as I climbed the stairs. I sat on my bed, my body still tense, needing to explode and I glared at my pillow a moment before punching it. Then I sat there for a minute still glaring at things in my room until my eyes fell on the sweatshirt I had left on the floor.
It was brown and in the center was a white dragon. I felt the words form in my head, bouncing around, looking for an exit, needing to break free. Going to my desk, I grabbed a notepad and pen and began writing. As each word flowed through my hand to the pen and eventually to the paper, the anger and tension within me melting away. By the time I finished, I felt completely at peace, as though nothing had even happened.
In a room without windows or doors
Where can I go?
What can I do?
And the pain floods over
Seeping into my body
With each breath I drown
Without the relief of death
No way out
Shrieks of the tortured fill the room
Echoing off the seamless walls
And the sweat and tears,
They drip and shatter upon the floor
Nowhere to run
In the darkness I,
I am the White Dragon
Rage pulsates through my veins
The sole light of this prison
Glowing with purpose
Angered by the impenetrable walls,
The walls built by one who feigned kindness
Who locked me away here when I was young
I trusted them
But the fool will learn
Because I, the White Dragon, shall grow
The wispy smoke flowing gently in my adolescence,
It will become a scorching inferno as I mature
In my glory they shall be taught
Nothing can hold the White Dragon
I will escape