Tag Archive: brothers


Fight – Or Get Beaten


While we were in North Carolina (see “Escape From the Hood”), my mom finally taught my big brother how to fight in her own inimitable way – and as far as I was concerned, it was about time.

 

I remember well when this happened; it was all he deserved, though not as much pain and punishment as I sometimes wished on him. But it was cruel. We were behind the apartments when Bro, true to his nature, started making some snide remarks to a stocky kid just a little bit bigger than he was. Since I was standing there watching, I guess he figured he was ‘safe’ – that I’d come barreling in to save his butt as I had done so many times before. But this time was different. After watching him eat ice cream while I danced around on some monkey bars trying to avoid getting creamed by a teenager he’d pissed off, like I was some circus entertainer put there for his own entertainment, I’d decided I’d had enough; I wasn’t going to stand up for him anymore, nor was I going to let him suck me into fighting on his behalf — no matter how much he screamed or yelled, or who he picked a fight with.

 

The kids started throwing punches at him, and again, true to his past pattern of behavior, my brother just stood there like an idiot, screaming and crying and futilely holding his forearms up in front of his face in defense. He wouldn’t even try to throw a punch; he just stood there, screaming and wailing and occasionally glancing over at me. But I just watched him, cold and numb inside. I don’t know why I felt that way – just a cold nothing, but I guess it was my way of not feeling what I usually felt when I’d see him getting beat up – anger, sorrow, and pity. I had a nifty knack of ‘shifting’ my emotions, ‘switching’ into another state of calm numbness. It helped a LOT when my dad would come to beat me, though sometimes now I think because of that — because I didn’t cry easily — I got beaten much harder and longer than I would of otherwise. My dad got off on seeing our pain; he still has that mean sadistic trait. So perhaps in that my brother was smarter. He’d start crying right away.

 

So Bro just stands there and screams while this kid, pleased at his easy prey, pounds on him. Then my mom comes out. In her hand she has a thick leather belt. She, too, has had enough. She had heard about my tussle on the playground; she knows my brother is always running his mouth without anything to back it, and she knows that I’ve been standing up for him for years – fighting his fights, saving his butt, and coming home with nothing but bruises and scratches to show for it.

 

Going up behind my brother, she begins whacking him with the belt – HARD whacks, across the back and shoulders.

 

“FIGHT, damn you, FIGHT!” she yells – no, shrieks – as the kid who was beating on my brother backs off in frightened confusion. My brother just screams. The kid looks at my mom, then at my brother. My mom looks at the kid. I can just imagine how confused he must of been. I know I would of been terrified.

 

“Fight him, damnit,” she hisses, swinging the belt at my brother. “I’m not going to hit you. I’m going to hit HIM until he fights BACK.”

 

And the kid – hesitant now, begins to swing again. Encouraged by my mom’s lack of reaction (except to whip my brother some more), he starts to strike in earnst.

 

My brother, caught between my enraged mom and this punk kid, finally concedes. At first he tries to sink to the ground – but my mom beats him even harder.

 

“Get UP, damn you! FIGHT!” she yells.

 

I’m just watching, sort of upset, sort of not. I don’t dare step in, not now, not with my momma involved. That belt is just as likely to strike me for interfering as it is my brother for being stupid. And I guess something finally snapped in my brother – some kind of realization, or perhaps he’d been beaten animal. At any rate, he gets back up, crying and rushes at the boy, wildly throwing punches as my mom’s belt rapidly follows him. And to my surprise (as much as Bro’s, I think) — the kid finally breaks and runs away (probably more terrified by the weird, strange outcome of the fight than any actual pain.)

 

And that’s how my brother learned to fight for himself instead of relying on me to win his battles for him. For better or worse, that’s how it went.

 

And I never had to fight his battles anymore.

 

 

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The Streak


The Streak

 

 

It’s always good to write about something I laugh about, and I can’t help but laugh a little bit about this one. (Okay, maybe it’s not a something to laugh about – but it was funny at the time. Hilariously so.)

When he’d go to spank us my dad had us strip to our underwear, and then it was “bend over, grab your ankles” – and and hang on! Because your rocket was fixin’ to be launched into space, if not the nearby wall. You’d feel fire on your butt and smell smoke in your nose, and you knew the rocket was you.

I’ve gathered that this form of punishment – having your boys drop their drawers, bend over, and ‘take it like a man’ was a somewhat normal thing; though maybe NOT completely normal. I’ve heard and read of others who had the same sort thing. Of course some aspects were not normal, as as best I know I’ve blocked them out. My brother told he remembers hearing me scream and scream – and I have dim memories of being dangled upside down; being beaten by a belt in one hand, suspended in the other – nothing but (maybe) a thin pair of worn underwear on . . . and one thing I learned early on:

Face the bed. Always face the bed. Because that first one’s gonna send you flyin’ – and you don’t want to hit the wall. Damaging the wall with your head is only going to anger him; best stand still. Don’t scramble around like a monkey (which my brother always did) shrieking and screaming. It only turns him on. Keep your mouth shut until the end – as long as you possibly can. Always. (Little did I know he got off on our screams; I should have screamed sooner, like my brother did. No, instead I paid for my stoicism, my ‘immunity’ to pain, and my stubbornness to give into him – or my crying – for as long as I can.)

Anyway, this one afternoon it’s my brother’s turn – he’d done something (or maybe not; according to my phone call the other day, sometimes – to him – we got whupped just for being there – who knows? There’s little doubt – my dad’s a classic closet sadist, getting off on control, hurting someone, and punishment – having others under his thumb, and at his mercy – with them ‘worshiping’ him (or else).

And he has a streak of cruelty ten miles wide; he’s the kind who would torture butterflies just to pull their wings off. But I could use a good laugh today, even if it’s a bit grim, and like I said: abusive or not, I just laugh at this. (It’s that lack of references thing, I reckon.)

My mom and I are sitting in the kitchen, and poor Bro is getting pounded somewhere in the back bedroom – or more than likely, ABOUT to get pounded when . . .

Suddenly this flash of white lightning goes running past us – between us – screaming all the way – naked as a jaybird – on out the kitchen door – and takes off up the hill. (Okay, I’m smiling now, always a good thing!) My dad comes pounding after him – and me and my mom are sitting there staring at each other.

And we just couldn’t help but bust out laughing as they went out the door. It had to be one of the Funniest things I ever saw as a kid. “The Streak” – long before the streak was born. And he had good reason!

Eventually they came back home, both panting and weary. Some of the neighbors had spotted him – them. My brother literally high-tailing it up the hill, kicking up dust in the sand hill road. My dad pounding after him, his combat boots still on; he’s dressed in green sateen’s with a white tee-shirt on – the belt whirring in his grip . . .

And of course nobody said anything – just a few snickers going on (mostly amongst us kids). And the parents – they just went about their chores (it was about suppertime). Back then nobody stuck their noses in someone else’s family – especially here in the Deep South. It’s still a good way to get your nose kicked in or cut off. Even the police kept a strictly ‘hands off’ policy when it came to family affairs. As long no one went to the hospital too often – it didn’t matter what went on.

And yes – my dad took my brother – exhausted, sweaty, dirty and naked – back into his room to finish what he’d begun – and begin again for another thing: running away before he was done.

What can I say. Just business as usual – another day in the ‘hood.

If I Had A Hammer . . .


If I Had A Hammer . . .

 

“Let me do it.” Or at least I think that’s what I said. It didn’t matter if a grownup couldn’t understand me; I knew my brother would. And did.

I was maybe between one and two years old, and I was sitting outside in the back yard facing the house and my brother. I can still see the narrow run of brick steps – there are three or four – leading up to the stoop outside the back door. My brother, his face intent, is busily twisting and turning a wood slat in his hand, trying to see how it fits together with the small birdhouse he is building. Thus far it is a roofless box that sits between his outstretched legs. We are both sitting in the sand and dirt; the grass, I reckon, is sparse.

“No,” he says crossly, placing the wood on the top of the birdhouse. It must be a kit birdhouse – all the pieces are precut and sanded as smooth as my skin, powdery and thin. There are some little brass nails laying around. He is having trouble holding the thin slat of wood on the top because it is one of those peaked ones that have two sloped sides.

“Let me try,” I say, reaching out towards the hammer.

“No!” he says, glancing at me furiously as he snatches the hammer, pulling it away from me and closer to him. I want to scoot forward a little bit on my butt, but don’t. “You’re too little!”

“No I’m not!” I sputter in protest, badly wanting to hammer a nail. I really don’t care about assembling a birdhouse – I don’t even know what one is. But I know what I want to do. I want to hammer. Starting with one nail. “Let me – .”

“No!” He cuts me off, picking up the hammer and driving a single nail through the middle edge of the board. I had wanted to drive that one. And he didn’t let me. I can feel anger simmering way down low. I am not too little, I know I am perfectly able to drive a nail. And that’s what I want to do. Drive one nail. Maybe even two. Even though I haven’t a clue as to what else he is doing, or how this birdhouse goes together. All I know is that I’m sitting out there in this patch of dirt, watching him build something – and he won’t let me do what I want to do

He sets the hammer down and studies the birdhouse with a critical eye. I watch him pick up another board and start fitting it.

Dispassionately, I pick up the hammer. I raise it up over my shoulder. His head comes up, following the thing.

And then I brought the hammer down, driving it as true and square as any experienced carpenter driving a nail – not quite between his eyes, but a little higher, centering it on his forehead. Instantly a hot pink dot forms on his forehead. And his eyes got quite round and his mouth made an astonished “O” – and I’m still watching this red dot forming – it’s growing brighter and red – when he breaks out in screaming and leaps up, running into the house, crying a fit.

I watch him go and then – not angry, not sad – just . . . dispassionate, except with a firm smug sense of satisfaction – I go to work. Fitting the board and hammering me one nail.

 

I really don’t remember much of what happened after – not immediately. I seem to have some dim recollections of my mother and brother storming outside – perhaps getting my pants whipped – and then tied to the clothes line.

 

But I do remember that evening had one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Everyone was in the house; I had been left out on the line. The sky in the western horizon was streaked in bands of purple and gold – majestic dark clouds, their tops ragged; their bottoms smooth – a horizontally streaked sky. The land seemed endlessly flat (how big back yards seem to young children!) – and the horizon was aflame beyond those dark clouds. I just stood there watching (I had been running back and forth for awhile; now I had settled down) – the leash running up my back to that droopy old clothes line. And while I didn’t know have the word ‘beautiful’ or know what it meant, I knew what I was seeing. And the wonder of it all.

And it seemed beautiful to me.


*Warning: Potential ‘triggers’ for Fellow Survivors & Friends* 😦

I can’t blame a single adult in our childhood community for any of the sexual abuse that went on.  It was all (to the best of our knowledge) committed by the children . . . and the children’s ‘father’, if you want to label the one who ‘started’ the abuse that went on.

It was a Children’s Conspiracy; and One of Silence as well.

None of us children told.  Not one of us; not to the best of my knowledge.  Sure – the signs must have been there (remembering limping in; piss running down my leg from where the teenager had “peed in there”.  Why didn’t mamma suspect something was going on?)

No; we all knew it was ‘something bad’ and something ‘dark’ to be hidden and done in secret corners; this ‘secret’ thing we had.  Fucking each other in the ass; sucking one another dink-um.

And the teenager was at the beginning of the herd.

So was he innocent or guilty (as I am thinking some of the times)?

This guy had a hard life ahead; hell, he had a hard one at the time.  Thirteen years old and here he is working with his father – a mason – busting his ass all of the time.  Doing a “man’s” job and a man’s day’s labor for his dad – helping to support his own family … fucking his brother in the ass … doing his own little sister (she was several years younger than I) . . .

and so was it HIS fault in doing this sort of thing?

We aren’t really knowing; not really – and yet knowing THIS sort of sick and twisted thing: he was a part and product of his own environment;  just as WE are.  And WE could have been HIM – quite easily – for he was leading ALL of us children down that merry path – having sex with him and having it with some others . . .

I remember the times …

warm summer’s day … up in the treehouse … forty feet up in the air … just me and ‘him’ (the teenager’s little brother – and my best friend) … looking at porno magazines (they were just simple black and white sort of things; catalogues I’m thinking; but enough – moving on) … and then I ask him (bored with my own pictures) to pull his pants on down …

Him and me staring at the house.  (this is why we didn’t get caught for so long; meaning NEVER).  He’s in the barn; so are we and we’re staring over the door at the house (his own one) further on …. and I’m fucking him in the ass …

so anyone who is looking will just see two little boys (dirty brown faces) peering at them over the shed’s half-door….

Staring at the house again (only this is a different one).  He (Someone else; another friend) …. is behind me on his knees … doing ‘things’ … I’m leaning on the rough concrete; elbows down; face staring; watching the windows of the house (his momma’s in there) … while he ‘has his fun’ …. waiting for my turn to come.

The grownups never KNEW ANYTHING . . .

The closest I ever got caught was in a doghouse during a great storm…my dad came out and caught us two (me and another friend) … engaged in some intimate action.  But we had saw him coming and ducked and pulled and getting our clothes on as those feet came on closer …. hearts panicking and pulsing and mouth numb from sucking … quitting and getting our clothes on ..

“What are you doing in there?!”  is all he said.
“Nothing,” was the cure.
He never asked again.

Why mom never caught on to those drawings we did … the ones of little kids fucking one another in the ass …. it was right THERE for her to see!  And yet what did she do with it?  She folded it up and put it in with our toys ….

Don’t you think a parent should think something is ‘wrong with it’ when her 8 year old kid tells the neighbor kid’s oldest daughter that he knows what her ‘thing’ looks like – and then ‘shows her’ with his hands?

Instead we got the ‘sex education talk’.  At 8 years old.  We were very much interested in all the mechanics of this thing.  Brother was not so much interested as he was into being disgusted.

He didn’t make very much as a sexually molested kid.  He wasn’t ‘into it’ like I was – really into this thing.

How GOOD it felt … not the “lovin’ ” so much as the other … feeling warm hands on my back; stroking my head; soft murmurs and things; ENCOURAGEMENT … not warning words; not them hateful glances my momma was giving me and things ….

It’s no wonder we kids kept things so silent.

It was the only way we hid.

Me and Little Mikie

Violence In the Hood


Violence In the Hood
(Tokoni Posting Condensed 05/25/2009)

If you’ve been keeping up with my stories, you know by now things weren’t “normal” in my family. According to one shrink I saw, things weren’t “normal” in our neighborhood – or what we call “The Hood”.  We arrived when I was five; left at eleven – and that period of time, more than any other, represents the ‘brightest’ time of my childhood. In many ways, it WAS my childhood; the entire thing. Before then I had more of a toddler’s mind; after then – well, after then, things happened that just sorta put the finishing touches on an already cracked (warped?) mind, and broke my heart a half-dozen or so times. I ended up learning that nightmares CAN come true (four years later, when I was fourteen or so.)

But the Hood. Now that was a PLACE! Wild and crazy country young ‘uns doing wild and crazy things – not like today, where all the kids come home and sit either in front of their computers or the TV.  Since there were no ‘virtual worlds’ to play in we played in the REAL one. And our games were real, the fights were real, the play was real – there was nothing “virtual” about it. Instead it was visceral, gritty, sandy, hot or cold, wet, dry – physical sensations. When your opponent hit you – you felt it, you were rocked, you could feel blood trickling from your nose or lip – and taste its salty copper. When you got socked in the gut – you FELT it, the wind left your lungs, and you were left there gasping – and no ‘time out’, no “pause the game”. You had to get up quick and either continue or run away. And I only ran one time. (Another story.) None of that ‘virtual reality’. It was REAL reality.

I had a thing for fighting. No – I didn’t start them – but I couldn’t resist a good fight if I saw one. I’d see some kid getting pounded – it didn’t matter who it was – and I’d have to rush in and save them. I just couldn’t STAND to see another kid getting uselessly socked – once they’d start crying, my heart would go out to them, my hackles would rise – and before I knew it, I’d be in there tackling the victor. And I didn’t know when to say quit – either I was too stubborn, or just didn’t know how. And aside from one time, I never lost. (That was an amusing one, for some kid came out of nowhere while I was just walking up the road – and scrambling up me like a little monkey, brought me down with surprise – and tooth and nail as well.)

The other kids knew I was tough, and for the most part didn’t bother me. My best friend and I fought – it seemed like every other day! – but we never harbored a grudge, and I reckon we did it more for entertainment than anything. Now, I wasn’t a skilled fighter – I’d go windmilling in, head down, and storm my opponent – and no amount of pain would stop me. I ‘ate’ pain.  I was pretty much immune to it by then, especially when I was in a rage. Still am. (Which explains some of the self-inflicted cuts and scars on my arms.) And it didn’t matter how big or old you were (unless you were a grownup – they were inviolate, and could do as they pleased.) I’d take you down anyway – if by nothing else than by never stopping, never letting go, and never giving up.

My favorite trick was to get my opponent down on the ground face first – and then sit on their back and pound their kidneys. I wasn’t one to go for the face – no, teeth and bones can hurt your hands – however, a kid, belly-down, can’t fight back – and with my weight and constant pounding until they were crying and begging soon enough. They really had no choice. As soon as they’d start to cry – I was done. I’d had enough. I don’t know why it is that crying kids affected me just as badly back then as they do now – perhaps it was because I’d heard too much of it at home. And a kid screaming – well, that really bothers me. I always have to check to see what is going on. Every time. It really mucks with me inside and emotionally.

My brother – now there was a problem child (in my early opinion) if I ever saw one. The boy wouldn’t fight (except with me, because he knew I wouldn’t pound him) – but he’d pick a fight with just about anyone else. Again: didn’t matter what size or age – he’d say something, do something, piss them off just enough to take him down – and then just he’d lay there shrieking, not even trying to defend himself. Knowing I’d come and save him. Which I always did if I was around.

There were several fights I remember that went that way. One was the talk of the neighborhood for years – they still talk about it – how me and my best friend got into it when I was eight or nine.

My brother had done his usual thing – picking a fight – only this time it was with my best friend, and in our back yard, with the other kids standing around, including the teenager and his teenage friend. My best friend does what he usually does – he socks my brother a few times, knocks him down, gets on top of him, and proceeds to ‘go to town’. Me, I’m standing there watching – it’s okay with me – up until my brother starts crying. As far as I’m concerned, my friend should stop now. But he doesn’t. I go up to my best friend and roughly rocking his shoulder, tell him to let my brother up. My friend ignores me – he’s tired of my brother’s constant picking and snide remarks. (And I don’t blame him.) But after a few moments I’ve had enough. And this is the part that everyone remembers and talks about to this day.

I pick my best friend up bodily – even though he’s the same size as me – lift him up in one clean sweep over my head like superman raising a barbell — then dash him to the ground. (I did mention I was a strong little SOB, didn’t I? See “Cat Scratch Fever” for more on that.) Then I jump on him, and the fight is on. (My brother, meanwhile, still whimpering, stands to the side to watch. Even though he’s the older one.) This fight was one of the toughest I’d ever been in – my friend is desperate, knows I’m pissed – REALLY pissed – and we spin and wrestle, knocking each other a bloody nose, lips – anything. And every time I can, I’m socking him in the stomach – short little strokes, but with everything I’ve got. My friend, on the other hand, is aiming for the face. Fine by me. I don’t care. We fight and tussle, getting more and more vicious by the second. My friend, meanwhile, is starting to resort to dirty tricks, which I don’t like. Eye-gouging, hair pulling – anything in desperation to win this one. But I don’t care. It just infuriates me more, and I tear into him like he’s a wet bag of tissue paper. Oh, I’m still fighting ‘fair’ – punches only – but he’s gone beyond that. He’s trying to rip my eyes out, scratching my face. And I – I’ve gone beyond the mere issue of rescuing my brother. I’m now dealing with someone who wants to hurt me. And I’m not going to allow that – even if he IS hurting me. So I hurt him – socking him over and over again. Badly.

The teenagers finally decide that we are going too far – both of us are bloody, and I am far beyond rage. So is my friend. So his big brother (the teenager next door) holds him back, the other teenager holds ME back – pinning our arms behind us and separating us by a few feet – and my best friend and I are snarling like rabid dogs as we struggle to launch ourselves at the other’s throat. Finally I figure out what I have to do. Twisting around in his grip, I attack the teenager who is holding me back. And I must have been pretty vicious about it, because when I wheel in his grip and begin socking him and kicking him like a beast gone wild, he lets me go. BIG mistake. I immediately turn and there’s my friend, his arms pinned back by his wide-eyed brother. Driving my fists forward, I get two tremendous blows into my best friend’s gut, and he doubles over before the other teenager tackles me and pins me to the ground, holding me down with everything he’s got.

And that’s where that fight ended. My friend – he’s beyond crying now, and is puking, throwing up over and over again – they take him to the water faucet and wash some of the blood off his face and try to wash the puke from his mouth – but he won’t stop puking and I’m still shaking with emotion. I hate what I’ve done, but justify it in that he wouldn’t stop beating up my brother – and I can’t take another kid crying. But this time I see what I’ve done: I’ve beat my best friend up BAD. And I mean bad.

How bad, you may ask?

Well, he was out of school for three days. I’d knocked his guts around so hard that he was sick, couldn’t even eat. And all the kids knew it – and after that even the teenagers left me alone. They knew: there’s something just not right about Mikie. And you don’t want to tangle with him.

We had more fights, of course – ‘friendly’ ones, if you want to call it that – and one where we fought after I returned from North Carolina just to see if I could still beat him. Bloody noses and split lips – but after that I was always careful, always tried to keep my rage under control (but not always successfully), and never hurt him like that again. I learned to take my anger out on THINGS, not people, for the most part, though there were a few times I slipped up. And to this day I have to watch myself, for I can fly into a BAD rage if I don’t. I won’t say the shrinks helped me control this rage – I did. In part by separating it off from me, assigning it to ‘someone’ else – and then I fight ‘them’ (or rather myself) rather than let ‘it’ out.

That’s one thing the shrinks did point out. Abuse survivors often have a sea of anger and rage within them – and when the wind gets to blowing and the waves get to churning – it can get as hard to control as a hurricane’s storm surge. And even the shrinks know it can be a dangerous thing – not to YOU so much as THEM. I don’t know how many times one shrink would ask me in her office: “Am I safe with you?”. She was, of course – but for her protection I could not do what she asked: tap into that sea of rage and find out what it was about. Because I KNOW what it was about. It was about being a powerless child being beaten; it was about being raised ‘wrong’, and the later emotional losses and heartbreaks — and having to silently swallow my grief and rage so often. It was both a strength and an asset sometimes – but as my Marine Corps commander pointed out: it made me too violent for war. He was afraid to turn me loose on the enemy – not because of what they might do to me – but rather, what I would do to them.

Go figure.  I’m still trying.

Boots


Boots
(Tokoni 05/28/2009)

It’s funny sometimes how a single word or phrase can conjure up an image from the past. Sometimes, of course, it can be a smell or something you see. But with some things – well some things are strange, just like memories. And talking with my brother about our shared past is one of them.

My brother was talking one day – we were just talking in general about the old man’s behaviors when we were kids – comparing notes, I guess – and he really hates the old man a lot more than I do. Being as he was the older brother (still is by my count), he should remember more of what went on than I do – but (amazingly to me!) – he doesn’t. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember some, and he often remembers things I have forgotten (or just didn’t want to remember.) The mind is funny that way – it likes to play the old “cup and ball” game with memories sometimes – quick! What cup is THAT memory under? And sometimes you never know. Then along comes brother, taps a cup with his finger – and wallah! There it is!

My brother did this, oh, about a year ago. It’s not the first time he’s done it. (It’s like a magic trick to me, it really is! Poor, strange, mucked up magician.) He tossed out a cup just a couple weeks ago – and wallah! There it is: the old man holding me up by one ankle and whaling the bejeezus-come-and-save me coin. Another tap and – yes! There it is: you were RIGHT big brother, he DID take me into my room by myself and whip me until you heard me scream, scream, scream. Gee, whut fun this game is. (NOT!) But it’s good to know – and I’ve finally figured out why:

It explains why I don’t love the old fart. Why I secretly detest him. Why he sets me on edge. Why . . . I guess why I hate him in so many ways, and at least part of the reason I don’t trust him with kids. Because I know: he’s a secret ‘closet sadist’. And not just with animals, but with kids. Funny thing is: he’s such a wimp with pain. You’d think with him being so sensitive to any poke or prod, he’d of had more compassion for his kids. But . . . he don’t. Or doesn’t. Or didn’t. I don’t know: you pick the word.

But getting back to the word: Boots. My brother and I are talking about some of the stuff that went on – I’m trying to edge him towards what went on ‘over there’ – meaning between the teenager and us – but being careful. I mean – it’s easy talking about the physical and mental abuse, but the ‘other’ stuff – well, that’s a whole different ballgame. And with my brother you have to be careful. He hasn’t ‘healed’ I guess as much as I, or if so, he’s healed mad.

My brother won’t admit – or hasn’t admitted – what went on with the kid next door, the teenager. And I – well, I just don’t have the guts to directly approach him about it. Oh, I’ve beaten around the bush a bit, but I’m pretty careful about that sort of thing – if you beat around the bush too much, you’ve defined what’s hiding in it. And my brother is a staunch homo-hater. Not a homophobe, because homophobia means a ‘fear of homosexuals”. He just hates ’em. Violently so. And . . . well, I suspect he would go off in a violent rage if I said “hey, Bro, don’t you remember THIS and THIS and THIS?” Either that, or he would deny it. Or he’s thoroughly blocked it. I don’t know.

Odd that we can discuss the physical abuse so much easier. Why is that? Personally I think it’s because of society’s views towards sexuality as a whole: the Americans are such prudes! Which may be part of the reason we have so much of it on TV; why they snicker at nude art, and why we are so continuously fascinated with it. It is the ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome, I reckon. We really like sex – everyone I know does – but we hate to admit it. Blame it on our Puritan ancestors, I guess. At any rate, I think its messed up the way we tend to hide it – and then put it in plain site; gossip about OTHER’s sexual activities – but refuse to divulge our own in shame and embarrassment. I guess that’s part of being human – being weird. (Of course I have to bear in the back of my mind I wasn’t ‘raised right’ anyway. That might have something to do with it. But what IS right? – aside from what society and your own heart (influenced by society) says it is?)

But anyway – focusing back on the title of this story – to help focus my mind, I guess, because I tend to wander (shy?) away from some memories. We are talking and Bro says:

“I hated the way he would come home and start kicking us with his boots.”

Bingo. Cup is lifted. There it is: the memory coming home to roost. An image flies through my mind: us two little kids, cowering underneath the dining room table – and these big ol’ combat boots lashing out at our faces, arms, hands – anything they could connect with. Chairs scuffling away from the table, removing our last bit of protection. The old man circling around, trying to get in another kick. Bammo whammo – secrets untold, revealed with one word.

Boots.

A word that brings back some memories (like magic!, a part of my mind says, using one of those TV announcer’s voices).

Boots.

And ow. They hurt.

(And remembering still – here on May 27, 2011 . . . this shit went on until we were in our middle teens – cowering under the dining room table while he kicked and thrashed at us – circling the table like a vulture – just big enough that you could hide on one side while he kicked on the other – but woo unto the child who was too slow moving under those table legs and the chairs!  Ow, they hurt almost as bad as those boots sure did.  Getting knocks on the head from bumping the table . . . and then HIM calming down and going away somewhere – usually to his bedroom to take them boots off (his uniform, too).  Laying down on the bed for a mid-afternoon nap – probably dreaming he was in ‘Nam.  Us straightening out things around the table so mom wouldn’t get mad when she got home (she was as bad as he was in her own way – and we’d have to clean THAT mess on up, too, don’t cha’ know!)

anyhoo . . . made things sort of fun and interesting, in a dry detached sort of way.  As long as you don’t look at it too closely  . . . and see those two 8 year olds and 9 year olds (and probably even younger; we don’t remember it ALL – but brother has slowly (albeit unknowingly and oft-times accidentally) filling us in.)

Until later.

Your friend and yours.
Cruzzer & Co (meaning Elvis and Friends, LOL’ing, meaning …

see ya!


Two Brothers
(Tokoni 05/21/2009)


My brother and I are as different as a black-eyed pea and a green pea – both come from pods, but they’re not the same. I used to be fat; he used to be thin. Now the shoe’s on the other foot – he’s turned his six-pack into a keg, while I whittled my keg down to a . . . well, not a six-pack, but my stomach doesn’t arrive before my chest does. He’s dark haired; I’m more of a sandy blond. He’s clean shaven; I’ve got a mustache and sideburns. He’s thin boned; I got thick ones. His eyes are dark, mine blue-green. Not the same at all. We didn’t fight like cats and dogs; that would have been too civilized. No, we fought like . . . vicious human beings, which goes far beyond any animal conflicts I’ve ever seen. And yes – there were times we quite literally tried to kill one another.

My mom says he takes after her side of the family. As for me? I’m the spittin’ image of my dad, only uglier. And, like my mom, my brother’s a bit on the paranoid side whereas I’m a devil-may-care go-get ’em kind of guy who laughs readily in the face of disaster. He believes in trying to control his fate with a constant sense of desperation where I just kinda wait to see what fate throws in my lap, and deal with it then.

It’s always been like that, these striking contrasts between my brother and I. Even going back to when we were little kids – I was the ‘dare-devil’, engaging in stupid stunts, while he tended to lean more towards the conservative side – the ‘safe’ side. Not that he hasn’t had his share of adventures – we both have – but I love to seek them out whereas he would just wait (and worry) over the inevitable, trying to postpone it as long as possible, living the ‘safe’ life of endless work and money-grubbing.

One thing we have in common is that we both joined the Marine Corps when we were eighteen; but where I served a very successful term, he bailed out early, going “UA” (or AWOL for you other military fans) – until they threw him out on his ear. Not that I didn’t give the Marine Corps a hard time – one of my drill instructors said I was the most ‘hard-core’ (meaning ‘bucking the system’) recruit he’d ever met. And while my brother came out of boot camp a “gung-ho” down to the core Marine – me? Not so much. I was a ‘soldier’ before I ever got there. As a lifelong friend who has always known me said: “You are the only person I know who came out of boot camp the same as he went in.” I supposed that says something about my hard-headedness at times. It also says a LOT about how tough I was before I joined; I just came out a bit tougher. That’s the “soldier” part in me, which existed long before I’d ever given any thought to joining that particular organization. I already knew more about making war and surviving; shooting guns and dodging bullets, fighting with knives or barehanded – than the Marine Corps could ever teach me. And that, my friends, tells you something about my past.

When I look at him and I look at me, I can’t help but wonder: Where DID he come from? And I’m know he’s often wondered the same thing about me. (I remember him telling me when we were kids that I was ‘adopted’.) And this goes back to when we were little kids, I’m sure – because I remember wondering just what in the heck HIS problem was – when we were about to get beaten.

It’s become apparent to me this past week after discussing this with my brother that I ‘blocked out’ most of my memories of the ‘individual’ beatings – the ones where my dad would haul one or the other of us into a room and beat the snot out of us. I’ve known since I was little my dad has a cruel and sadistic streak – almost a perversion — though now he keeps it well hidden under that ‘caring Christian’ exterior he’s built up – trying to present one face to the public while . . . well, lets just say I think a weird, sick, and perhaps perverted heart lays beneath (see “Dark Suspicions” for more on that.) With just a few words my brother conjured up a vision I had forgotten – of my dad hauling us up by one ankle, dangling in the air, and then flailing away at us by the belt – over and over again. Far past the point of any ‘pain’ or discipline. I had “forgotten” that, or perhaps just chose not to see it. What I remember are the times we were beaten together, both in the same room. And that illustrates another major difference between my brother and I.

I remember so clearly how those ‘spankings’ would begin. First, the words: “Go to your room.” Second: The wait. Dad would always keep us waiting for a half-hour or so before showing up at the door. (A form of mental torture.) Why did we always close the door immediately after entering the room? I don’t know: perhaps as a form of futile self-protection, since we were not allowed to lock it?

And the difference in how my brother and I would ‘wait’. He would immediately start crying and wailing, as soon as ‘those words’ were spoken. I, on the other hand, was much more stoic. I would just sit there on the bed, waiting, while my brother ran around the room screaming and crying. Tears before the pain? No, that was not for me. I don’t know why. I guess – and looking back, I see that perhaps it is true: I was already “zoning out”, preparing myself for the pain that lay ahead. And there was that other factor: I wasn’t going to give my father the satisfaction of seeing me cry until the pain got so bad I had no choice. And apparently cry I did, for my brother reminded me of how “I could hear you screaming and screaming and screaming in the other room” when I was beaten by myself (something I don’t have anything but the fuzziest memories of.) And it took a lot to make me cry; I was stubbornly resistant to tears; still am, and haven’t cried since I was thirteen – thirty-six years ago. Tears, to me, represented a weakness; they still do, I guess. I know I stubbornly refuse to cry even now, even when, say, writing “Cat Scratch Fever” – which is the closest I’ve been to tears in over a decade. I guess it’s not the ‘soldierly’ thing to do. Not the ‘manly’ thing. I don’t know; the shrinks said it was a bad problem, that I need / needed to learn to cry for myself. But self-pity wasn’t allowed in our family, not at all. It was a punishable offense. I still can not allow pity for myself; nor can I tolerate other’s pitying me. It just drives me crazy (or crazier) and can lead to self-injury. Punishment for the pain, or the pity for the child that once was (and still is.)

But how I remember those ‘dual’ beatings, when my dad would come in, leather belt in hand. Slapping it against his palm. Looking at us – and it gives me shivers, because NOW I can see in his face some perverse pleasure – something my brother (again) reminded me of. “He got off on it,” my brother said last week. “He loved it. I don’t know what made him stop.”

And my brother – how frantic he would become! Have you ever seen a terrified cat locked in a room with a threat right there? How it races around, blindly attempts to climb the walls, dodges in corners and holes – anything to escape the punishment it thinks is coming? That was my brother. And it drove me CRAZY, I swear! I remember begging him before my dad would come in to STOP crying STOP wailing, SHUT up and sit there quiet with me on the bed and WAIT until you are hurt until you begin crying. His crying hurt me emotionally. But he never would. I recall one time my brother diving beneath the bed – then my dad, reaching under – and yes, dragging him out by one foot, holding him in the air, and whaling away at him – with me sitting there, knowing I was going to be next. Looking back now – it reminds me of those shows where there are the prisoners of war sitting in their cells listening to the cries of their comrades being tortured – and knowing they are going to be next. I had at least ten years of this type of behavior; of being in ‘that cell’, listening — no, WATCHING — my ‘comrade’ – my brother – getting tortured while I awaited my turn. It’s no wonder I cracked and went crazy, huh? PTSD – yeah, I reckon that’ll give ya some.

I am sure my stoic attitude was a problem for my dad. It probably meant he had to beat me more and harder to get me to respond – to give him his ‘thrills’ – because I would hold in my tears and screams as long as humanly possible – or at least as long as a child can. My brother, on the other hand, was an easy target – just say the words to him: “Go to your room” and he’d start the friggin’ show. I don’t know which gave my dad the most pleasure.

And the beatings: always the same. “Strip. Drop your drawers.” And you would step out of your pants or shorts because you didn’t want them tripping you up, sending you crashing to the floor. Falling to the floor wouldn’t stop a beating; it only made it worse. I don’t know that we wore shirts – we rarely wore shirts back then, clothes were too precious of a thing for everyday wear. But I do know we’d keep on our underwear most of the time – unless we lost them somewhere during the spanking and beating. And I know I learned early on: face the bed because that first lick WOULD send you flying – and it’s better to hit the bed head first than the wall. Every time.

Yeah, he and I are different – very different. I don’t fear poverty; he does. I don’t fear extreme danger (though I’ve learned to be wary – pain is pain, after all, and without medical insurance, I can’t afford to be hurt.) I can still bear a lot more physical pain than he can. (According to my wife and docs, more than most folks can.) I have literally had chunks of flesh gouged out of me (just like with a spoon) – and I looked down and laughed – and calmly went on working (my wife was like ‘whut the hell?!! Doesn’t that HURT?” But – it merely stung.) Not that I don’t feel pain. I just ignore it better.

My mom likes to tell the tale of how when I was a little child the nerves in my hands hadn’t grown properly, and sometimes she would smell something burning. Going into the kitchen she would find me, my hands on the red-hot burners – just to see what was going on, I reckon. I don’t remember those times. But I’m thinking – perhaps – there were times when I wished that numbness would extend all over my body – sinking inside, perhaps, and taking over my soul.

Becoming completely numb. That’s what it was about sometimes.

And I guess that’s why I became and did and behaved and went crazy, the way I am today. Ever since I was twenty-one, and “The Machine” part of me broke down – I’ve been working on escaping that numbness of mind, soul, spirit and emotion. And, I guess, I’m still working on it now.

Only this time I think maybe I’m trying to breath some life back into that child; that teenager – to feel their pain – the pain they’ve hidden from me – for so very, very long. In order to ‘heal’. After all, as another abuse survivor once told me: “to feel is to heal, and I want you to heal yourself so that you can feel — all the wonderful things that are you.” And, I reckon, she was right on target with that, for I wrote it down, and treasured her very much for all she did for me.

In case you are reading, “Bean” — somewhere out there — this is just to let you know: I’m still working on it, and miss you sometimes. Thanks for all you did.

(Tokoni 05/21/2009)