From the soon-to-be-published book A Prisoner by No Crime of My Own:
Chapter 2 | Delaware Lane
I speak into the silence. I toss the stone of my story into a vast
crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.”
-In The Dream House by Maria Machado
In the summer of 1968, we lived on a small tree-lined street called Delaware Lane, the name reminiscent of a place where families live, and children play freely. But my home symbolized nothing of the sort. I grew up with two older sisters, Lori Ellen and Jamie, and one brother, Marc. We shared cookies, dinner, sodomy, rape, and baths together.
My oldest sister was the embodiment of the eldest child. Overburdened with duty, she lacked luster for life and her thick, dark hair gave no shine. Jamie was slightly unkept as I was, her thin blonde hair as unruly as her pain. Her appearance always alluding to help needed; weak and frail she seemed lonely and afraid. Marc was my partner in crime .
Brothers are synonymous with play and curiosity. He felt limp and hallow to me which left a want in me to protect him. He was two years older but I had some agility that he did not. He was almost odorless as a kid but had a mean streak that he dramatized through me. His bond to no one but my mother would ultimately be his demise. Wanting to rescue him was a theme between us.
He and I kept an attitude that surpassed our dismal beginnings. We dreamed and we loved outside of the box we were given.
Oh, how I remember the sounds on our streets. Children laughing and the happy sounds of the ice cream man — the man who peddled so much joy. Running down that transient source of cheeriness, I heard the sound coming down our lane, a street that can still reckon desire in me. He was coming, but I had to find money to get him. He wouldn’t stop without the wave of a dollar. I had a fair sense of what a dollar was and knew I could find them in my mother’s wallet. Tenacity was a courage that kept me going in those days. If I didn’t display some grit, life would have taken me out, so off I went exploring. It wasn’t difficult because my mother was easy, her habits unchanging. She kept her purse in the same spot. Her eyes always looked the same — dull and distant — and her hair was always piled on top of her head like some sort of trophy. Her breath always remained the same sickening smell of a woman who would take what she wanted at any cost. At last, I discovered the green slip that would stop the man with the music and put into my hands the small pleasure I so desperately needed to bring a moment’s relief to my dismal world. I told him what I wanted, and he handed me an ice cream bar. I remember the day well. Somebody listened to a request I had. However small that deed was, I liked it- maybe more than the taste of that cold, sweet treat. As the ice cream dibbled down my hand, I couldn’t help my mind wandering to the satisfying nature of being seen.
Our little house had a sliding glass door that led to another outside haven — the backyard. It was nice out there. Grass you could run on, a swing set that gave hours of play, and a wooden fence to peer through. Although I don’t remember much about the lady who lived on the other side of the wooden fence, I sure remember my family discussing the size of her body. She was a very large women and it made my parents feel better about themselves to shame her through their mockery. I choose to recall the laughter and the warmth of the sun’s rays beaming across my back as I played. It was a place I could roam undisturbed — well, at least for a while.
I tried to stay out there if they’d let me. There was still light. Light to play by. Light to sing by. Light to be safe under. Why go inside? There was darkness in there. Who, in their right mind, would leave the swings for food? I always thought we should just play there…for a long, long while , held in the arms of the suns warm comfort.
My father was the master of our interior — they called it our home. On his forearm, in simple black ink, was a tattoo of the confederate flag with the letters R E B forged under it. His bloodline needed to be remembered and the indelible lettering under his skin assured that for him. Rebel — it was everything I knew him to be. Some kind of product of the ’50s. Pegged Levis wore him. His white t-shirt embodied the man who spoke with a slow, Southern drawl. Rolled up in his sleeve was often a pack of Winstons — the red box. Dad loved Johnny Cash, but he loved chaos and control more. My father would drink until his legs betrayed him and he was forced to give in, subdued only until his strength returned.
. . . to be continued . . .