Lesson Three

Fear Knows No Limit

Who knows when it started? I can't imagine a time without it. If the world were blacks and whites, could we imagine color? I'm certain I was always struck. If I wasn't used to it, or at least used to the routine of it since you never truly can 'get used to' the pain, there would be a prominent memory emblazoned in my brain of when it began. So it's pretty safe to say that, whenever it first occurred, being hit and in pain happened before any real significant conscious awareness took place.

Can I even delve back so deeply as to find any sort of starting point in my recollection of punishment? I'm going to go with 'no.' I don't know when the actual fear of him, my father and not the stranger, came to be. The farthest back I can tell, we were living now in Billerica. We had moved out of the Pepperlle home. I had a baby brother. My father didn't want me riding my bike except in front of the house or in the driveway, but my mother let me ride it to my friend's house, three houses down from mine. My mother could still see me as I walked up the steps to go watch Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake or Rose Petal or Lady Lovelylocks. I'm pretty sure he never found out, but there was a distinct fear in me that he would some day learn the truth of my misbehaving. Somewhere before then, I had been made quite aware of his wrath.

I was afraid for stupid reasons half the time, and not afraid the times I should have been. When my godmother had my ears pierced, he came into my room, asking why I was covering my ears. I was deathly afraid to show him, because I thought he might punish me. I thought getting ears pierced was a 'grown up' thing, and I was never going to be allowed such adult pleasures. He laughed, and so did my mother, over how I was reacting. He promised he wouldn't hurt me. There was an implied but unspoken "I wouldn't hurt you over something like that."

My father kept a strict regimen over what my brother and I were allowed to watch. Sesame Street and Sesame Street only. My mother told me later when I brought this up that she let us watch other things, but that's not the point. The point was that he said we could only watch a certain thing, and I went along with it, whether I watched only one show or not. What stuck in my mind was the way he tried to censor my life. Of course, I remember watching other shows- He Man, She Ra, Gummi Bears, Duck Tales, and the like. I remember watching Punky Brewster, and telling my father about an episode that creeped me out, in a good way. I guess I liked horror from the start. What my father translated it to was that the show was inappropriate for me, and I wasn't allowed to watch it anymore. He reinstated the Sesame Street only policy, though I'm sure my mother went against him. Regardless, he was back on the censorship prowl.

He was always overseeing my life. When we moved to Chelmsford, when I was going into third grade, he made a rule that I couldn't hang out with boys. This threw me off a lot, since in my old home I had only had one friend that was a girl and about five or six friends that were boys. I didn't understand why he would do this.

Later, he and my mother would tell me that I couldn't date until I was sixteen. I wasn't allowed to wear revealing attire; I could wear sweaters, turtlenecks, regular T-shirts. It was fine by me, the attire rule, since I wasn't anything to look at and had no interest in dating. I was petite. Skinny, not leggy, and I've always had a butt. It ran in the family, I was horrified to learn. I had long wavy brown hair that turned strawberry blonde in the summers. When it was hot out, the ends would bounce up into banana curls. I had freckles all over my face, and despite whatever amount of time I spent in the sun on my bike or in the pool or in the backyard playing with Danny, I was pale. Sometimes I was a crispy red, but never golden, tan, or anything darker than creamy white. I had large glasses, huge front teeth with a space between them. Long face, long nose, thin smile. I didn't even need a training bra until I was well into middle school, and I didn't get my period until my freshman year in high school. I felt awkward one time when I was upset over some boys teasing me in eighth grade. A girl told me to tell the gym teacher that I had had my period and that was why I was late. It felt like such a lie, probably because it was, but it felt strange. Did girls already have their periods, I wondered. Why didn't I?

Moving past all that.

I wore make-up one time. I'm not sure how old I was; old enough, I thought. After all, I had received the make-up as a Christmas gift. Gifts are meant to be used after all, are they not? My father freaked out on me and told me to take the make-up off. He made a big deal about me not being ready, when really he was the one not ready for me to grow up.

Somewhere, before learning and after instinct, there is awareness. Somewhere in the sands of time, my carefree innocence was mangled and replaced with the awareness that my father had a belt and a hand, and that both were sources of immense pain.

After a while, they wouldn't have to even warn me. The instinct was there. If I was out with friends and hadn't told my mother where we were going aside from over to their house, and we had ended up at the park, I'd be paranoid beyond control. I'd see her around every corner, waiting for me. She'd wait for me to drag me back home. To drag me to my room, until she "told my father" what I did.

This was all very well founded fears and paranoia. My mother had spies, I was certain of it. No matter where I was, she would be there, or one of her friends, or one of those friends' children. Somehow it would get back to her, and I'd be punished weeks after an event took place. I didn't do anything particularly wrong, was what drove me insane. Back in the previous scenario, where my friends and I end up at the park, if I hadn't told my mother after I got home that I had been to the park, and she found out, I could be certain that my backside would be stinging that night. I could be certain that the unending barrage of questions would assault my ears as surely as my father's brown belt would snap against my naked flesh.

"Where were you?"

At the park.


"You'd better tell me the truth this time. Where were you?"

We went to Stacey's house and then to the park. That's all!

Snap! (Just for good measure.)

"Who were you with besides Stacey?"



"Who else?"

We met Julie down there, but we didn't know she was there until we got there.

Snap! Snap!

"Mum says you were seen with someone else. Who was it?"

I try to think.

I think too long. Snap!

The tears took control of my eyes far before now, but the sobs kick in. Uncontrollable sobs.

"Stop crying." I can hear the sneer in his voice. "Who else was there?"

I still don't know what he's talking about.

The belt comes down again, harder. I can feel his hatred towards me coming through him, through the belt, and in through my skin.

More sobs. Less control.

"Was it a boy?"


"Don't you talk back to me!"

I wail out at the strike. God it hurts. I'd think 'like a motherfucker', but I don't know the term. I barely understand how heck and darn work.

"It was that boy from down the street, wasn't it?"

I don't know.

He lets the belt fly.

I told you I don't know!

Somewhere I can hear him telling me to shut up, and hold the bar at the end of their bed tighter. Not to move. I see my mother staring at me with a cold glare. Her eyes are red. What right has she to be crying? Does she enjoy this? Why doesn't she stop him?

She says something along the lines of do what my father told me, and not to look at her again. I broke their trust. She can't believe me, or anything I say. She doesn't trust me. She says I'm a sneaky little liar.

"Answer your mother."

Am I a liar? Yes, I say, I'm a liar.

"And the boy?"

I make up a name, of some kid at school who hates me and wouldn't be caught dead associating with me. With Amanda, Stacey, and Julie maybe, since they're beautiful and popular. I was half convinced they kept me around for the same reason people of average build keep fat people as friends; so they look better.

My father asks me something about the boy. Were we meeting his friends? No, of course not.

I know that whoever the boy is, he was probably just talking with one of the other girls for a short minute while one of my mother's spies caught a glimpse of me.

"Why did you do it?"

I don't know.

I don't know.

"What were you thinking?"

I don't know.

I don't know!

"You weren't thinking, were you?"

No. I wasn't thinking.

"Because you never think, do you?"

His words bite at me.

No. I'm stupid. I'm a liar. I've broken your trust.

Am I sorry? I say yes.

Go to my room… okay. Think about what I've done. Sure. You'll ask me in the morning my thoughts on what I did. Fine.

I curl up. I hug my Doggy, and begin to cry. I hear his voice down the hall.

"I don't want to hear you crying! Roll over onto your stomach!"

I do so, pushing my face into my pillow, and feeling my tears roll down my cheeks, soaking into the fabric.

How can they ever begin to understand how much I hate them…