The Escape, Chinee and Me Chapter 1
The days passed quickly after the funeral and my emotions were still running close to the surface. Most of the out-of-town relatives and friends had left or were leaving our home to resume the lives they had put on hold for the past week. My two uncles and their families were among the last to leave. Also last to leave were my two eldest sisters who were being given a lift back to the City so as not to miss to their flight back to Los Angeles.
Even as the luggages were being placed into the cars, no one had yet spoken to me as to what was to become of me; I determined therefore, that I didn’t need any of them. I would simply remain in the family home with Papa and we would take care of each other. Quite an undertaking for a slight, 12 year old girl and an 85 year old, feeble gentleman, however, the overwhelming improbability of my idea, did not concern me, at least for the few brief moments in which I entertained the idea.
My Papa had lost his much adored only daughter, the warmth in his life and now he was being dealt even more heartbreaking news as my Uncle, standing his full height looking down at his father, told him that he would not be able to attend Mother’s funeral because of his frailty. An icy chill, which had nothing to do with the early Spring weather, enveloped the room. As I stood on the right side of Papa’s bed and my uncle’s great physical presence filled the space on the left, I took hold of Papa’s hand and watched his face cloud over first with angriness and defiance. Those same two characteristics which had prompted him to accept no slight or injury aimed at himself or anyone he loved, ever. The strength of his own self worth and the proud carriage which had propelled him, even in his declining years, informed anyone who encountered him, that he would brook no disrespect in any form. Papa’s unmovable stance in life and his distinctive personality was his unspoken sentence that his will would not be questioned, his ever present 12-gauge, double barreled shotgun, served as the exclamation point.
The anger and defiance which had flickered across Papa’s face slowly collapsed as he began to accept the inevitability of his son’s proclamation. Until this very point in his life, he had never allowed anyone to impose their will upon him, at least, not without a fight. Mother had always used gentle persuasion and allowed him an opportunity to express his desires, even though they both knew that he would eventually acquiesce to her suggestions. My heart crumbled as he accepted defeat; and those damnable tears began to slip from his eyes, something again, I had never witnessed and had difficulty knowing what to do with this new emotional pain layered upon all the other new pains. There was no way to know if Papa’s tears were shed because of the realization he no longer held the authoritarian position as the Head of his family or because he could not, rather would not be allowed to go before his daughter’s coffin and escort her to her final resting place, as was his right.
My tears had no choice other than to match Papa’s and there were not enough handkerchiefs to be found on the whole of our farm to dry our collective tears. Papa looked away from his son, covered my hand with his and gently pulled me down onto the bed with him as he had so many time throughout the years as nightmares had chased me from my bed to the safety of his and my grandmother’s. I put my head on his once proud but now bowed in defeat shoulders and there he offered comfort to me as he stroked my head and told me how I needed to begin to prepare to live life without him as well. I was further aggrieved as he told me things I was not ready to hear or accept. He told me of hurtful things he’d suffered at the hands of others early in his life. I knew, without asking, that some of what he’d share with me that day, had been never shared with anyone else and I have never repeated what he told me, but I’ve tried to honored it with every breath I’ve taken since. It’s impossible to know how long we’d laid there, exchanging no additional words, but commiserating with each other in despair; it could have been five minutes or 60, it didn’t matter because each tick of the small clock perched on the shelf above his bed, brought pain afresh with no promise of it easing with the passage of time.
Papa’s had reluctantly but completely surrendered hours later, when he’d made his mark upon papers turning over the care of the farm and of himself to his son. I don’t believe Papa had ever faced such profuse sadness, but there would soon be one more heartbreak he’d have to face but that heartbreak would give rise to him once again, though briefly, regaining his place as the decision maker and guardian of those he loved best. I’m proud to say, I was now first on his short list of those he loved best.
There was only one car left in the drive and there had still not been a single “Don’t worry, we’ve made sure that you’ll be ok”, given to me. Not one, “We’re going to take care of you”, nor was there a “We’ll call every now and again to see how you’re doing”. Perhaps they thought it was none of my concern. How could such a fractured soul ever become whole again after so many blatantly uncaring acts by adults to make sure that it didn’t?
Chinee had gone away again and I suspected that he was finding it more than a little difficult making his way without Mother. He was wandering here and there and sleeping wherever he happened to be when darkness fell. Further delaying his healing was the lingering and deep resentment he harbored toward one of Mother’s “supposed” friends, whom he thought had bullied her way into our home, not only making unreasonable demands but confiscating Mothers’ personal items and clothing, not only for herself but for certain of her grandchildren as well. She had shown no concern as to the desires or wishes of Mothers’ children, regarding her once treasured but now left behind belongings. One thing that angered Chinee specifically, was the taking of one of Mother’s treasured possessions; a beautiful, winter weigh, heavily lined, full length, white leather coat of which Chinee had worked several summers trimming overhanging trees for the Roads Department, in order to make it a gift to her. Mother had gone winter after winter without a proper outer garment to protect her from our frigid weather and Chinee had proudly handed her the money he’d earned and exacted a promise from her that she would spend it only on a warm coat. She did. Now, that too was gone.
So, for Chinee this began a pattern that was to remain the entire length of this life. Whenever something bothered or hurt him too deeply, he simply moved away for the source of his pain, far away. It was not in his nature to purposely cause pain, although his intimidating size often suggested otherwise. He would rather subject himself to pain than to hurt others.
(This was the reason he hadn’t flattened Mrs. Brown when he’d had the opportunity).
Chinee would have had to feel he’d been backed into a corner before he would even raise his voice in anger and if he did, people would scatter. Chinee’s control of his rage was so tightly managed that people often mistook his “walk away nature” as a weakness, little did they know.
And so now, there was just me and Papa and of course, Mother’s “friend”. I still couldn’t figure out why she was there, and more importantly how and when was she going to leave. She didn’t drive and consequently had no automobile. Everyone she could have possibly ridden home with had already left. Of all the people who could have been accidently left behind, why had this particular woman missed her ride? She was 5 feet nothing else and had to be weighed on a grain scale. She was a big lady with a temper which competed with her heft. I was trying to think of a tactful way in which to ask how she was going to get home, when my process was interrupted by her thunderous command, to go and bring her overnight bag in from the porch. I knew my feet didn’t move right away because I was not sure that I’d heard correctly. Did not “overnight” suggest that something or someone would remain where something or someone was until at least day break the following day? I wasn’t given an opportunity to ponder further because what seemed to be insolent behavior on my part, was met by a half close fist to my forehead. Stunned, both physically and emotionally, I stumble and fell hard against the kitchen table. That stumble had injured a rib; one which was never treated and took ages to heal. Even though her extraordinary size deceptively made one think she was slow moving, she had suddenly appeared as if she was everywhere at once. “If you don’t get your lazy, good for nothing ass out there and do what I tell you now, you’ll wish they buried you with your mama, now git gal!”
I’d half crouched and half ran the few remaining steps to the back porch and wonders upon wonders, there it was, a brown overnight case. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I struggled with the weight of the case because my head was still reeling and my painful rib limited my movement. I sat it down on the floor next to her and quickly stepped away from her immediate reach. I heard Papa calling to me and I hurried to his bedside, tears and snot mingling together. Papa had heard everything, worry and concern creased his face. Storm clouds brewed behind his still clear, greenish brown eyes. Although an invalid now, when healthy, Papa would have killed anyone who’d even entertained a thought of harming anyone he loved and there was not one person within a hundred mile radius who would have questioned the veracity of this statement. But, here all alone with a bewildered orphaned, he was only able to commiserate with me and the sadness of our poor lot.
It had been my uncles and sisters who had conspired to have this woman move in and care for Papa five days a week. She would return home and someone else would do weekend duty for Papa. It was not a mistake that I said she was to care for Papa. I was, in actuality, an unfortunate and as yet, uncompensated for inconvenience which had to be tolerated, at least that was what she told me fairly often, almost daily. “Since I have to cook for Daddy Bob, I guess I can leave enough scrapings in the pot to feed you.”
So began my life after the funeral. I was excitedly looking forward to the first weekend Papa and I would have alone or at least without her. Imagine my stunned surprise when that first happily, anticipated Friday evening arrived and she’d told me to get a paper bag and put a dress and two pair of underwear in it. “I’ll be damned if I’m leaving you up here in these woods to gap your legs open to any Tom’s Harry Dick! (Wasn’t that supposed to be Tom, Dick and Harry)? “Hell”, she said, “I’m already saddled with you, and I’ll be god-dammed if I take care of another snot-nose bastard!”
Dear Reader, Please believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t an inkling as to what she was alluding. Mother had only one opportunity to briefly and not completely explain to me a few of the facts of life, and that was a mere four months before she’d died, and only after my first uninvited but supposedly welcomed monthly visitor arrived. Even then, she’d only told me that I had “become a Missy” and would have to limit my tree climbing, my football playing, my wrestling and almost every other fun thing in life. I didn’t understand that “Missy” business at all, unless it meant “missing out”. She’d showed me the necessary techniques to protect my clothing, how to clean myself and how to clean my clothing if an accident happened. She said that we would talk more lately, we never did. Therefore, I was completely unaware of the woman’s implications.
I was to accompany this woman to her home each and every weekend! I’d felt trapped in ways that would be impossible to explain if these pages numbered in the thousands. No more lazy weekends running with my puppy, Henry. No more searching for hidden treasures in the woods surrounding the farm. No more lying on the ground and finding animals in the clouds, gone, all gone with Mother.
Since I was an undesired part of this woman’s life, she decided that I would at least earn my keep. So, I scrubbed, I ironed, and I fed chickens, (Those terrifying creatures whose only place in life should be in flour, hot oil and only afterwards, on the Sunday table); and I hung clothes and folded linen. I gathered wood and stacked it. I ran errands to nearby neighbors and collected needed items from, a somewhat nearby, grocer. I was so exhausted by the end of that first Saturday evening, I’d only had enough energy remaining to be grateful that I was allowed a bed on which to sleep. I couldn’t phantom why nothing I did ever suited this woman. Each and every job I accomplished fell short of her expectations and I was severely dealt with because of it. I was never made aware of the mistakes beforehand; they were only made apparent as I walked past her to do the next chore. She would grab me from behind and slap me with hands which were made more forceful by the sheer weight of them. She would beat me with extension cords, telephone receivers or a broom handle, if I happened to be beyond her natural reach. There was even a time when the only thing within her grasp was a Sunbeam iron. It took weeks before the ringing in my ear subsided, I’m truly grateful that it hadn’t been turned on and heated. Still, I never stopped trying to please her, if for no other reason than to limit the abuse.
I eventually came to understand this woman’s unwarranted, unnecessary and extremely crude explanation of why she wouldn’t leave me on the farm with Papa. However, she should have considered the supreme lack of wisdom she displayed in leaving me in her home, alone and unprotected with her 18 year old grandson.
Since the punishment she’d administered with the electric iron some weeks before, I stood ever ready and taut with anxiety when called upon to do her bidding. I was elated when I would accomplish two tasks in a row without some type of berating either physical or emotional. She had begun what had almost become a mantra by telling me daily that I was so damn ugly that if any man was ever so old, so blind or so desperate as to ask me to marry him, I should accept him because it would be my only opportunity to find a man willing to tie his lot to mine. Of course I believed her, why wouldn’t I, adults didn’t lie to children, did they? The woman, who by the end of July having been wholly successful in her campaign to instill unwavering fear in me, began to leave me at her house instead of dragging me along with her to the different Communities, summer events, called Homecomings.
Homecomings, as the name suggest, were and still are, annual celebrations held in conjunction with community Churches, whereby current and former members of said communities come together and celebrate, History, Heritage and Family. There where no restrictions placed upon who could or could not attend any particular Homecoming. In actuality, many of the same local people would attend the Homecomings in communities other than their own in anticipation of seeing and visiting with returning, former citizens. From its earliest inception and throughout the late 1960’s and 80’s these wonderful events encompassed a complete weekend. Friday nights were generally set aside for traveling, soul stirring gospel performing Trios and Quartets; Saturday evening celebrations concentrated upon the performances of local and visiting Church Choirs. The weekend would culminate with Fire and Fiery sermons and the all important, excitedly discussed, much ballyhooed, open air picnic where each family’s matriarch would put on display her best dishes. Although none of the women would ever admit to it, the competition was fierce and the hungry children were the winners of all the competition, because everyone was too willing to share the contents of their “Pans” with each passing child.
Readers, this next section is being written not to shock but again, for the truth of the matter. I could have elected to leave it out altogether and no one, other than me, would have been the wiser; however, this experience had every bit as much to do with shaping who I was to become, perhaps more, as any of the preceding life changing events I’ve chronicled here. I refuse to believe that what I reveal here only happened once and only to me. It could not have, because sick and abysmal behavior does not cease to exist just because we wish it nor does it stop if its presence is not brought to awareness and kept hidden away. With the writing of this chapter, I release any remaining shreds of guilt that I placed or more correctly, was placed upon me by the offender. The offender left this life before I’d found the opportunity to place the guilt directly back upon them, where it belonged, by making the offense known; therefore for years, I carried it alone! Perhaps the burning, white hot coals of contempt that was forced upon me is now being pressed upon them in the hell the Afterlife holds for them. Whereby, the base part of my being, would dearly love to take some measure of pleasure in that consideration, I admit that I do pray that perhaps at some point before this miserable excuse of humanity escaped life here, that they sought and found God’s forgiveness through His Mercy and Grace. I further pray, that if other victims of this tool of Satan somehow happen upon these pages, they too will find the strength to remove the horrendous twins of unwarranted guilt and shame from their shoulders and put it squarely on this offender where, even in death, it belongs.
It was during one of these Friday nights Homecoming events when the woman left me in the care of her grandson. He had not been in the house when she’d left and I’d lain across my bed, a little cot right off the enclosed front porch, and began one of my favorite pastimes, reading. I didn’t hear him enter the small room but some sense alerted me to another presence and I looked over my shoulder and saw him standing there. I relayed the message the woman instructed me to give him and went back to my book. I hadn’t hear him leave and thought perhaps he hadn’t heard what I’d said. I was about to repeat the message when I heard movement, glanced over my shoulder and saw him lunge towards the bed. Thanks to the recent lessons taught me by his grandmother, I instinctively shank from him and thereby prevented him and his, at a minimal, hundred and fifty pound weight advantage from pinning me directly beneath him. The situation confused me but had not yet frightened me because he had been a sympathetic, albeit silent, witness to the cruel treatment I was receiving. I sat fully up, my book momentarily forgotten. I was about to ask what he was doing when he grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back onto the mattress tearing a page of my book! Now, I was just angry! I told him to get his hands off me and to leave me alone. He didn’t and the look on his face said that he had no intentions of doing either. That’s when I became frightened. Although there was another house about 500 yards or so away, there were no lights on indicating there might be someone there to help if my screams were heard. He still had not spoken a word to me, just kept pushing me down and pulling at my clothes and I kept trying to squirm away, not understanding his intentions and not liking his actions. The ever hardening look on his face and the constant tugging on my clothes had now ignited a fight or flee urgency. Fleeing was not yet an option so I began kicking out at any part of his body I could reach. I must have hit a pocket of soft tissue some place because he grunted, grabbed himself and rolled away for about a 5 count! I looked for a quick escape from the little room which boasted two doors, one leading directly to the front porch and freedom and the other leading back through a connecting bedroom, then the sitting room and then onto the front porch. I needn’t have bothered looking for a exit because his hulk blocked both exits at once. I scooted as far back as I could into the corner of the bed and was ready to strike out again when he finally spoke and frightened me more than I had been since I was five!
As he spoke, I could feel my body shivering from panic! He smiled but there was no mirth or warmth it as he informed me that his grandmother, he used his familiar name for her, knew what he was doing and in fact, had given him permission! He went on to say that he could hardly wait until she returned home so that he could tell her of my misbehavior! There was nothing that he could have said or done that would have terrified me more. He knew his threats and measured words had found their intended mark when he saw the tears, those freaking, damnable betraying tears! He laughed aloud when I begged him to not tell his grandmother! My humiliation was complete and fear so overwhelmed me that I begged him to do whatever he wanted to do to me, only please, just don’t tell that I had fought him! I begged him to accept that I didn’t understand and that I wouldn’t fight him again, but he just backed out of the room laughing even louder and taunting me all the more.
I stayed huddled in that corner too afraid to move and too afraid to sleep. I wanted to go home but it was as dark as pitch outside and the farm was five miles away. My life was over I’d decided. She would certainly kill me tonight and have me buried somewhere on the property. I wanted so badly to be rescued from this hell, I wanted even more for him to come back and give me another chance to behave correctly, even though I didn’t know what that would entail. I pondered what was there was about me, that made me the brunt of so much maltreatment from so many adults, why God? I was still sitting in that corner rocking myself when the woman came home. I was still sitting there rocking when night gave way to day. I was beyond caring when she yelled to me to come and empty her chamber pot. I stumble through Saturday and Sunday, not eating, not drinking, only wanting her to begin the beating and get it over. Sometime late Sunday afternoon as we waited on the ride that would take us back to,the farm, she had finally noticed my lethargy and decided that I must be physically ill and forced me to swallow her cure-all, 2 tablespoons of Castor oil! Why God…Why?
It was months later when I realized that he had lied to me; the woman knew nothing of his attempts on my person. It was several years later when I’d finally had a name for what he had meant to do to me. When that realization came, I loathed him with a contempt reserved for only the vilest among us and it would not be contained easily. Something changed within my core at that moment of realization! Whatever mentality my DNA structure had demanded, had now, because of the evil machinations of evil personalities, AT THAT MOMENT, became inexorably altered.
Not only had he attempted to rape me, not only had he made sport of my debilitating fear of the woman, but he had laughed and sneered derisively at me when I unknowingly begged him, my intended rapist, to continue the act because my fear of being beaten, was to me I believed, worse than anything he could do. My hatred did not grow from the attempt, my hatred grew, and I still struggle to keep its incessant gnawing at bay, because he forced me to unknowingly beg him to rape me because of the fear his grandmother had beaten into me. He…goaded…me…into…begging…him…to…rape… me…and…then…laughed…at…my…renewed…pain… and…disappointment…when…he…didn’t!
Gratefully, I saw him no more that Summer. Someone said he had returned to live with his immediate family, However, I did have reason to occupy the same time and space with him eleven years later, when he no longer held any threat to my mind or body. I had purposely displaced several people as I wrangled a seat directly sat opposite of him whereby he had no choice other than to look into my staring, accusing eyes each time he looked up and each time he did, he would too quickly look away, betraying his guilt. Even as the time of that occurrence drew to a close, I hurried to be the first to exit the building. My intentions were to wait for him at the bottom of the steps as he exited and force a confrontation. He saw me too soon and cowardly took another route out of the building. It did not end there. At the next location, as he sat, I stood opposite of him, willing him to look up and across the six feet or so that separated us, six feet and a coffin. Because of his increased girth, his agility surprised me, as he again, at the conclusion, used the crowd to cover his swift exit. I wanted to humiliate him and it had not mattered to me that he was there to attend to the burial his father because I was there to attend to the burial of my Uncle, his father, his grandmother’s son-in-law.
For years, I indulged a sad preoccupation of rapist and their victims. Not a fascination entailing the disgusting acts they committed but of their ability to control their victims through fear, intimidation, shame and guilt, which admittedly is equally disgusting. Through my amateur research I discovered that back on that summer night, in that little bedroom directly off the woman’s front porch, as I had fought to defend myself, that the pitiful act of my pleading with him to complete the attack upon my person, is what saved me. I had given him power by means of my fear but my willingness to capitulate stripped him of whatever excitement he had gained by intimidation. Understanding my attacker’s mentality was the first step toward defeating him mentally. He remained until the day he died a miserable death, in a miserable manner, a miserable person. His immediate family desirous of it or not, has my sympathy. His other victims have my support.
Chapter 2 will follow next week.