Early On - with edits

Phil had to choose wisely when it came to “fighting” – or trying to break me down.  It didn’t work to call me names, or disrespect me in public.  I would do it right back, only faster and more vehemently.  Not that I was all that patient, or controlled back then. But I did believe “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.” It became my motto.  It became a game.  If he treated me badly, I would find the most inopportune times to embarrass him while he was with his friends or colleagues, or I would ask “innocent” questions that I knew he couldn’t answer.  I couldn’t help it. If there was anything all that psychotherapy taught me in high school, it was that I really was worthy, that I had a brain – and could fight back.

Because you know, I thought I was in love.  And if you’re in love, you try and work things out, right? Nothing else matters. And he counted on that.  I mean, even after my mother found out that her husband had been getting drunk and sneaking down to my room at night, she still stayed.  Even after she found out his little brother had been sexually abusing me since I was eight, she still stayed.  For ten years, she stayed – and made everyone’s life miserable. Including mine.

How fucked up is that?

Juxtaposition.  The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.  Or so says Google. 

It’s 1982. Imagine a girl riding her bike in the surburbs. She’s sporting long blonde hair, a pair of 1970’s sport shorts with white piping and those blue striped, knee high athletic socks.  Maybe she’s a bit developed for her age. Maybe, even at the tender age of 14, she could pass as 16, or even 18, and with a wink and a nod, be able to get in to see her favorite heavy metal band (flogging molly) at some local dive.

Tooling around on my bike was a favorite pastime. Hanging out at my girlfriends house, making up dances to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” – getting in jealous girlfriend fights, sneaking out at night, making out with the most popular boy in the hideout – these are things, the good things that I remember. 

These memories are only marred by a white van pulling up beside me one late afternoon.  The one guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window, wondering if he could ask me a question.

I agreed. With caution.

The van door open, and inside sat an older lanky fellow. Not too much older, mind you. He had longish auburn hair, and a prominent nose.  He wore the brightest smile, and a pair of shorts that were so short, his rather mature, hairless sack of balls were hanging out. 

The passenger guy started asking me a question about “Where could he find…?”

I could only stare at the saggy testicles.

It was probably 20 seconds before I realized something really, really bad could happen here.  I looked up at the passenger and began to engage his conversation, before suddenly darting off on my bike.

Without finishing my sentence.

Imagine.

Some place outside Rockford there was this amazing shopping mall. Twenty-five years ago it may have been brand new, I remember it practically sparkling – beckoning shoppers to come in and spend their hard earned cash at places like The Limited, or Montgomery Wards.  Old Ghost took me shopping, which meant looking – not really buying anything – as I imagine he had to keep up with his façade of being penniless. He did however, offer to spring for me to record a song at one of those one-off retail studios. You could pick a song, then record the vocals track and receive a cassette tape of your rendition.  Having no vocal training at all, I of course chose the most difficult song to perform, Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” – it was off key, and a little warbled, but I was proud of myself to even have attempted it. Looking back I wondered if it was also some kind of unconscious message to OG. The lyrics are quite poignant.  He was a musician, you see. A pretty good guitarist, and I wanted desperately to help him write songs. At that point in our relationship, however, I wondered why we were even together. I had felt awkward around his older friends, older friends that had children my age.  Indeed, there was this aura of animosity coming from most of the people we met. Old Ghost didn’t seem to care at first, but I could feel it wherever we hung out.  After a year or so, we stopped hanging around his friends so much. I had gained 20 pounds since high school, and was weighing in at about 170, so thought that’s what it was. But the truth was, he was 34 years old, and even though I was 20 – I looked like a chubby 16 year old. Something that I think he secretly liked.

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