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Excerpt for The Hell I Carry by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Prologue

I am not a writer, but I am passionate about my story, though it has not always been this way. I used to believe that I would carry most of these secrets with me to my grave, but I would often ask myself: what good will they do me then? Between these two covers, across these white pages, I have tried, with great effort, to stick to the facts. This story is not eloquently written with fancy words meant to stimulate the imagination; it is just simply told. There’s some dialogue; my attempt to breathe life back into these bits of memory. The names of all parties involved have been changed to mask their identities. Though, there are some individuals, based upon our relationship, that, even with masked names, are easily identifiable.

My biggest reason for sharing these recollections, is to piece together the past so that I may, in light, understand the man I have become; so that I might be able to explain, to some degree, why I’ve hurt the people that have simply tried to heal my broken mind. Women, good women, would crumble at my feet, as I surged through life on a path dominated by destruction and self-loathing. Why? They would constantly seek formidable answers in an attempt to find some underlying meaning to my barbaric behavior. My answer, however, is not as simple as the question. To those that have asked me “why”, I hope this story provides you with some closure and reassurance. When I said “It’s not you, it’s me” …I meant it.

I am a selfish human being, this I am aware of now. It is one of my many flaws that I have come to accept and, though I have accepted it, I know that there is always room for improvement. I am improving, but I am not perfect. I had hoped that, by reliving these moments in my own words, I would find peace in my own story so that I, with the professional support of a therapist, could finally begin the healing process.

To my foster mother, forgive me for going against your wishes and publishing this piece. My intentions were not to disturb the peace that you have finally found, but simply, through the art of story-telling, to find my own. I know that your intentions were always pure, and your character had, for the most part, been selfless. There are many children in this world that will die, never having known the warmth and comfort of a mother’s love. I, fortunately, will never be one of those children.

To my good friend Sed, thank you for the long nights and deep conversations. Thank you for being a friend in my hour of need. There is a saying that goes “in the darkest of times, good friends will show you the light, but true friends will take your hand and walk by your side.” Thank you for walking with me when I could no longer walk alone.

To my biological mother, I will simply say that I understand what it is like to carry a hell, but I will not make excuses for you. A hell is a heavy burden, but it is one that we all must bear. It is, however, how you choose to carry the weight of this burden that ultimately decides your character. I wish you had chosen a different method in which to carry yours.

Finally, to the reader, please do not judge the weeds that have learned to flourish in my garden. For they, too, are just simply trying to survive. I once read a proverb that stated that the only difference between a flower and a weed is judgement. Hopefully, you will come to appreciate the dandelion in the same manner that you appreciate the rose.











The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.

-Rabindranath Tagore





When it is all said and done, and the dust of this story has finally settled, I hope you find the time to sit in the shade and enjoy what remains.



The Bigger Picture

Time is tricky, both a healer and a dealer of pain; both a gift given, and something loved that is quickly reclaimed. Time tinkers with the human mind, molding it to tell whichever story may best accommodate its true underlying motives. It controls our every move, influencing our choices, thoughts and interpretations of our own realities. Yet, it is us who has given Time the ability to force us to our knees…begging for more of it. I have often asked myself, if given more time how would I choose to reestablish myself within the realms of my own reality? What would I, to a realistic extent, do differently? I have searched for the answer and once again Time has claimed my tongue and the matter still haunts me as I settle into the gloomy comfort of simply… not knowing. How could I have known what Time would bring? How could I have known what Time would take? If I were given more time, I do not know what I would do differently or if I would, in any matter, do anything worth mentioning at all. Time is manmade, one of man’s greatest inventions and it shall be, in “time”, our greatest downfall.

Time has a strange way of rearranging memories, like unevenly cut pieces of a complex puzzle. However, life, unlike a puzzle, does not come with an accompanying image that guides our hands as we piece together the bigger picture. In life, we are simply given the pieces and expected, over time, to make sense of the mess.

My memories lay before me, but they mean nothing until I have pieced them together. Time has rearranged many of my memories and even, in rare circumstances, robbed me of them. Time is tricky, but it is precise. In a world of chaos, it remains as it is; precise. This precision, while unwelcomed in many faucets of my reality, guides me in the same way a hand may guide the pieces of a puzzle. I have, without knowing it, craved precision. My life, up until the very second that I began telling my story, has been chaos. I sit here, amongst my thoughts, piecing together the memories, in an attempt, to make sense of the bigger picture.



After all these years, why now?

When I informed my foster mother that I would be writing and eventually sharing my story, she was not particularly thrilled about my decision. She insisted that sharing such details would negatively impact my ability to properly heal. I believe, however, that she was more concerned about how this story would portray the nature of our good Christian family. There are many pieces to this puzzle and time, with all it has taken from me, has finally given me something far greater than a broken heart or bruised ego; it has given me a voice.

My first therapist was a family man with a fancy job and an impressive title. I was 8 years old when I first stepped into his dull colored, but well-lit office space. He told me to “make myself at home”. When I think about it now, I laugh at the simplicity of his attempt at a kind and warmly gesture. Home? I had, seven months prior to this day, been ripped from my home and left in the care of an elderly woman with an unkind face. During those seven months I moved from one dwelling to another as the foster care system struggled to find a family willing to take in a flight-risk, but that’s a story for another chapter.

As I stated before, my therapist was a family man with a fancy job and an impressive title. His intentions were good, but he failed me more times than he saved me. However, to an extent, I am forever in his debt because for the next nine years he offered me the insight that would eventually lead me to a paradise stained in blood. His intentions were good, but he was misguided and as a result I was lost, and my beacon of light would save me from the sea, only to lead me to a shore of jagged rocks and a slower death.

You must learn to connect.” This was the only bit of advice that he could offer me over the next nine years. I admit, that when my mother left, fear swallowed me, and darkness slowly consumed me. I was eight years old and every son needs his mother. Mothers foster compassion that fuels the fire that warms the soul. I was eight years old when the cold sting of the world found its way into my heart. At a very young age I had become accustomed to betrayal and my mind knew hate as well as sorrow. I longed for a certain type of love that, to this day, I still cannot put into words. How can one define that which he does not believe exist? What words can describe a feeling so demented that men have planted bullets deep within their consciousness in an attempt to escape the constant jarring pain? There are no words that make sense to a dying man. There is only fear of what is to come when Time comes to claim that which was never yours.

Time is unpredictable, but it is precise, and, in these moments, it has given me a gift; an opportunity. My story can do nothing for me, but maybe it can do something for you…the reader. Perhaps, through these words you can find your own salvation and truth. Maybe you’ll devote more time to the things that matter; to the people that matter. Maybe when you tell your own story, it’ll be around a warm fire with those that you love dearly, and, in that moment, Time won’t matter. For a second, you’ll be free from the constraints of manmade concepts that oppress the natural flow of everything.

After all these years, why should I share my story now? Because no time will ever be the right time, so it might as well be now.



Before the Child

My memory of my biological mother is faint in some areas and relatively irrelevant in others. Despite this, the memory of her is an important piece of a puzzle that I may never finish. As far as I am concerned, I am the only bit of evidence that she ever existed.

She was a child when she left home, merely 16 years old. Her mind was still developing when her world came crashing down around her. How could someone so young, so vulnerable and inexperienced, be prepared to carry the burden of secrecy and regret? I had hoped, when I began this book, to present my mother in a lively light and a vibrant fashion, but the truth has proven to be easier. She was a woman of many demons, but, as some tales in history will tell it, demons are but angels that fell from grace. That is simply how I imagined her; an angel that had, at some point, fallen from grace and found comfort in the arms of a different kind of hell. Her parents had had high hopes for their only child and pushed her to a limit that would prove to be detrimental to her wellbeing. She loved music, not mathematics. I do not believe that my grandparents were unkind, but rather firm and lacked understanding. Had they known what music meant to my mother, perhaps they would not have taken it from her so readily, pushing her into the arms of my father.

He was a regular guy, but in the small town of Malad Idaho, he was a dream come true. From what I can remember, my mother spoke highly of him often, but not always. She loved him because he was the gateway to a world she had only read about in storybooks. “Malad” is the French word for sickly. I couldn’t imagine a better way to explain the way that town twisted my mother as she succumbed to the music that pulled her from the skies. She was willing to leave heaven behind because she was starving for the truth that only forbidden fruit could offer.

He was 10 years older than she was and their relationship was short, but he was the only part of her past that she dared to revisit. When I was younger, I would often ask about my dad. What did he look like? What was his favorite flavor of ice cream? What kind of music did he prefer? Most of these questions she answered with lies because it was easier than admitting that she simply did not know. For a while, her answers satisfied my desire to know who this mysterious man was, but soon my questions began to invade the delicate nature of the relationship my mother and father shared. What was his name? Why did he leave? Did he not love us?

My father groomed my mother. He was in a small garage band that never really took off. They performed locally at small cafes and at the birthday parties of relatives and friends, but their name would never headline sold-out shows across the nation. Despite this harsh reality, my father was persistent and passionate. My mother fell in love with his drive and his sound. She would’ve followed him to the ends of the Earth and, in some ways, she kind of did.

When my dad decided to leave Malad Idaho behind, my mother did not hesitate to pack her things and stow away in his van. She never left a letter, an explanation or a reasoning behind her leaving…she just went. My grandparents would die never knowing what happened to their little girl or what had become of the child growing in her belly.

The drive to Texas was long and heated. My mother, during the trip, had revealed to my father that she was pregnant with his child. He was neither excited nor worried. His main focus was on the opportunities awaiting him in Houston Texas. A friend had promised him that a record producer was lined up, waiting to hear the new sound my dad’s band had cooked up in the sickly town of Idaho. However, music is a fluid art; always changing. By the time my dad’s band had made it to Houston, there was a new sound filling the streets; a sound his band could not match in rhythm or intensity. The trip had been a failure and the producers were no longer interested. While my dad’s heart was broken, my mother continued to fall in love. They settled down in a small town right outside of Houston. My dad got a job at a car shop and my mother occasionally worked as a waitress at a nearby café, getting paid under the table. Eventually, they were able to afford a small apartment in a quaint area. Six months after arriving to Houston, my dad’s band had disbanded and the only person still aching to hear his music was my mother. He would play for her occasionally, but his passion had died along with his will to stay sober. He began to drink more and eventually his own shame and regrets began to consume him.

He blamed her for his failures. He told her that he wanted to return to Idaho because his family and wife were awaiting his glorious return. While the shame was crushing, he’d rather face them than to stay with her. She was 16 and pregnant…would could she offer him?

This was the first time he had mentioned his wife to her and the confession broke her in such a way, that she would never fully heal. He wanted to leave, but she knew that she could not return to Malad. Her stomach had grown, and her parents would never accept her child, nor forgive her for her decision to leave. The truth is, they would have forgiven her. I began digging through various files and investigating “missing persons” reports filed in Idaho during the time. They never stopped searching for her and they had, until the day they both perished many years later, begged her to come home. However, she was angry and blamed the world for her broken heart and sunken dreams.

She was eight months pregnant the day my father walked out the door for the last time back to Malad. Whenever she told me this story, she claimed to have never cried. “Somethings you just have to learn to live with and deal with alone.” This was always her advice to me and this was how she chose to raise me for the next eight years. If I fell and skinned my knee, she never kissed it better. She would turn her head and expect me to deal with this dilemma alone. I loved my mother, but she taught me how to live without her because she knew she would never be able to provide a solid foundation on which to raise me. Do I blame her for leaving me behind? Sometimes I do, but I know now that it was not a decision without consequences…for the both of us.



Who she is…. who she was.

I have written and re-written this piece several times. I have reluctantly settled with the facts that I know best. I will never be fully satisfied with what little I know of my biological mother. She was lonely before my father showed up into her life. I only know this to be true because my father is not the type of person one seeks out for anything other than to fill a gaping hole that has the potential to rot the soul. However, she did not simply “seek” him out, she fell in love with him and then bore him a son. She was young, but far from naïve. She was simply lonely, and he gave meaning to the gap that existed within her life. Her parents cared for her, but not about her. I say this to say, they nurtured her body as any loving parent would for their child, but my father gave her something deeper; more meaningful. He nurtured her soul.

She was resilient, but not much of a mother. She would have, however, made a wonderful CEO of a small, but highly successful business. She was course, blunt and always looking towards the horizon, neglecting the moon setting behind her. She was motivated and made ends meet, even after my father abandoned her and their unborn child.

The hardest thing about writing about her, is remembering her in a physical sense. I have some traces, in the very darkest corners of my mind, of strawberry kissed hair and thin, tempered lips. Her eyes were an icy blue like the clearest of ocean waters, but they were filled with a sadness that I cannot recall enough to fully describe here. She was, at least for me, a breath of fresh air. She filled my lungs but neglected my soul in such a way that I was both full of love and starving for her attention. I was both living and dying as I grew to know only one side of her; the angry side. She blamed me for my father leaving.

“We never needed a child y’know! He ran off because the burden would’ve been too much for any man, especially one on the rise. He loved me but you boy, he didn’t have enough room in his heart.”

They are just words and she is only human. Please, do not for a moment believe that I am making excuses for her. I am, however, attempting to leave all judgement at the door step as I welcome myself into her life as I imagined she lived it. He blamed her for his failures and she blamed me for theirs.

I am not making excuses for her because she no longer needs excuses. To be quite honest, I imagine that she made plenty of excuses on her own, long before I even sat down to begin this story. There is a saying that goes “if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. However, if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” My mother did not know how to nurture a young soul, because she had never been taught to provide that type of love and encouragement. She knew that her responsibilities were simple: keep me fed, clothed and alive…. for the most part. In her mind, this was her duty to me as my mother; no more and no less. However, as I grew older, I began to recognize the change in her behavioral patterns. Some days she was calmer and would sing me songs that my father had wrote for her during a time when she only knew bliss and adventure.

“He wrote this song for me when he and I first started going out.” She’d say. “It’s called Beloved, be love.”

I do not remember the exact words to the song, only the title. I would lay back on the old sofa where I slept, and she would lean on the sofa’s arm, stroking my hair as I dozed off. Her voice would fill my dreams as I drifted away from Time and reality. How simple and wonderful were these stolen moments of joy? These moments meant everything to me. They were but tiny pieces of a much bigger puzzle, but they had their place, nonetheless.

She was a firefly in a world of lady bugs and butterflies. The rest of the world did not understand the way she wore her light. Only when the darkness covered the sky like a thick blanket, did people dare to notice her and watch in awe, as she danced the night away. She had very few female friends, but men loved her; so much in fact, that she brought a different one home every week. She introduced them all to me as my “uncle”. All these men wanted desperately to love my mother, but she would always force them out the next morning. I distinctly remember one man came back to the apartment a few days after my mother had kicked him out; he had brought flowers and sweet treats. She let him in long enough to accept the gifts and then she kicked him out again.

When I started school, the conditions we lived in became harder to hide from the outside world. Teachers often questioned me about the conditions of my clothing and hair. My cheeks were always sticky, and my socks were wet and filthy from weeks of wearing them and not washing them. I was an easy target for other students as well. I was never invited to birthday parties or invited to play tag or leap frog. I never fit in, but I was content in my loneliness. At a young age my mother had taught me to find solace in the empty spaces around me.

“More friends, more problems.” She’d casually chant the words as though they were incantations to keep people away.

As I mentioned before, some days were easier for her, but other days were filled with the pain my father had left her to deal with all those years ago. The pain left her enraged and she would drown out her sorrows in thin white lines that she traced across our table’s top. Her eyes glazed over, and during these moments she would look at me as if I were a stranger. Her icy blue eyes would become dull and cloudy with a grey bleakness that accentuated her misery. I often wondered if she ever hated me for existing; if she ever hated me for my father’s mistakes.



We’ll call him “Uncle T” for the sake of identifying characters.

My mother would often leave me home alone most nights while she worked or partied. Our neighbor, Ms. Rosa, was an elderly Mexican woman that spoke little English, but she was the first human being to show me an ounce of motherly kindness. Her grandson, Roberto, would become my first best friend. He taught me how to mold play dough and which cartoons were the best (The roadrunner was our favorite). Up until this point in time, I had never seen cartoons because we didn’t own a television. I would see televisions in the windows of shops and occasionally at school, but never from the comfort of a plastic wrapped couch with delicious soup and a dear friend. This was yet another small but essential piece to a grand puzzle.

My mother hated Ms. Rosa. “She thinks she can feed and look after you better than I can!” She shouted one evening after coming home and finding me gone.

After visiting with Ms. Rosa and Roberto, I would usually return home before my mother knew I had even left, but on this night, I had decided to stay. A storm had swept across our area and the thunder and lightening seemed much scarier in an empty, pitch black apartment. I had stood out in the rain for a solid 30 seconds, banging on Ms. Rosa’s door, absolutely terrified. I often dream of this horrific night. It was a night of more than just leaking ceilings and howling skies. It was one of my first recollections of true fear. It was my first recollection of true helplessness and longing for the security of a mother’s hug. I remember standing outside of Ms. Rosa’s apartment, rain drops racing down my pale cheeks. My small fingers were curled into a shivering fist that beat against the thin door in rhythm with the thunderous skies. I was afraid she would not hear me and that she would not come to rescue me from the impeding nightmare, but she did. She opened the door, grabbed my collar and pulled me inside.

She undressed me and forced me into a hot bath. She sat next to the tub with a washcloth and bowl. She filled the bowl with a generous amount of water and poured it over my head. The warmth of the water embraced my shivering body. She began scrubbing me from head to toe. I had never been so thoroughly clean in my life. When she was sure she had removed every spec of dirt, dust and sticky matter…she dressed me in fresh linens and gave me a giant bowl of her infamous stew. My stomach, mind and soul were all settled in a matter of minutes. The storm outside seemed further away now, but I dare not leave the comfort of my safe haven. Her plastic wrapped sofa cradled my little body like a California king. Seconds after finishing my stew, I was fast asleep.

I don’t remember if it was the thunder or my mother banging furiously on the door that suddenly shook me from my sleep. I faintly remember my mother and Ms. Rosa exchanging feverish words as my small frame was yanked from the couch. I was half asleep as I was drug through the front door and out into the rain. The freezing cold drops shocked me from my half-dazed state. I remember her nails digging into my soaked flesh as she fished around in her purse for the door key.

“She thinks she can feed and look after you better than I can!” She shrieked. “You stay away from that bitch and that kid. I don’t want you over there ever again!! Do you understand me?!”

I nodded my head and after she finally found the door key, I followed her inside. She didn’t draw me up a hot bath or comfort me in the way Ms. Rosa had. She simply sat at the table and laid out her white lines. I went back to bed in my wet clothes and that night simply became a memory; a memory that would later come back to haunt me night after night until I was 16 years old. I hate that I constantly remember her in that fashion, but that night had, perhaps, the biggest impact on how I visualized her. She loved me, but this type of love had limitations. However, she was embarrassed of these limitations and would not allow anyone else to fill the shoes she had long ago abandoned.

Uncle T came into our lives purely by chance. He was headed through town when he stopped at the diner where my mother worked. She had taken an extra shift and as a result, their paths crossed. He seemed like a genuine man. He told her he worked for one of the oil companies and the nature of his work often called for travel. I’m guessing he ordered a coffee and pancakes, he seemed to always love these. My mother, scoping him out as a possible escape from her hellish reality, allowed him to groom her with his fancy words and charming smirk. He asked if he could take her out one night after he finished his work out of town. My mother had never been on a real date, so his southern charm probably caught her off guard. She accepted his offer and they set a date. This moment, though not quite a memory of my own, was a piece of the puzzle that altered our simple lives forever.

I remember the night Uncle T and my mother had their first date. My mother rushed home after work, ignoring my pleas for a bit to eat. She showered, dressed and indulged in her secret habit at her spot at the table. She spent a lot of time in the mirror, fiddling with her hair and her brand-new dress. I sat on the sofa with my broken crayons and coloring book. I was invisible to her. I was beginning to drift off when a hard knock at the door forced me back into reality.

“Don’t embarrass me.” Was all that she said to me.

She opened the door and welcomed Uncle T into our humble apartment. At first, his tall stature and broad shoulders frightened me. He reminded me of a giant. His voice was low, and his hands were massive in comparison to my mother’s. He complimented her dress and kissed her as though they hadn’t just met. After a few seconds, he finally noticed me sitting on the couch (petrified I’m sure). He walked over and sat next to me. He held his hand out and introduced himself.

“Well aren’t you going to shake my hand little fella?”

I remember reluctantly extending my arm and wrapping my frail hand around one of his massive fingers. He smiled and in his smile was a predator’s grin. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small bag of animal crackers. He handed them to me.

“This is for you little fella.” He said, as he ruffled my hair and then turned his attention back to my mother. “Shall we ma’am? I have a night to glorious to pass up planned out just for you.”

My mother smiled lovingly at him; a way in which I had never seen her smile. Her eyes seemed to be glowing as she watched him head over to the front door, beckoning her to follow.

“You stay away from those neighbors.” She instructed me, as they disappeared through the doorway.

After that night, Uncle T made regular visits and even spent some nights in our apartment. In the beginning, he was the hero that my mother and I both needed. He bought us better living room furniture and even got me a TV and VCR. I remember the massive collection of white Barney tapes that he brought over to me. He spent an entire day teaching me to work the television and then we spent the night watching Barney’s entire collection.

“Are you my dad?” I remembered asking him. He chuckled, but never really answered.



The Back Room

The first few weeks seemed like a dream come true for me. Uncle T spoiled me with new clothes, toys and even a mattress for me to sleep on. He would drive me around in his station wagon and take me to the park and out for ice cream. He and my mother would occasionally fight, but at this stage in my life, I assumed all adults yelled and thought nothing of it. There was a lot about Uncle T that I did not quite understand until I was older. His motives ran deeper than winning my mother’s heart; he was after her trust and her soul. He funded her habit and even pushed her to try different drugs that eventually led to her losing her job. Without a job, she relied on him to pay the bills, fill the pantry and fuel her addiction; he had her right where he wanted her. A few weeks after my mother lost her job, Uncle T moved in.

He had, in a matter of days, become a completely different person. I was no longer allowed to sit on the sofa and watch my Barney tapes.

“I’ve had a long fucking day and I don’t want to watch Barney. Go to the back room and play with your toys. Close the door behind you.”

I spent a lot of time alone in the back room, but as I mentioned before, I welcomed the empty spaces around me. I now had plenty of toys to keep my imagination vibrant and alive. I would often pretend that Uncle T didn’t exist, and my mother and I lived as we had before he invaded our simple lives. He was a parasite in the belly of the beast. My mother was a monster before him, but she was a completely different devil with him in her midst. During all of our time together, these few months were, perhaps, the most painful.

Uncle T had a violent streak. I was never allowed to leave the room and my mother was never allowed to leave the apartment. We were his prisoners. However, in our own ways, we didn’t mind. My mother was content as long as her needs were met, and I was at home when embraced by the lumbering solitude. The only friends that I had were Cozmo and Tim, house roaches that I trapped beneath a cup in my room. Don’t be so quick to judge me. What child hasn’t played with bugs?

I’d let them crawl in my hand, offering them the subtle illusion that they were free. When they made it to the edge of my fingertips, I would slowly curve my fingers inwards, trapping them in my palm; there’s no escape. I would sometimes spend hours freeing and then re-capturing Cozmo and Tim. I would let them explore the only world I allowed them to know. Were they happy? I honestly did not care….at first. Then Cozmo died; he was the smaller of the two. He wasn’t as strong, nor as fast as Tim. I had accidently crushed him beneath the edge of the cup when re-capturing them. I grieved silently in the back room that day.

I had experienced sadness before, but not quite like this. A part of me knew that keeping Cozmo and Tim in such perilous conditions was unfair, but I could not let them go. Perhaps, I was more afraid of loneliness than I care to admit. However, this sudden compassion, but lack of understanding, is how I often fueled my relationships. I would grow up and spend years capturing and releasing different women; keeping them imprisoned within the palm of my hand, promising them freedom but never delivering it. In the end, I decided to also kill Tim. It seemed logical to end his existence than to simply set him free.

The back room, later in my life, would become a symbolism of my own mind. I often feel trapped within the realms of my own consciousness; struggling to escape all the wrong I’ve done and those whom have wronged me. There’s a door and a window; both are viable means of escape, but I stay put within my small, merciless prison. Why? Perhaps, this is why the caged bird sings. The cage bird knows its fate when it is trapped inside of its little, metal prison. To be free is to fall victim to the unknown. I would rather stay trapped in the hell that I had come to know so intimately, than to leave it behind in search of unfamiliar treacheries. What was happiness to a child that only knew mild contentment? The back room was my prison and my safe haven.



The Meltdown

Uncle T had been living with us nearly the entire summer. He had full control of the apartment and everyone within it. We were his puppets. When I try to examine Uncle T, I find it difficult to come to any logical conclusion because I know so little of his former life. Was he the abused child that grew into a damaged man? Was he a god-fearing man that believed that, within the home, he was God? Was he a controlling, manipulating sociopath that found relief in destroying the lives of others? Uncle T could have easily, without discrimination, been all of these collectively.

I remember the first night I saw him beat my mother. Was this the first time that he had hit her? I didn’t know. I was sitting at the table, eating my cereal before bed. Uncle T and my mother stood in front of the television arguing. I attempted to stare through them in order to catch the images flickering across the lit screen. I don’t remember what they were arguing about that day, but I have, over the years, tried to stitch the pieces together and make sense of the memory. He had been funding my mother’s addiction, but I believe he was now facing his own financial crisis and could no longer afford the luxury of being the King of the castle. My mother, without her fix, was beginning to fall apart before my eyes. She had stopped showering and her hair was a matted, tangled mess around her skull.

“You are a fucking pig!!” He would shout at her.

She wanted him out. She wanted him gone. The once content prisoner, now felt the pressure of the walls closing in as her cage began to shrink. He refused to leave, and the argument started like any fire would, when a spark kissed the tinder meant to ignite it. Their words were like sparks, searing one another’s ego beyond repair. The moment was heated, and the flames of their anger danced like dying stars in an endless space. When they were burned out and the ashes fell, he raised his hand and struck her with a blow that sent her tumbling backwards into the television set. The screen hit the floor and shattered. He stood over her like a mountain preparing to crumble back into the sea from which it rose. He rose his massive hand again and brought it down across her back. He did it again and again. When she tried to cover her face, he’d grab her arm and force her into a vulnerable state. His fists became weapons. The hand I had once shook, was now a fractious cannon. Blow after blow, she begged him to stop.

This moment must’ve lasted only seconds, but it easily felt like an eternity. I don’t know what possessed me to drop my spoon. I distinctly remember the sound of the metallic spoon coming into contact with the glass bowl as I released it from my grip. I felt my legs moving as I stood up from my seat. My knees lifted towards my chest as I broke out into a full run, my hands outstretched and tears swelling in my tired eyes. My mouth was wide open, but I do not remember if I screamed or said anything. I only remember throwing my entire body into the colossal human being that had weaseled his way into our lives. My efforts caused him to drunkenly stumble, but he quickly regained his balance and looked at me stunned.

“Go to the back room.”

I didn’t move. I stood my ground as my body trembled. Was I trembling out of anger or fear? Perhaps both. My mother pleaded for me to leave this to her.

“I’m okay baby. Just listen to him…”

Was she protecting me? This was the first time she had ever tried to protect me. This small gesture, though it took years for me to notice, was my mother’s true nature buried deeply in a damaged soul. She was broken, but within the cracks of her wrecked being, her love for me flowed. However, Uncle T had no love for me and the only thing that flowed through the cracks of his broken, mangled soul was Gin and utter hatred. He took a step towards me and smirked the way he had when he first met my mother; the night of their first date.

“You’re a brave little lad. Are you protecting your mother? You know she’s a junkie, right? She’d trade your little ass in for a fix any day!!”

I don’t remember if I said anything back, but now my body was paralyzed with fear. I wanted to run to the back room as he approached me, but my legs were no longer my own. I stood and awaited my fate. This is what happens when you leave the hell you once knew; you find yourself lost in another one. I should have stayed in my safe haven; I should have stayed in the hell that I had come to know so intimately. He towered over me and grinned; the predator smile had returned. He began unbuckling his belt and wrapped his massive fingers around my neck as he forced me to lean over the couch. I could hear the belt whip through the air as he released it from the loops of his jeans.

“I’ll teach you some good southern manners…” he said as he whipped the leather belt across my backside.

The initial pain was more than I had ever felt. I wanted to scream but he forced my face into one of the couch’s pillows. The belt whipped through the air again and swiped me across my back; it whipped violently again and again. Each time was more painful than the last as the leather carved his anger into my skin. I waited to be rescued; I waited to hear the comfort of my mother’s voice as she pulled the belt from Uncle T’s hand, but she never came. She cowered in the corner, with her eyes closed, praying to a God that would never answer.

I woke up that night in my bed, completely naked. I don’t remember what occurred between the time of my beating and me reaching my safe haven once more. I suppose I passed out. My body ached, but I could tell that someone had already treated the worst of my wounds. I didn’t dare move or cry out. I just laid there, exposed and broken.

Whom do you trust in your life reader? Who do you love? Is the love real and everlasting or is it simply filling the hole in your life? Sometimes we crave things that fuel our desire to exist. My mother craved Uncle T because he filled a hole that my father had left unstitched. However, in our attempts to fuel these desires, we often forget the innocent souls that are lost in the process. My mother, while seeking her own salvation and attempting to heal her own broken heart, had simply forgotten my innocent soul. Sometimes I blame her and other times…. I understand.



Say Farewell Young Lad.”

The beatings and Uncle T’s temper only worsened as the days progressed. My mother’s face was nearly unrecognizable behind the various shades of black and blue. Her lips were swollen, and her words were slurred. He never had to force her to stay home when he departed because she was too embarrassed to break through the threshold with her mangled mug. She truly was a prisoner. He had conquered her physically and mentally. Whatever his mission was when he came into our lives, it had reached its peak in damages dealt (or so I thought). I was afraid to leave my room and my mother was afraid to face an even harsher truth; she had failed.

However, despite these horrific circumstances, the worst was yet to come. One night, Uncle T came home smelling like alcohol, sweat and misery. He was angrier than he had ever been. He couldn’t find his key, so he banged angrily on the door until my mother reluctantly allowed him inside. He wanted her completely, but she wasn’t in the mood and refused him.

“You refuse me in my home?!” He bellowed.

My mom ignored his angry spouts and just cowered in his wake. Her head lowered, and her shoulders hunched in a submissive position, she waited for the blow. He clumsily ruffled her matted hair and laughed.

“Fine woman. Where’s the boy?”

This part of my story I have hesitated to tell for many years. I have written and re-written this section hundreds of times, afraid to reveal my darkest truth. I was very young at this point in my life and many therapists have assured me that my memories may not be as intact as they feel, but I am no fool. Memories are broken fragments that find their way back to the forefront of our minds, regardless of our futile attempts to suppress them. That night, he came into the back room, my only safe haven on this god-forsaken planet. I pretended to be asleep, but he didn’t care. He laid next to me, his face inches from my own.

“You’re not sleep boy…” he whispered.

A secret is the most painful of memories. It is the invisible hand that muffles the scream and beats the strong-willed. A secret is a wave of anguish, washed over the bodies of the suffering that have not the strength to stay afloat. It was our “little secret”. It was a moment that simply became a memory; a memory that I relived night after night until the day that even you (Uncle T), were too afraid to face the devil that you had let in.

When my mom would question me about the blood on my mattress and clothes, at first, I was reluctant to tell the truth. However, a part of me believed that she already knew what type of monster slept beneath our roof.

“It was Uncle T…”

She hugged me, told me to wash up and come to the table for dinner. She had finally showered, but the same bleak emptiness still haunted her eyes. She never acknowledged the truth that I had offered. No one had noticed how the life had left my eyes. An entire school system, community and my own mother had failed to protect me.

I have examined much of my past in an effort to find some sort of understanding. The day my mother decided to leave me is perhaps the hardest part to analyze. For the longest time I believed that she had done it because Uncle T had given her an ultimatum: “Me or the boy?”

He couldn’t stand looking at me because I was a constant reminder of the sickness that swelled inside of him. He wanted me gone, but he wanted to keep my mother. She felt as though she had no choice, so she made the wrong one. She told me that we were going to Disneyland; an obvious lie now, but not to an eight-year-old. We had packed up the entire house and loaded as much as we could into Uncle T’s station wagon. We were leaving the only home I knew behind. My mother cried the entire time. She refused to look at me or even be in the same room with me. The guilt was beginning to consume her…I see that now.

We climbed into the station wagon. I stayed silent in the backseat, but my heart was beating eagerly with anticipation. Uncle T turned around from the front seat and smiled; the return of the predator grin.

“Say farewell young lad. Disneyland awaits!”



The Drive and A Moment to Ponder

The drive was long and silent. No one spoke, but a white elephant weighed the station wagon down to the ground. My mother constantly chain smoked as she fought the urge to satisfy her monstrous hunger. The back windows wouldn’t roll down, so I choked violently on the pooling second hand smoke. Uncle T seemed irritated as he banged his fingers, in no particular rhythm, against the steering wheel. The world around me began to change as we passed from one small town to the next. I had never been so far from home, so far from my safe haven. As I watched the world change through the glare of the dirty back-seat window, I began to grow sadder as reality crept into my young mind. I would never see Ms. Rosa or Roberto again. I never even got the chance to say goodbye. I do not even remember their last names. I have, in my adult life, attempted to look them up and reconnect with them as I battle the ghost from my past. I have not been so lucky.

We made no stops along the way. I desperately needed to pee, but I dare not utter a word about my own needs. My stomach was beginning to growl and my body was growing uncomfortable in the cramped space where I had been sitting for the past four hours. My mouth was agonizingly parched. The sun was beginning to beat down on the old station wagon as it lunged onwards. Are we there yet?

My mind began to wander as I analyzed the events that led up to this moment. Even at a young age, I realized my mother’s vulnerability and desperate need for help. She was as trapped as Cozmo and Tim were and her fate, if things did not change, would undeniably be similar. He would kill her.

I know now that I was too young to save her. There was nothing more I could do as an eight-year-old child. You (mother) will never be able to read this story, my story, but know that I understood. When that station wagon stopped, my mother grabbed my hand and the single suit case that was tied to the top of the station wagon. She never looked down at me because she knew that this grey building was nothing like the Disneyland that I had imagined.

She simply tucked a loose strand of my hair behind my protruding ears, this was her goodbye. She did not give me a kiss, nor did she embrace me. She simply left me alone. It would be eight long years before she reached out to me again, eager to make amends; a privilege I would not grant her before she died from an apparent overdose. The chapter of my story regarding my mother was over. I would never see Uncle T again, but the ramifications of our situation-ship still heavily impact my ability to socialize, trust and build meaningful relationships. My mother’s absence also had its own tolls. I had never been properly loved by my mother and, for many years, I would place blame on the numerous women that attempted to fix me. My own mother could not find it in her heart to truly love me, so how could I trust that any other woman would?



Home to Home with No Place to Belong

The first few weeks at the group home were the most difficult. I spent a lot of time alone, calculating my options and waiting for her to return. When she had dropped me off, we had come through two big metal doors. When the doors opened, the hinges squealed and echoed throughout the corridors. Whenever the creaky metal doors played their cringe-worthy tune, I would run towards the front of the building, hoping it was her that had inspired their notes; it never was. Time was staring me in the face, mocking me as I waited. The clock’s ticking, at first, was a melody that I found comfort in. Every second would cradle me as the hand slowly raced around the clock; any moment could be the moment she returned. I was hopeful. As time progressed my mood began to change.

How long does it take for one to reach a point of absolute madness? The rhythmic ticking began to etch its way into my skull; the way a worm invades an apple. Day and night, the sound felt like razor blades kissing my skin; like sharpened nails traveling across a dry chalkboard. I’d cover my ears, but the ticking only worsened as I realized that Time truly was never on my side. Time is tricky and it tinkers with our minds as it pleases. I stopped eating, sleeping and communicating as reality swallowed my innocence whole, leaving behind an empty shell carrying a tortured soul. Please do not pity me. This needed to happen. I needed to feel this type of betrayal and hatred. I had to travel to the most heinous of places within my thoughts to truly appreciate the gift of pain, fear and loneliness. I was a stone block sitting before its creator, and as the hands of Time chiseled at my outer layers, my truest-self began to emerge. In order to truly live, I needed to kill the part of myself that longed for a love that I had never known.

My physical condition was quickly deteriorating. When I look back at my own files that I had, many years later, retrieved from the group home: I was underweight, not sleeping and suffering from intense diarrhea. Below is a scanned copy of one of the many notes I found within my file, providing a few details of my physical and mental conditions during the first few weeks (it reads as follows):



Lucas has not slept in nearly 3 days. He is also refusing to eat or engage in outside activities. We are requesting immediate consideration to have him placed in a foster home where he is the only child. We believe that with intense one-on-one attention and therapy he will make a full recovery. Current issues include: not eating, not sleeping, he will not talk or play with the other children, he has also began hitting himself and hiding for hours within the building.

Please call at your earliest convenience.









My behavior was also a problem. I became very angry with my situation. I blamed everyone except for the monster that had planted me there. My garden of life was now overwhelmed with thirsty weeds that choked the roses and pierced their stems. What had my life become in a matter of months? Uncle T had taken the only human that meant anything to me, but even she, my mother, did not love me fully. The world would pay for her mistakes.

The group home workers, while they ultimately had my best interest at heart, struggled to rehabilitate me. My spiraling and violent behavior made establishing a connection with the people around me difficult. I had no friends. The loneliness here was nothing like the back room. I had no privacy or control of my surroundings. My environment was a constant clutter of screaming children, loud music and frustrated workers.

She was never coming back; I knew that now, but a part of me remained hopeful. Perhaps, by some unseen miracle, she would change her mind and come running. She would rescue me, like I had hoped for all those times before. She would apologize and, until the day she died, she would work to make things right. It was a lovely dream, but here, in this world, there was little room for dreamers. I was truly alone in a new hell; a memory that settled uncomfortably upon my broken heart.

I often wonder if there is a God and, if there is, why would he allow such suffering to exist? I cannot place blame into the hands of anyone other than my mother, but I desperately needed someone to be an outlet; someone to share this crippling pain and copious amounts of distrust with. Someone needed to hurt the way I was hurting.

My case worker would often pull me aside and attempt to strike up a conversation with me about my mother. I refused to discuss any parts of my past. In the scanned document below, she briefly describes one of our sessions in her notes:











I won’t share all of her notes here, but it was apparent that she was concerned with my physical deterioration, more so than my mental. The visible bruises that were littered across my pale skin were only a fraction of the wounds I had sustained for the past eight years. Over the next few weeks, as doctors and therapists assessed me, they would dig deeper into my past, utilizing visual cues as a means deemed necessary to aide me on the road to recovery. There were whispering rumors circulating amongst the workers regarding my life before the group home. However, their pity did not comfort their disdain for my unruly behavior. I was a force contained in a confined, murky space. I would not flourish within this prison, yet prisons were all I knew. At least when I was in the back room, I had the comfort of knowing that my mother existed just beyond the jammed door. Beyond the metal doors of the group home, the unknown world beckoned to me; a world that she no longer existed in.

I remember the day the case worker asked me about my bruises. They were slowly starting to heal, but to the outside observer, they appeared horrendous. However, in a place like this, bruises, black eyes and busted lips weren’t uncommon. Every child here had a story, secret or longing for someone. We were forgotten children to the outside world, but we, ourselves, had not forgotten.

“Did you mother use to hit you?” She would ask in a calm tone.

The calmness of her voice was almost intoxicating. It probably seemed (to eight-year-old me) that she cared. Perhaps she was doing more than “her job”. Maybe my welfare was of great importance to her, but then again, she probably asked 200 other children the same question.

I would simply shake my head. My mother did not do this to me, but I dare not utter the name of the monster that did. I think a part of me believed that he still lurked in the shadows; behind every locked door or around every sharp corner. He was long gone, but I still felt his presence every time I had to undress to bathe or lay down at night to sleep. The mind is man’s greatest prison, perhaps even more so than the back room.


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