Ever wonder how your own brain works? Like, why is it during Jeopardy, when they put up the "answer" "Italians once believed the bite of this spider would cause people to dance", I realized the question was "what is a tarantula", because of a liner note from a piano tutorial that described a piece of exercise music called a "Tarantella", which was based on the dance caused by the bite of... you got it... a tarantula.
I saw that note when I was 8.
Where do you think it came from? A bizarre tidbit buried deep in the meat circuitry.
Obviously, this isn't just about having all the answers for a game show. Somehow, as I was waking up this morning, I made a key connection, two events that I've always been aware of, perhaps even wrote about here... but never put together.
About 14 years ago I was living in Foster City, when I had an actual case of the Night Terrors. Not a nightmare... if you've never heard of them, the NT's are something that can manifest physically. They've actually been cited as the reason people, with no apparent motive or reason, injure or even kill someone sharing their bed. The sufferer never wakes up, but is in such a panic that they thrash out, run (sometimes into the street), even trash an entire room.
In my case, according to my ex-girlfriend of the time, I apparently jumped out of bed and tried to jump through a closed window, screaming. Until today I would have told you it was probably a nightmare gone horribly wrong due to reading Varley's "Blue Champaign" just before bed time, which is actually part truth. Only part.
This morning, I suddenly knew where that fear was coming from. Like all intense realizations, it came on gradually, and I fought it.
Roni had conked out really early last night, which isn't uncommon... the poor thing works too hard, and I never could bring myself to wake her up after she falls asleep. She woke up this morning, and I remember making a "cute sleepy girl comment": She got up to take care of her morning routine (read: relieve her bladder) when I remembered that night terror. That raw fear. And the one time I've ever been that scared that I would leap through a window, open or not, not caring if I was twenty floors up... hell, simply not knowing because something scared me witless.
The first way I could articulate it, even only to myself was (and here you can insert a long pause as I sit in front of the computer, trying to bering myself to even type it) boiled down to just two words:
That will resonate with a few people, I'm sure. In spirit, at the very least.
More waves, weird flashes of memory overlapping with internal dialogues, as if various parts of my ego were surrounding the bed, different parts of my life standing around me for all the world participating in an intervention. I distinctly saw one at the age of 29, one at 12, another... another at the age of 18.
Except that one was the one saying the words, over and over, a chant, a prayer, a declaration of a fear that motivates me to do one thing -- run like hell.
I've told the story of the run. I've told it in person, and in print. I even described, in detail, of how it started. But I never made a simple connection between that and what happened that night in Foster CIty, when I found myself waking up and realizing I had already broken the glass, literally a fraction of an inch from slicing myself to ribbons, the cause of the terror retreating to whatever hole I had forced it into.
The connection to that night when I leapt through a window, straight through a screen. Refusing to admit at any level that, if the window had been closed, I wouldn't have bothered opening it. If the roof of the garage hadn't been there, and I was forced to leap 30 feet to the ground, I would have.
Even now bits and pieces are coming back to me. I had called 911. I was actually speaking to them on the phone, trying to explain what scared me so much, why I actually called for help, even knowing it would just make him angrier knowing I had dared to call the police. He was already so angry, so damn blind drunk his bellows were an inarticulate modulation. I tried imitating it for Roni this morning, as she ran back from the bathroom as I bawled, gasping for hair between the sobs, but it sounded like a 6 year old pretending to be a lion, with all of the commensurate power in comparison to the real thing. He was mad because I wouldn't let him in, a choice made because I couldn't decide which would be worse, letting him in or not letting him in. I called the police, not for protection, but because I needed someone to decide. They tried to get me to stay, but when he began to ram the door, the old building shaking, all I could see was the hasp of the padlock my mom had insisted I put on the door tearing from the frame. It was a feeling, feeling him roar up the stairs, what he would do to me.
I think I managed one last moment of sanity, begging for help, telling them I couldn't stay. I dropped the phone and I ran. If the window hadn't been there, I would have gone through the wall. I would have gnawed my leg off, gouged out my own eyes, done anything to get away.
I hit the roof, and stopped... what if he came around and caught me as I leapt down? I went over to the slope of the roof, the original structure being an old house that thad the flat, industrial style bays added to the one side. I climbed onto the roof and flattened myself as much as I could, and tried not to breath. I tried to make myself invisible, as I heard the pounding finally stop. Even when I heard the radio car pull up, I couldn't move. I don't know how long I hid there.... I don't remember getting off the roof... but once I did, and I saw his tow truck was still there, I was convinced he was still there, waiting for me.
And I began to run.
Even now I can't remember much from the next five days. There's one part I remember, when I found an outside door open to the girls locker room at the Sonderling High School in Brentwood, where I hid for a few hours -- during the summer there was little risk of my being discovered there. When it got light, I ran again. I had lost all reason, I honestly believed in a way that can't be explained or rationalized that he was still chasing me, and when he caught me, he was going to kill me. He was going to beat me until I died. He was going to make me pay for daring to defy him.
And I realize now, just as I realized then, what the absolute worst thing that could happen was... that he wouldn't kill me after all.
There's a picture I'll post soon of an ID card from the Town of Islip Department of Recreation (or some such) with a picture taken at the end of the 5 days. By that point I was in a realm of sleep deprivation that defies description, and had a strange craving to be submerged in water. Maybe it was some instinctual desire to ground myself, or perhaps some ingrained spiritual need for rebirth through baptism. Maybe I just thought the cold water would keep me awake just a few hours more. In any case, a sweet BBW clerk took my registration and photo right their at the small town pool even before they had to open, at a point where any kindness was a blessing. In five days I can't describe meeting a single person, as if no one else existed. For a few minutes, she did, and I felt almost human. The picture tells a story, and I never used the ID again... but I never lost track of it in 22 years.
It was so bright out... it was if the sun had come out after a long, seemingly endless storm. I had leapt from the room wearing just a pair of cutoffs, sneakers, and a tee shirt... I kicked off the tee and sneakers and dove right in, the water feeling amazing. For the last 8 months after the center opened there had been all these rumors about the location of the pool, how it had been built on landfill and all this toxic waste was seeping into it, how we'd never go there.
I didn't care.
It was there that I used a pay phone to call mom. That was when she told me it was safe to come home... not to my place over the garage, but to HOME. Where I could sleep in my old bed, knowing I'd be safe. I was convinced that she would be angry with me for siccing the police on my step father, and then for running.
That wasn't the last time he binged, but it was the beginning of the end... less than two years later he finally went clean and sober, and he's been sober since. It's still hard for me to reconcile the surprisingly gentle man, the one who saves stray kittens and feeds baby raccoons every night, with the monster who nearly consumed me.
Who knows what the trigger was... I speculated (once I was past the worst of the tears) that the blow to the head yesterday might be part of it. He used to punch me out, after all, and I would see stars. He used to hurt me, whipping me with his belt, even throwing me around rooms. I was the boy, after all, and the one he could hurt.
There was only one more time I was around him like that, a year later when I finally took his advice to me on how to deal with bullies bigger than me and I went after him with a baseball bat. He wasn't going to hurt mom, and I was a hair away from killing him. I used to think that was the worst thing I could have done to him... but perhaps the reason I've been able to function since that night when I took a part of myself back, however small, is the fact that I made the mother fucker live to redeem himself.
I think I can finally ask for something that I should have asked for a long time ago, but felt like I couldn't ask before. Maybe I could still feel him coming, the smell of his breath preceding him. I don't care if he tells me to fuck off, or he can't say the words... just the act of asking for it... hell, demanding it... is all I need. I don't care if I actually get it.
I want an apology.
For the first time in over 20 years, I know what I want for Christmas from Gregory "Skip" Brown.
I think I can stop now... I need to make just one thing clear. This is NOT posted for sympathy or pity. This is a declaration of understanding of the self, which is part of why I post to LJ in the first place. I placed this piece behind an LJ-cut because some of this a lot of people know, or don't want to know. Either way I needed to get it all out in one place.
I hope this is a lasting thing... and I want to thank papershroud for the extended chat last night that forced me to look at my OWN shit.
Now, I must eat something... Roni, bless her heart, has gotten me a chicken carver from boston market, the only thing that sounded even remotely appealing to me. I can smell it, and I think I actually DO want it. 2000 words is enough for one day...