500 words for A Time I was Hurt
These aren’t the 500 words I was originally going to give you. This story popped in my head and it felt easy to run from it because it isn’t something I try to relive often. Then I remembered Kirk’s words of wisdom: Write through the pain. Write through the self-doubt.
I spent most of my afternoon doing the mental tango of why I shouldn’t write these words. I will be exposed and raw afterwards. I may set off some triggers and vulnerability is not my friend. I remembered another person’s words that have continued to echo in me, like a damned relentless ghost. Brené Brown speaks so much to being vulnerable in her book Rising Strong.
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.
So be ye vulnerable Maddie!
We pulled up to our house, it was dark and we were getting back from a great weekend at my grandmother’s home in Ohio. It was always bittersweet leaving her behind, yet the welcomeness of home is hard to ignore. I didn’t know what would shatter my evening when I walked in the door.
I was in 7th grade that year. I will not candy coat Middle School for you. It was pure hell for me. Every day I would step off the bus and feel a deep desire to kiss the ground, I was home again. My nights were filled with tears and insomnia because I knew another day was waiting for me. I found some rest sleeping on the floor beside my Mum’s bed. I’m sure that year was no picnic for her either.
Now looking back I wonder, wasn’t that year enough? Wasn’t everything else going on sufficient for the demanding pound of flesh that was Middle School? Obviously not because I walked in the house that night, looked in the room where our answer machine sat, and ignored the more than two dozen blinking messages I saw there. No one ever had any reason to call me. I was a 7th grader and cellphones weren’t widely used by kids my age yet. It was my parents they were probably calling for.
Less than 10 minutes later my Da’s anger voice could be heard throughout the house as he called me into the room where the answering machine was waiting. I wish I could erase from my memory what comes next, but I can still hear it. What followed was message after message of two boys, and occasionally a girl, using my name amongst dirty, sexual, and sounds so many sounds of their lewd depravity. I wasn’t there, but I may as well have been. My skin suddenly felt suffocating and I wanted it off. I was cold. My Da demanded to know if I recognized the voices and soon realized his anger was not to be helped by directing at the innocent me.
The Sherriff was called, questions asked, and a report filed. I was allowed to go upstairs while the adults finished talking. My younger sister led me upstairs in a dazed state. I turned on every light. I was supposed to get a shower, but there were so many places in our large upstairs bathroom someone could hide. I started frantically checking to be sure I was alone, the lights on everywhere were not enough. I showered and somehow went to bed.
I was entreated to go to school as though nothing had happened. The hope was the boys would brag about it and be caught. I didn’t know their voices, names were not provided in the messages; I would have to wait for someone to fess up in the form prideful boasting. The school councilor pulled me out of 7th period history to assure me the school was behind me and would do what they could to help. I couldn’t tell friends. I didn’t want to.
I’ve come a long way from that girl. I still don’t like talking on the phone and I have had other run-ins with phone “bullies”. There were times when the phone would ring and I couldn’t pick it up. Another time when the answering machine picked it up and I swore the voice leaving a message (my sister’s friend) was the voice of my tormentor. I was so desperate for comeuppance my ears had a way of making things sound terrible.
I used to wish they would call back. I wanted them to hurt the way they hurt me, robbing me of innocence and security. I can’t even tell you what revenge or punishment would have looked like to my twelve year old self, but the freedom of safety would have gone a long way.