If I close my eyes, I can still see it clearly – the color of the carpet. It was a drab and faded olive-green – worn down from many years of foot traffic. I am sitting at the entrance to our house. I can still see the many stains that peppered the carpet over the years. There were a few areas where the carpet was beginning to fray and I could see the padding below showing through; but this old carpet was more than just a carpet, it was my assigned sitting spot.
Sitting there on the floor in the living-room, I could trace the outlines in the carpet. These indented outlines ran throughout the texture of the carpet, creating a winding maze that I could trace with my eye just for fun. Sitting there, I would stare at the carpet with my eyes filled with salty tears.
It has been over 40 years, yet I remember the day clearly. It was a mid-September afternoon. I called it an Indian Summer day. I could sense that autumn was here – but warmer than usual. I sat there on the carpet, facing the door entering our living-room. As my mother sat in her comfortable plush chair just a few feet away; in her raspy voice she yelled at my sister, “You ******* bitch! Get me a Diet Rite — and I want lots of ice this time!”. Chaos and yelling was common in our family. My mother was always yelling. She was always bitter; she was always angry. She was evil.
Looking up from staring at the carpet, I could see my mother grab something – hoping to God that it wasn’t the switch or the metal hairbrush — those were just a couple of the items that my mother loved to use as tools to beat me to the point of drawing blood.
Anytime my mother would grab something from the table next to her chair would send chills of fear through my mind and body. The table next to her chair held the arsenal of items she would use to inflict pain and order obedience. I never knew what she was going to grab to beat me. But for now, she was just grabbing her pack of Benson & Hedges – her favorite cigarettes. For now, I was okay; I wasn’t going to be hit.
Anytime my mother had a cigarette in-hand was a good time to approach her – it was her drug. Her cigarettes calmed her down; which meant she was less likely to be abusive. And, so I took this chance. “Mama, can I get a drink of water?”, I asked as politely as I could so as not to make her angry. She angrily answered back with “No! And shut your ******* trap before I come over there.” Once again, I took a chance. “But mama, Stephen got to get a drink.”, I replied. Stephen was my youngest brother and the spoiled one. She then yelled “I don’t ******* care. Now shut your ******* trap before you get what’s good for you — “. It was at this moment that I thought to myself, “I wish I could just get up from here and go to the kitchen and get some water. If only.”; but that was just something that I was not allowed to do.
In our family, we did not do that kind of thing. I was to obey my mother at all costs, at all times without exception. The slightest deviation from obedience meant certain physical pain, excruciatingly painful torture and possibly beatings leading to bloodshed or the inability to walk due to a special and severe punishment set aside for the greater transgressions.
A day of remembrance…
This particular day would turn out to be a day not to be forgotten. I was only 10 years old. I was very afraid and broken from the constant torture. By the time this particular day had arrived in my life; I had already experienced many years of torture and abuse at the hands of my mother and father. I was severely malnourished. I was hungry. I was thirsty. On my body were many bruises, welts, cuts and scars which were given to me mostly by my mother. I remember seeing my rib cage in the mirror – I was underweight from not having food. I remember thinking to myself on this particular day, “I can only take so much God. —- God? — God can you hear me?” On that day there was not an answer from God. “God! Please help me! Please!”, I cried within my heart. Still, there was not an answer.
I thought to myself, “I need to get water.” The last time I had any water was yesterday. I was desperate for water.
“Mama, can I go to the bathroom?”; I asked politely. She just sat there in her chair staring out the window. “I guess. — Hurry up.”; she replied in a raspy voice as she brushed her brittle long black hair.
I quickly pulled myself up from the floor and headed to the bathroom and closed the door as quietly as possible. For me, going to the bathroom provided a brief respite from the horrors of my childhood. When I was allowed to go to the bathroom, for a few minutes, I could close the door and escape. On this particular day, I went to the bathroom, closed the door quietly and simply sunk to a sitting position behind the door. I just wanted to sit there for a minute or two to escape the day. I was tired. I was very tired. I was sad and tearful.
As I sat there behind the bathroom door, I stared at the sink. “I could get some water from the faucet!”, I thought. But, thinking again, “That won’t work, mama will hear the water running and she’ll come in here after me.” — “God! — Please!”, I prayed again for help. I cried, “I can’t even get a drink of water from the bathroom sink because mama will probably come in here.”.
A minute goes by…
Finally. As I sat there on the cold floor of the small barely-lit bathroom, a thought occurred to me. Peering over at the toilet; with the toilet bowl at eye-level. I thought, “Water –.” I quickly stood up and very quietly opened the lid to the tank of the toilet. I had to be very careful not to make any sounds by opening the toilet tank. If my mother heard – it was all over. Having lifted the lid successfully — “Can I drink that water?”, I asked myself as I looked at the inside of the tank. It looked too disgusting and rusty. So I carefully put the lid back on the tank. But, as I was placing the lid on the tank, I noticed that the water in the toilet bowl seemed clear enough.
At this point, desperation had taken over my sensibilities. What I was about to do did not phase me. I was thirsty, I needed water. My mother wouldn’t let me have any and I couldn’t get any water elsewhere so this will have to do. I quickly knelt down at the toilet bowl (used by a family of 8); raised the toilet seat, lowered my head deep into the toilet bowl and puckered my lips to create suction and began to drink the water. With a mixture of desperation and the quenching of thirst at the same time, I sucked up as much water as my stomach could handle. I could feel the cold water inside me. It felt so good. My chest was cooling. My stomach was being filled with the coolness. Relief had arrived at last. I drank as much as I could; I didn’t know when I would be able to drink again.
After quenching my thirst. I stood in front of the mirror above the sink – looking at myself – wondering why I have to suffer like this. Wiping my face with the sleeve of my shirt to conceal any evidence of my transgression – I heard a thunk at the door. “What the fuck**** are you doing in there?”, my mother yelled. The door swang open, “Nothing mama…”, I answered in a soft and quieted voice. I managed not to look at her directly so as not to raise any suspicion. I simply and quickly slipped past her — back to my assigned sitting spot in the living-room. Once again, resigned to staring at the carpet.
That was a very sad day for me. – Floyd