Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

 

“Let’s run away,” my big brother said.

He and I were standing in the dark laundry room, a small unfinished room at the end of the covered concrete carport. Behind me was the white baked enamel of the washer and dryer, and the room cool and smelled of old laundry powder. The open stud walls were lined with rough shelves; the shelves were full of dusty bottles and jars; and the odd and end hand tool. There wasn’t much room in that room; just a few scant feet between him and me and the closed laundry room door. I don’t know why we had closed it; our mother was somewhere in the house, she couldn’t hear our plans. Perhaps it was instinct, or just a fear of being caught. We both knew we were discussing something taboo.

“Where will we go?” I whispered, mentally picturing the neighborhood. A single unpaved road, running up a hill, before bending back down through the woods – the endless pine barrens with their scrub oak and diminutive trees – to join with an old country road that ran on for miles, terminating in a highway at one end and a school at the other. Both seemed impossibly far away, and neither was a haven. To the best of our knowledge there was nothing else around, not for miles and miles – just that twin row of houses, embracing the sandy road.

We stood there in silence, fidgeting as small children will when their minds are busy and their hearts troubled. We didn’t know what was wrong, or even that anything was wrong at all; we only knew we were tired of being beaten. We had no words for it, this cycle of abuse – the words ‘child abuse’ would have sounded foreign to our ears, though had you described it, we probably would have eventually come to recognize ourselves as being in an abusive situation. But to us it was just natural; a way of life – a way we wanted to escape. Neighbors may have been familiar with our situation, at least to some degree, but it was a ‘family matter’, and back then, here in the old South, strangers didn’t intrude – not on family affairs. At best it would lead to social ostracism; at worst, death and violence. Nobody wants somebody else butting into their family affairs. And as for calling the cops – we didn’t know we could. We were forbidden from using the phone; we wouldn’t have known what number to call, nor what to say if we did. We didn’t even know we had a reason to call. After all – to us it was normal, the beatings and constant fear.

“We can go to the top of the hill,” my brother suggested, looking up at me. I knew where he was talking about – our friend’s house, the last house on the hill, with a group of fellow army brats, but – .

“They’ll just bring us back,” I pointed out. “And then she’ll really be mad.”

He considered, then nodded his head, knowing it was true. We were both young – seven and eight – and the idea of living in the woods, eking out a living on our own – too abstract to even comprehend. We hadn’t the skills or knowledge to do such a thing and we both knew it. The roads were too long and endless – we could see no end to them, and I guess we knew that even if we did take off down the road – someone would find us and bring us back. Back to this place of pain and terror. The only option our young minds could see would be living with someone else, someone in the ‘hood. But therein lay the problem: everyone knew us and each other. The neighborhood was tight — as tight as a jail. No matter where we went they would just turn us in, bring us back to this god awful place – this place of pain and desperation. There was no option there.

My brother looked up. The ceiling was unfinished. We could see the rafters far above.

“We could live in the attic,” he suggested.

“We’d just get caught,” I replied, desperately wishing we could climb up there, somehow escape unnoticed and unscathed. But the idea of living in secret right above our house – I knew that no matter how careful we were, we would somehow get caught. And when we did — the punishment for hiding would be unbearable, as unbearable as living in this place had become.

We stared glumly at each other. We both knew it – I guess we knew it from the start: there was no escape, nowhere to go: nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. My desperation withered into despair, my despair sank into gloom and resignation. He sighed, scuffled his feet, turned around and opened the door. He could sense it, too. We both stepped out, knowing.

There was no hope.   We were trapped.  Forever trapped in an abusive childhood – with no way out.

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