Unspeakable things happened in this place. Things that I don’t want to remember, but I relive every day. People have come to this place to pray for me and apologize. They leave flowers and stuffed bears and balloons and candles. They try to tell me to move on. But, I can’t. I need them to listen. I just need them to listen.
I was brought to this place when I was five years old. I was told that it would be a nice place to live, and that I would have a new family that would love me and take care of me because my real mother could not. I remember crying, because my big sister, Karla, could not come with me. My new dad said she was too old and that they didn’t want a girl. My new mom didn’t say much. She had a kind face, but she looked sad, and maybe a little scared. I remember that she jumped a little, when I walked over and took her hand. It was like she didn’t like being touched, but she didn’t let go because she knew I was nervous.
“Can I call you ‘Mommy,’” I asked her in a very quiet voice. She looked at me, and then at my new dad. He was talking to the social worker and signing papers. She looked back to me, smiled a little and nodded. My new dad turned around, looked at us and frowned.
“Let him go. Don’t baby him,” he grunted at Mommy. “You’ll spoil him. He ain’t gone be no good to nobody if you spoil him.” She dropped my hand and walked out the door. He shoved me and said, “Walk, boy.” I followed Mommy. Tears rolled down my face. I could tell he was a mean man.
On the car ride to our new home, he told me the house rules.
“Bedtime is at 7 o’clock, not a minute later. You will eat what’s put in front of you and like it. You will have chores to do every day, and you better do them right or you won’t get any supper. I don’t want not one bad report from your teachers, or I’m gone tear your backside up. Don’t you back talk to me, or any other adult. I’ll knock your friggin’ teeth out if you do. You speak when you’re spoken to, otherwise be quiet. Understand?” I nodded. All of a sudden, he reached back punched me in my chest. He hit me like I was a grown-up. I couldn’t breathe. He knocked the air out of me.
“It’s ‘Yes, sir,’ or ‘No, sir!’ You understand me, brat? Don’t ever nod or shake your head at me! And quit all that damn crying! You ain’t a girl! Girls cry! Do you want me to put you in a dress and frills?” I was gasping for air, but I managed to respond with the right phrase in a volume loud enough for him to hear me.
“Good,” he growled, as he glared at me in the rearview mirror. He parked the car in front of the house. Mommy hadn’t said a word. She looked out the window during the entire car ride. It was like she was somewhere else. He yanked me out the car and shoved me toward the house. The front yard was covered in dried leaves that had fallen from the oak trees in front of the house. We crunched our way through the leaves to the front porch. We went inside and he showed me to my room.
“Put your stuff away and then come to the kitchen for supper,” he said.
The room was small. It had bare walls and bed. No toys. No dresser, no closet, and it was cold.
“Where should I put my clothes? There isn’t a closet,” I asked.
His fist connected with the back of my head. I fell to the floor. Before I could get up, he punched me in my back, knocking the wind out of me, again. Then he took off his belt and whipped me.
“You ungrateful little bastard! Do you think we’re rich? You crack-baby! I told you to be quiet! Stop that crying!” I heard the sound of the leather belt cutting the air, and felt the sting of the strap through my shirt as it landed across my back, arms, head and legs. The end of the belt hit my eye twice. I covered my face to protect my eyes and to prevent him from seeing my tears. I don’t remember when he stopped. The room was spinning and getting dim. I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart was racing and his voice was an echo.
“Get up, boy! I said get up!”
I heard Mommy rush into the room.
“What are you doing to him! Ed! Stop! He’s just a boy!” I heard a thud, and she stopped speaking. Then he started on me again. He kicked me in my side. My body felt so heavy. I couldn’t move. My body just kind of jerked with every new blow, until I didn’t feel anything any more.
It was strange. All of a sudden, I was floating above the room and watching us. He stopped beating me and was on the floor shaking me, trying to wake me up. There were blood stains on the back of my shirt and the side of my face. Mommy was laying on the floor, in the doorway, blood was pooling around her head. She wasn’t moving. Then I was standing in front of him. I looked at his face and I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. As a matter of fact, he looked scared, and maybe a little worried. He walked away from me, he stepped over Mommy and walked up the hall. I heard his keys, then the sound of the front door opening and closing. He left us there.
“He’s not coming back, sweetie.” I turned around to see Mommy standing beside me. I looked back to her body in the doorway. “We should go, too,” she said, holding her hand out to me. I shook my head.
“We should stay, Mommy. We should stay until someone comes for us. We need to tell them what happened.”
“You tell them. I’m finally free of him, free from all of it. I can’t stay here anymore. I have to go.” Then, she left me, too.
I stayed. I understood why she left. She knew about the others. I saw the others that he hurt. They are here, too. They live in the walls. They told me what happened to them.
Unspeakable things happened here, and if these walls could talk, they would tell you everything.