I don’t know if I have shared about my past writing yet. I have: hand written in a journal, started an email chain, as well as a document on my computer. Each time, I have gotten to this point in my story. I have stopped. I don’t know how to write about this time in my life. This next phase is really hard to write about. These memories are dark, sad, and lonely. This is when the “bad” stuff started happening. I am twelve years old.
Suddenly, I am noticing changes. I am growing up, and getting more responsibility. I want to be in charge. I long to boss my brother around. He is always annoying me. Mom and Dad go to work, and Samantha is in charge, but she tells me it is really both of us. Which is really great. I am not too close with Jenn anymore. She is ignoring me a lot, and hanging out with the older girls. Our family visited them at the apartments, and she had a lot of new friends. They were all older. She said she was going to parties. I was envious of the way she seemed so grown up. Jenn was wearing belly shirts and baggy jeans. She had a cute stomach and was getting attention from guys. Anytime I wore anything like that I got in trouble for trying to act older. I want the attention that she is getting. At school, I am constantly getting in trouble for the way I dress. Every morning I would show Mom my clothes. I never wore anything without her approval. Even with Mom’s okay, I was getting in trouble. I was feeling more and more frustrated. I did not know what to do. I was running out of options for clothing, and Mom and Dad didn’t have money to buy more clothing. I was mad at Mom for telling me that my clothes were appropriate when clearly they weren’t because I kept getting in trouble about my clothes. I voiced these frustrations one day at school. I was fed up. It was then that two of the adult female teachers took me for a ride in a car. Maybe I was making a scene. We drove around for a long time and they bought me a mint milkshake. They talked to me about how it was normal to be mad at my Mom. And that it was sin. That I needed to confess to the sin, repent, and submit to authority. I found myself continuing to be confused and angry. When the car ride was over, the teachers decided that my will had not been broken. Their conclusion was that I must not be saved. The prayer that I had said when I was seven had been false. I didn’t really see that I was a sinner, so now I must be shown. This began the long process of having my sin pointed out, me confessing every little thing that I thought was sin, and them deciding whether or not I truly believed that I was a sinner. I was only allowed to wear skirts to the ground, and baggy shirts. I was not allowed to go to youth group with Jenn, I had to stay in kids group. Meanwhile, Jenn was getting her ears pierced, wearing makeup, and walking around in belly shirts. What I don’t understand is why they still had me helping with Sunday School. There was a church bus that drove around on Sunday morning picking up kids. Samantha and I would organize the games and songs. We would sing and play with the kids on the bus during pick up and drop off. If I was such a sinner, why was I being allowed to help in this way? I lived in constant fear that someone would find out what a fake I was. The woods at home were my solace. I would swing on the rope swing, and take long walks. I would pick apples from the trees and blackberries from the vines. I would take a book and sit on the front porch of the old house. That was my spot where no one could see me. There were no windows in the house or the trailers that pointed that way. I loved our dogs. They became my best friends. Mom and Dad bought a puppy and we named him Sam. He was a black fuzzy thing. I would sit and read while petting Sam or Lady. I would look out over the valley and breathe in the beauty. Then it was time to go sort trash.
For some reason, we didn’t have trash service. So Brother and I would, every night, go around to each house, gather up trash bags, and take them to the barn. Occasionally, Samantha’s brother Mike joins us. He helps a little. I think he has a nice smile. I feel him watching me. This is kind of the attention that I want from boys, but not so much from him. Samantha is my friend, and I feel weird getting attention from him. Once in the barn, we would open the bags and sort them according to: recyclables, food trash, and waste. Dad would take the piles to the dump when they were big enough. I would be so nervous each night walking around the trailers. M Pastor would sit by the window just above where the trash bag would lay. Most nights, he would have some choice words for me. Asking if I had confessed any sin that day. Or he had heard something I had said or done. If I had been acting too happy out of authorities presence, then someone would tattle on me. I had a big head I suppose, thought I could be sneaky. Brother would always say he had to go to the bathroom during the gathering time. This always pissed me off. One time I waited for him, but he was taking too long and I was afraid I would get in trouble for picking the trash up too late. I know he was avoiding M pastor, but I didn’t want to be the one to always get in trouble. I was losing my reserve. When Brother would finally come out to the barn, I would explode. I would yell at him in a way that was not fair. I was venting, letting out my anger at everyone, toward him. It was not fair, I would be blinded with rage. I love Brother. The anger split us apart.
The school moved upstairs at the church. Finally, no more basement. I loved the windows Dad had installed. So much light, I felt like I could breathe. Our desks were lined up against the walls. Younger kids on the right and older kids on the left. The teachers made sure to let me know that just because I was on the left, didn’t mean I was part of the “older” kids. I was still an immature sinner. An unrepentant one. I was sitting next to a W boy. Ted. I felt no threat with him. Until one day, he reached under the desk and grabbed my leg. At first, I did not know what was happening. I thought it was an accident. Maybe he had dropped his pencil. But then, no, he would really drop his pencil. Then look under the desk. I knew it was not an accident. He was trying to look up my skirt. He was grabbing my leg. I don’t understand this. Wasn’t I in enough trouble? What do I do? At first, it was quick. If I just sat still and didn’t draw attention to anything, then there would be no trouble. But after a week or two, his hand would linger. I was afraid. What was happening? Renee was the prettiest girl in school. Why did he want to do this to me? I was the one they were making wear ugly clothes. I was the evil sinner that would not submit to their ways. I am sure this is my fault somehow. Maybe I had smiled at him wrong. I would avoid him at all costs. Sometimes, the school kids would come to our house. Dad was leading a school project of restoring an old boat. The project was pretty cool, I did not like the way that Ted would look at me. He looked at me as if he was imagining what I looked like naked. This was not the attention I had wanted from guys. I didn’t want him at my house. I felt violated. He would sit next to me in the school van, and grab my leg. He was getting brave. I was afraid someone would see. I did not want to get in any more trouble.
It is my thirteenth birthday. I’m still in trouble. Mom and Dad had always told me that I would get my ears pierced when I turned 13. I have been excited to turn 13. I am telling everyone. I know I’m still in trouble, but I hoped that Mom and Dad would keep their promise of ear piercing. At the end of my thirteenth birthday, the two pastors along with Mom and Dad pulled me aside. They told me that I had a big head because I told everyone it was my birthday. I was still in a lot of trouble, and I shouldn’t forget that. “You are going to Hell because you don’t have Jesus in your heart. You need to figure it out.” I didn’t get my ears pierced. I went home with a heavy heart. Jenn had gotten her ears pierced a few months ago. I was so jealous. I am forgetting what birthdays used to be like. Planning slumber parties, cake, and presents. They are fading away. Mom and Dad don’t have time/money/energy for that anyway. If I had a party, I am sure I would get a big head for all the attention and presents I would receive. This way there was one less thing to get in trouble about.
I am under the microscope, being called back to the office at least once a day. Sometimes multiple times. The teachers feel like I am giving them attitude. Possibly I am. One good thing about the office, I don’t have to worry about Ted grabbing my leg under the desk. Going to the office is usually the same script: What am I mad about? I don’t know. Start naming things. I always say the wrong things. Eventually, they tell me what I am mad about. I apologize, I try to make it right. It can’t be made right, because I didn’t even see it, they had to tell me. I leave feeling frustrated and hopeless. I am weary. I head back to my desk, and Ted grabs my leg. His hand is starting to creep higher. I can’t take it anymore. The next time they call me back, I will tell them exactly why I am upset. The next day, this is it. The day I will tell the truth. Sure enough, I get called back to the office for saying “so” to a teacher when asking a question. (I should mention that my Mom and Dad were both teachers at the school. On this day, neither Mom nor Dad were volunteering.) As expected, they ask what I am mad about. I tell them, Ted is grabbing my leg under the desk. A teacher immediately leaves the room and returns with Ted. The principal (who is also the W pastor, Ted’s father) asks Ted if he is grabbing my leg under the desk. Ted laughs and says “no”. The M pastor enters the room. Someone must have told him what I said. They tell me that Ted is dating the prettiest girl in school, why would he grab my leg? They tell me that we are all going out into the school room. In the schoolroom, they tell me to stand in front of everyone. They ask Samantha to stand in front of everyone. Samantha’s desk is on the other side of Ted’s desk. I am immediately feeling awful. I feel like I am going to puke and my face feels tingly. I am standing on the left of the W pastor and Samantha on the right. W pastor asks everyone “Who here thinks that Samantha is prettier than Erica?” Everyone raises their hand, including Ted. “Who here thinks that Erica is prettier than Samantha?” No one raises their hand. Silence. “Thank you, back to work.” I am not allowed back to work. I am told to go back in the office. I am in big trouble. Everyone is yelling at me, I am crying. They tell me I am not breaking. I am lying about things. I am feeling like the worst type of sinner and there is no way out. I am feeling mad. I am frustrated. I feel betrayed. By everyone. I hear the downstairs door open. I hear footsteps on the stairs and then the rapid tap tap tap of heels and I know it’s Mom. They have called her from work to come get me. I am instantly overcome with guilt. Does this mean Mom won’t get her full paycheck? I am costing the family money with my problems now. Will this ever end? I am spiraling. I don’t hear what they say to Mom, I just want to leave.
The car ride home. Mom is silent. I don’t know what she is thinking. I have always cherished our car rides together. It is a time for us to talk one on one. Now it is different. My neck feels tingly. I don’t know what to say. I feel like crying but I have cried so much there is nothing left. We get home and Mom tells me to go to my room. I do not argue. I am exhausted. I hear Dad come home. Then Mom and Dad talking on the phone. I know they are talking to the pastors about the scene I caused today at school. Mom comes to my room and tells me to come out and talk with her and Dad. Mom and Dad didn’t spank me much. This time they did. Mom spanked me just a few times. I barely felt it. I felt numb inside and out. After the spanking, I went back in my room. I heard them talking on the phone again. That evening, I went silently about my chores and dinner. I went to bed feeling hopeless. I had no clear thoughts. I knew I couldn’t do anything right, and now it was affecting the family. I felt like a poisonous person and that I was destined for Hell. I looked over at my precious baby sister sleeping. I am over come with emotion. I think of Brother, and the terrible way I yell at him. I am the worst. What can I do?