Friday, October 10, 2003

Thank you, Jules

Read the 10-10-03 post and then come back.

You're back? Good writing, huh? (deep breath) Ok...

Somehow all these words are so familiar. So intimate. I can feel my body tense and my skin tingle with every word. But that story is not my own. Instead, my story is quite the opposite. I have lived a very charmed life and have always been treated very well. But I can remember once when I was small - I had to have been 3 or 4 years old - coming into a room where my parents were watching a movie. It was Excalibur, I believe. I walked into the room during a time when there was a rape scene in the movie. I stopped dead in my tracks, my legs unwilling to step forward. My stomach tied up in knots and the bottoms of my feet tingled. I ran back to my room and did my best to 'lose' myself in the game that I was playing... that part I can't remember, but I disctinctly remember that feeling in my stomach.

When I was in second grade, my family moved and I went to a new school. It only took a few days for me to strike up a friendship with a girl with long brown braids. She and I were instantly buddies and ate lunch together, played dodge ball, all the typical second grade stuff. Then one day after lunch she told me that she had a terrible secret that she had to tell me. She started crying and said that she had to say it before the pain made her heart explode. She told me how her daddy touched her. I was confused and scared, I didn't know what to do. I asked my mom for help, and she got the school counselors involved. My dear little friend was so scared that she asked for me to come to her counseling sessions with her, and I did. I held her tiny little hand, even after she used it the back of her little hand to wipe the tears and snot from her nose. She needed me to be strong enough to carry her through.

My friend was saved from a bad situation and was put into foster care. She was so excited about going home from school! This was the first time in her life that she was able to go home without hiding in a closet. She finally was able to sleep at night, although her dreams tormented her. She told me all about her room and how cozy it was. Her foster mother even let her put a lock inside her door that would make sure that no one - boogey men or drunken fathers - could come in. She was content.

After months of terrifying court appearances and custody tug of war, my friend moved in with her mother who had now left her father. Her mother was struggling to get by with two children on a single income and was forced to take a small one bedroom apartment. She let the two children share the bedroom and the mother slept in the living room. Safe and sound. Away from Daddy. My friend began to look ragged and worn again and one day tearily confessed that her older brother, only 13 years old himself, had begun right where daddy had left off and despite her best efforts, she could no longer protect herself from him. Her seven year old brain was wrought with worry and ten lifetimes worth of pain and misery.

Again, she was taken into foster care. Unfortunately, the new family was a group of between 5 and 8 kids that moved in and out of the foster care "system" and it was much like a boarding house. She was very unhappy. The last that I heard from my little friend was a hug full of sobs and tears that dampened the shoulders of my shirt. Her foster parents were under investigation by the police and so all of the children had to be transferred around... she would no longer be attending my school and she didn't know where she would be. She promised to call or write. I've never heard from her again.

She was my first friend that really needed me. She was the first of a long line of people that I have met over the years. People who have endured unfathomable pain. People who are braver than I could ever be. People who needed me more than I needed them. People with terrible secrets and forbidden pasts.

Over the years, I have met all of you. Your uncle touched you that one time. He patted your head and told you that you were a good girl and you didn't need to tell anyone what happened. Your father touched you every night. Your brother punched you, a little too hard and a little too often. Your mother pulled your hair and smacked your face. Your father yelled a lot. They used hangers to beat you. They used alcohol as fuel. They sold drugs from your playroom and let dangerous people in your private space. They made you believe that it was your fault. They ignored what the other was doing. They pushed you out of the house, they forced you onto the street. They gave you your first taste of cocaine, they beat out your last breath. You cry at night. You're silent. You're excitable. You cut yourself. I see your burn marks. I see the scars that don't show. I know each and every one of you. I know you too well. I know you when you walk by me. I know you when you sit next to me. I can see it in your pictures, I can feel it in the air. You've never said and a word, and yet I know it anyway. I see who you date, and I know your history. I can relate to every part of it, but somehow it isn't me. I can feel your pain in the pit of my stomach. My intestines cramp at the thought of your past. My feet tingle and want to run away and carry you someplace safe. And you don't even know I am there. You tell me about your weekend and the TV show you watched. You tell me who you voted for and what's on your grocery list. You say nothing but happy things and I know all of your scary thoughts.

I have met several people with "psychic" abilities and each one has told me the same thing : I have an ancient soul. My star signs make me a nurturer and an earth mother. Maybe it's something cosmic? Maybe it's a load of crap. Either way, I know you. You may not recognize me... I may not be what you expect... I may not be the kind of person that you would tell your secrets to... but I draw you to me. Like a moth to a flame. I offer a beacon of warmth and home. Something comforting that is supposed to be there. Something soft to touch, somewhere safe to be, even if only for a moment. I give you my smile when you pass. I touch your shoulder when you're next to me. I hold your hand, even when its awkward. I hold you close, if you let me. I look you straight in the eye, even when you shy away. I take you into my life as much as I can. Sometimes it's just a warm word or a kind thought. It may be $5 when you need it. I extend myself to you as much as you'll let me be close to you. And I know you're scared. You're afraid of them. You're afraid of what was there. What is in the dark. What is in the future and even more of what is in your past.

I know these things about you and I am not afraid. I'm here for you if you need me.

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