This is the continuation of my Pity Party I threw and now it’s turned into a rager of remorse and regret. There’s a lot more tricky trauma here so trigger warning for sexual abuse of a minor, drug abuse, domestic violence and natural disasters.
The Gravity Well
I’ve often said that Oklahoma is like a Black Hole, one of those places in the world that has an inescapable pull but will crush you under its weight. Returning to my father and stepmother was when this theory began to percolate in my mind.
I’m not entirely sure what had changed between them, but they didn’t really fight anymore. Perhaps there was some court mandated anger management and couples counselling. I wasn’t harassed by my stepmother and my father seemed genuinely happy that I decided to come back. But then I realized it was because they needed a babysitter. Perhaps childcare was too expensive.
It wasn’t very long before they divorced and it was just me and my Dad, a lost man with a 12 year old daughter. He began working more and more, probably to be able to afford child support and alimony. Many days I came home to an empty apartment.
I began making friends with other kids in the apartment complex. I was getting attention from some older boys and went to a party one night. I was cornered in a bathroom by the host, a 16 year old who had been flirting with me at the pool. He began kissing me and put his hand down my pants. As he put his finger inside me, I started to panic, so he told me I should just go home.
The friends I made quickly turned on me because this boy was the crush of one of the older girls I hung out with. The next night they came to my apartment and confronted me about it, and 3 girls a few years older than me proceeded to beat me up. I stopped coming out of the apartment except for school and I avoided everyone. It wasn’t long after that my Dad took a job in another town.
When we arrived in our new town, the house we rented was in horrible disrepair. There was a hole in the wall big enough for animals to get through and there was only one wall heater in the living room. I remember trying to sleep in my bedroom but it was always too cold. The house was eventually condemned and we moved to a slightly nicer house across the street.
I was made fun of at school for my choice in attire. My dad was doing better at making sure I was properly clothed but I had no sense of style. It was just another thing that made me not fit in. Somehow, I still managed to make some friends in my new town and boys continued to pursue me.
During this time my father became fanatical about religion. We started going to church a lot more and eventually he was asked not to return to a few churches, as his way of praying was disruptive to the services. He would yell and scream and speak in tongues. I told him I didn’t feel close to God in a church and I didn’t want to go anymore. He didn’t make me go to church, but he still required I pray with him.
He managed to find other congregates who thought he must be some sort of prophet, and he would bless people’s homes and lead prayer circles. We would go out in the middle of nowhere and climb mountains so he could be closer to God, in hopes that his prayers may get answered first. One time we drove far out of town and shot a rifle into the air while praying for God to smite the non-believers.
Paint the Town Red
We lived in Altus, a very small town in a remote area of Oklahoma. One of my friends had an older brother and it was common for his friends to hang out at their house while we younger girls were there too. I liked one of the older boys and we started dating. I lost my virginity at this house at age 13, and it was interrupted by his friends coming into the room, looking for a CD. Most of them saw what was happening and just turned around and left, but one kept leering from the door. My boyfriend yelled at him to get lost, but at this point I was spooked and didn’t want to keep going.
I remember my friend’s older brother telling me after that he would never be able to look at me the same way again. I felt ashamed and dirty, like I had done something wrong. But I learned that what he meant was he was now attracted to me, no longer seeing me as a child. When my boyfriend moved away, he consoled me and admitted he liked me. One night when I was sleeping over at my friend’s house, I snuck into his bedroom to be with him. This was the first time a guy ever told me about blue balls. This made me feel very bad, like I had made him endure physical pain because he was so aroused. We would have gone further out of my guilt, but his mom wondered what all the noise was in his bedroom. I wasn’t allowed over to their house anymore after this.
Another guy in this group of friends swooped in after this and made advances toward me and we began fucking pretty regularly. This angered some of my girlfriends, and out of their jealousy they began to label me as the town whore. After this, girls stopped talking to me at all for fear I would steal their boyfriend and boys would come sniffing around everywhere I went.
I started staying home, feeling depressed and generally ill all the time. Around this time, my Dad landed a job back in Oklahoma City so we moved back. While we were moving our things into the new place, I suddenly felt queasy and threw up. That night while I was unpacking my things, I realized I hadn’t gotten my period in about 2 months. I was most likely pregnant at age 13. I was scared and didn’t know how to bring it up to my Dad, didn’t know what I should do, so I just kept it to myself. A couple weeks later, I believe I miscarried. I had cramps that were severe and my flow was much heavier and this period lasted a lot longer. And still I said nothing.
It was during this time, I isolated myself from everyone and began feeling immense guilt about my supposed miscarriage. I felt so alone in my pain, and I was actually left alone much of the time. My dad would work swing shifts and take as many extra shifts as he could, and he had met a women in our apartment complex and started dating again. My Uncle began coming over and checking on me, keeping me company and helping me with chores.
Misfortune Favors the Bold
I began spending a lot of time with my Uncle. I had often stayed in his home and had spent nearly every holiday with his family over almost a decade. The more he got to know me, he found himself impressed with my intellect and began to show me how to navigate the internet, how to repair computers, how to do an oil change, and would take me out to eat and we’d do fun things together. When I was home alone and he couldn’t come over, we would chat online about my day, my thoughts and feelings, and he’d talk me through nights of turmoil.
These conversations began to take sexual turns, asking me specifics about my experiences and showing surprise that I had been so curious already. As with my friend’s brother, this utterly changed his perception of me, and I enjoyed the attention. I realized there was a lot of power in sex, especially when it came to men. I was good at flirting and I grew enough to look older than I was. I remember visiting acquaintances of my Uncle and they would offer me a beer, thinking I was much older. Watching their faces change when they realized my true age showed their disbelief or suspicion.
My Dad and Uncle had become “biker buddies”. My Uncle had been a part of a motorcycle club for most of his adult life and my Dad was interested in riding. There were rallies that we would go to all over the state, events with bikers from everywhere with bands and vendors and general drunkenness.
One night, after my Dad had passed out early, my Uncle and I went for a walk around the campground. In a secluded area, he kissed me. It was hot and heavy and I knew he wanted me. But he was content with just that kiss, for a time. It happened in stages, our escalating contact. He often spoke about how others wouldn’t understand, I wasn’t to tell anyone, he could get into a lot of trouble and he had a family who would have been hurt to know he was doing these things with me. He’d even say that he wouldn’t do anything else with me unless I wanted it, and he’d ask if I might one day change my mind about it and tell someone. (That eventually happened after therapy, but that was well into my 20s and caused more strife than any resolution.)
We had plenty of cover stories for our indiscretions. He would teach me how to drive on our trips to visit his father in a nursing home out of town. I became his chauffeur and knew how to drive well before I was allowed to get a permit. I even drove the chase truck alone at 15 behind my Dad and Uncle when we went up to Sturgis.
I kept our secret because I didn’t want to lose any time with him and I would also be painted the villain again, just a dirty slut who couldn’t help herself. I wanted more, so I became more bold and eventually we were doing everything but actually fucking, a line he said he would not cross with me. He was the first man I ever performed fellatio on, and he was the first to ever perform cunnilingus on me, and there were countless nights of cuddling and pillow talk, holding me until I fell asleep, but always gone by 2 am.
I really started to feel a sense of pride in myself because of all this. I was getting attention and care, I was important to him, and he was important to me. I garnered a lot of wisdom from him and started to feel like I was someone special. I made friends and dated a few guys my age, but it was as if I was living two lives. My child self was doing the things that children do, finding fun and community, making new friends and getting into mischief together. But there was my adult self, the version of me that was mature and sexy, who knew how to make men look at me, make men want me.
It wasn’t until his daughter, who I had been close with as well, started asking why we spent so much time together that I decided it needed to end. It would hurt her a lot to know her Dad was cheating on her Mom, especially with me. And she was already starting to think he didn’t love her at all, due to his preoccupation. My Dad’s girlfriend had her suspicions as well and the pressure was beginning to build. It ended and life went on.
Twisters and Trauma and Transfers, Oh My!
If you aren’t familiar with the weather in Oklahoma, you have not been paying attention. I was in 9th grade when I survived the May 3rd Tornado. It was so large, they considered changing the categories that measure how devastating a tornado ends up being. Our neighborhood was hit and I remember digging through debris to help people out of their shelters, holding a dog for a neighbor while he searched for his wife, running down streets that seemed foreign without the landmarks of houses and landscaping. I remember seeing the faces of my friends and their parents as they realized that everything they had in the world was gone, torn to shreds into the wind, the walls of their home crumbling.
That night, I slept on the floor of a church, one of the largest in the state that housed the affected. The National Guard wouldn’t let anyone back into the neighborhood to deter looting unless they had proof they lived there. We stayed with Uncle and Emo during this time and when we were eventually let back into our home, the apartment reeked of spoiled food, as the power had been out so long our refrigerator became a gigantic petri dish.
In my sophomore year, I began getting migraines. I was driven to do well and anything less than a B was a punishable offense, but the stress of high school or just the hormonal changes of being a teenager triggered a migraine event that scared my friends. I went to the office and called my dad but there was no answer. I went to lunch and laid my head on the table and I began to start crying, and it wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t get it together and the lights were too bright and the noise was too much. Someone got in touch with Emo and she came to pick me up and take me home.
After the tornado, my Dad decided he didn’t want to waste anymore time and proposed to his girlfriend. They married and he bought a house just around the corner from Uncle and Emo’s house. The new house was in a different school district, one that my father was adamant would be better for my academic career as they offered more scholarships. I protested, I had already planned out my coursework to get me ahead of the game going into college, intending to complete several advanced placement courses. My Dad refused to let me stay at my old school, and when I went to enroll at the new one, I was set back due to conflicting curriculum. I had to repeat several courses and wouldn’t get nearly as many classes in during my remaining time as their scheduling was traditional, 7 classes all year long, instead of block scheduling, which is more akin to college courses where you can take one class in the Fall and its subsequent course in the Spring.
My junior year of high school, I basically stopped caring about how well I did. I wasn’t in control of my life. My dreams to be the best and brightest, to advance and excel, and my desire to go to college were all quashed by the best intentions of a man who refused to listen to me. I had no autonomy, I was beholden to his authority while I lived under his roof. I began to skip classes often, sometimes due to migraines that would imprison me to a bed in a dark room for days or because I didn’t want to waste my time in school with people I didn’t know, taking classes that I’d already passed before. My senior year I enrolled in redundant courses and electives only.
We Don’t Choose Our Families
On top of all this, my Dad and his new wife were expecting a baby. Whether the pregnancy hormones were taking their toll or because she was legitimately troubled, she fought more often and more violently with my father. She often pulled knives on him, had tried running him over with her car, and I recall her bashing her own head through the wall of our new house, sending her to the crisis center for observation. At 7 months pregnant, she would do things that would endanger not only her own health but the health of the baby. She admitted she didn’t want it but was too far along, she was stuck.
When my youngest sister, Booger, was born, her mother stayed with her for 3 days while she recovered in the hospital. On the 4th day, she left, leaving my sister for my father to claim. The summer before my senior year, I became the primary caregiver to Booger. We had help, Emo and her eldest daughter would take care of her when I had to work my shifts. My Dad was now divorced again and only had his single income to take care of us. He went back to working swing shifts and overnights. My entire life had derailed with nothing for me to do but continue to drift along, doing what needed to be done for the wellness of others, especially this sweet baby who didn’t deserve the crappy life she was brought into.
It was during this phase of my life I had my first nervous breakdown. One night I was especially irritable and frustrated, on the verge of losing control and worried I might hurt Booger. I called my Dad to come home, when he arrived he was upset that I wasn’t ill, it was just a bad mood. I screamed at him, I don’t even know what I said. I started crying, and it was ugly, uncontrollable, anguish-coursing-through-every-muscle sort of crying. I crumpled to the floor of my bedroom and I lost time. I came to the next morning, still on the floor in the same place I had collapsed the night before. Thinking about it now, I’m baffled how my father didn’t realize the damage he was doing by choosing my life for me.
During my senior year, my older brother came back to Oklahoma after some troubles of his own. With him back in the house, I had more help with Booger and we spent time watching shows and playing games together. But I could tell he was miserable, whether it was due to shame for having to rely on my father again after failing to live on his own in Utah or because he left his life behind because he knew he was going down the wrong path I’m not certain. He made a plan to get back on his feet and I admired his resolve, because after a year of working a dead end job and repairing the damage he’d done, he was able to go back.
Booger was a jovial baby and it was her joy that often renewed my faith in living a happy life. This tiny human loved me so much, and her smile melted my heart. When she cried, she was soothed when I would comfort her and I could always get her smiling again. I would swell with pride when she learned something new, every day seemed like a new adventure. But I still lamented my lack of freedom. I desperately wanted to live my life my own way, to begin being myself.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my life lessons: Headed to the After Party, Where Yat?