It was a musty afternoon. Little buzzards poked at my exposed arms with their frightening little legs. The sound of barking pierced the air in the backyard. Slapping away the flies, I rubbed the sweat off my face and wandered to inspect the noise coming out of the large, dilapidated shed.
Even though it's always hot where I live, I made sure to have a warm shower this morning. That was never possible at my other grandmother's house. I felt relief at having moved recently to live with my father's parents, it's much nicer. Not as many scary rooms that have nothing but trash and clothes, it felt safer, aside from the shed which was letting out various sounds, the crinkling of ice against a plastic bucket.
My grandmother was filling up a bucket of water and ice and I peered into the dust-ridden shed and saw her preparing it, gulping nervously as I recognised that someone was going to get punished. That room is trouble, there's nothing but old car parts and boxes and the only reason you go in there is to chastise or hurt someone. The dog was dragged through the cracked door and I rushed outside, covering my ears.
Squeals and whimpers were heard and I sighed with sympathy for little Snoopy. Why did he have to suffer an icy bath? Even with his full coat it was obvious he couldn't stand the piercing chill. I learned soon after that Snoopy did sinful things to his mother. It was a foreign concept to me, though I knew already from chattering in school and jokes made by older students that what Snoopy did was a bad thing. Months later as I was petting the pregnant dog, I wondered if the little pups will ever know of their shameful conception.
Snoopy darted back and forth around the backyard, his wet fur dribbling and covering the cement with water and fresh mud. The shed was empty of people now and I crawled into an empty wine barrel, balancing my body over the opening with my legs kicking back and forth against the wood. It's too hot outside now, the sun was blazing and burning my forehead. The shed offered a perfect and cool shade.
"Is anyone around?" it was my brother, he came home after a bike ride with his many older cousins. I pouted and ignored his call, they never invite me to hang out, because I'm the only girl. There are times where I do wish I was born a boy so I could spend more time with my cousins. I only have one girl friend to play with, whereas the boys always come back covered in mud and giggling away over the fun they had. I loathe when they return from their trips.
Davy peered through the window. "Hey, there you are. What are you up to?"
I pulsed in the bucket, kicking my legs down to balance myself and lift my body up to greet him. "N- nothing." I was blushing wildly. He is the oldest cousin, I always felt an aura of maturity fluttering around him, like he was one of the grown-ups. I toyed with my skirt to appear proper and distinguished, even though it was already dirtied with the dust of the barrel. He smiled in amusement, positioning himself on a crumbled box next to me, making sure it was steady enough to sit on.
I have always admired Davy, he's the only cousin who pays attention to me. My brother and my other cousins never acknowledge my existence when they're together and they know it gets on my nerves, yet Davy always stops to greet me.
He's the kindest of them all.
I don't even remember what we talk about half the time, I always just stare into his eyes, his smile meeting mine, moving down and examining the shape of his bumpy face, and observing his recent bit of clumsily shaved facial hair. I've longed to impress him, especially as I've daydreamed about the moment when he will invite me to games and bike rides with the other boys. My head swelled with anticipation, he has the authority. My cousins would definitely listen to him.
It was time for them to go. My relatives always giggle about how I don't kiss goodbye properly. We're meant to kiss each other's cheeks at the same time, though I either peck their ears or the air. As he was about to kiss me goodnight, I readied myself to do it properly. There was an odd smell about him as he brushed his bumpy face against mine; a smell I would unfortunately get very familiar with.
Once again I touched the air.
I've never seen Davy's house before, I don't think I would visit it again after tonight. They were celebrating something, I wasn't aware of what it would be, but I was encouraged by my father to come because of potential fireworks. Maybe the special occasion was the soccer game on television, all the adults were propped on the couch glaring intently at the big screen. I think I was the only kid there except for maybe my brother and some baby that was being cradled by its mother. With nobody to play with, I wandered around the crowd alone.
I tugged at my father's shirt, expressing my boredom. He shrugged as he held his foamy drink and a relative told me to play with my cousins. I wandered about looking for them, noticing a bedroom along the hallway, door opened and some faint light beaming inside.
"Come in", Davy said. I got excited and wandered into the room, standing at the entrance and glancing up at the television attached to the wall, the source of the faint light from before.
"Oh, just a scary movie."
I stared for a while, noticing a woman escaping from a frightening man wearing a hockey mask covered in blood. I jolted and quickly looked away, forcing myself to inspect the room, hoping it'd distract me from the wailing on-screen.
"Is this your room?"
"No, it's my parents'." He smiled peacefully, walking to the other side of the bed away from me.
"Why are you here?"
"I wanted to watch something else, soccer is so boring."
"I know!" I agreed excitedly, bouncing around on the spot I was sitting.
"Come here, there's a better view of the movie over here."
I glanced at the television screen which lay propped up on the wall. It was a challenge to watch and required me to tilt my body up awkwardly. The woman was hiding and breathing heavily, hair covering her face as she fled from the scary man. I would be scared too, he looked menacing, even if his face was hidden by a hockey mask.
He repeated himself. "Come on." I finally wandered up to his side, and he put his arms around me, putting a quick chill down my spine. I looked up at the television screen again, then to the bed, then to the lamp and anywhere else that wasn't my cousin.
The door was wide open and I could still see the adults watching and arguing over the soccer game, though suddenly I could only see their legs from the bottom of the bed. After a slight moment of confusion, I realised I was on the floor, my back rubbing against the prickly carpet, away from sight.
"Don't worry, nobody will see us," he reassured me. I stared at my relatives' legs again, thinking I should rush to my father's side and get out of there. But while my mind wanted to escape, my own legs felt like stone. They lied spread apart and I felt a cold touch against my thighs. I lamented being dressed in a skirt, my underwear so easily pulled off.
People were visible, but they weren't coming. What was he doing to me? I flushed, glancing up at Davey who seemed to have changed from his normal peaceful demeanor to paranoid, his eyes darting back and forth. This must be wrong, why does he seem afraid? I felt something pressing against my crotch, and I chose to ignore it, glancing back to the group of legs, looking for the legs that belonged to my father, then trying to watch the movie only to notice from the angle I was in the television was no longer visible, only the sounds of screams blocking out Davy's mumbles. His fingers stroked me, I continued looking around calmly though my thoughts were frantic.
Screams erupted and I closed my eyes. I heard the voice of someone, but he soon left the room as Davey instructed him to. Could someone have heard? Am I going to be bathed in ice?
It was only my brother, he never came close enough and walked away blissfully unaware of what he was doing to me.
It suppose the woman got caught.
"I love you."
His voice rang in my head as I scrunched up under the shower head. I rubbed the soap against my frail body, feeling a wave of shame engulf my belly with each stroke. He's been doing more to me ever since that night. My father keeps going out of town at night for work and my brother has always been eager to have Davy as our babysitter. Why not? They're best friends!
"This is called 'making love.' You love me, don't you?"
I saw it on the television, an ad for a program explaining "lovemaking" and how wrong it is, with a silhouette of two lovers nestling together until they were eventually off-screen. I'm gonna get the ice, I'm as filthy as a dog.
"Don't you love me? You're making me so sad when you try to run away, you know I care about you. Doesn't this feel nice?"
Love seems so private, like a guilty complex that must remain hidden away from others. Why has my father not done this? Or maybe he can, he has the same thing as Davey does.
"Don't tell anyone, you don't want to disappoint me do you? Please don't tell."
I remember the first time I saw my father exposed was when we were in the changing rooms after swimming in the pool. His door flew open while he was asking my brother to give him soap, and for a split second I saw it. I averted my eyes knowing it was meant to be something private, but it didn't feel so private when I was used to being told to kiss Davey's. Sticky, leathery-looking snake, for a time I was more curious than anything, as he would rest it between my legs and I would see the little hole as I stood. I was able to compare how small my crotch looked in comparison. Those moments of curiosity were rapidly cut short when instead I would view it with revulsion.
"If you tell, I will go away, and I want to be with you."
"I really love you."
I looked into his half-opened eyes as he breathed heavily, a warm fullness burning from inside me. Trying to ignore the pain and welling in my belly, I glanced at the cartoons playing on television. This was my present, he told me I was able to watch the cartoon cats if I let him do this as a reward. I didn't want to waste the gift, though at the same time it felt like I was always giving him the present instead. If that was the only way to let him know I appreciated him searching out for the movie, I should at least let him do it quick.
His hips smacked against mine, and I bit my tongue, trying not to react. I didn't, at this point in time. I just stayed frozen like many of my little dolls. Sighing, I glanced at the television once more. He seems to enjoy doing this, and maybe I've become accustomed to it now. Just a few minutes of warmth, I was almost beginning to accept. We are like the cat couple on television, maybe I belong to him.
The little show playing was just ending, the female cat sat waving from the balcony of her house at her lover who was the leader in a parade, revealing to the audience that they've had children, mewing little babies.
He moaned and breathed heavily ignoring my call, my hair pushing against the bed.
"Davy, that's us right?"
"He has presents," my brother cheered. "He's coming with something for us!"
I wandered out to see Davy closing the door, holding a flat paper bag between his arms. He smiled brightly as he walked to the kitchen, revealing several pop-up books.
With every turn of the page, we were all roaring with laughter. The drawings had hilarious revelations, clever little pop-ups, and puzzles that would convey an amusing aftermath to the various little stories. I giggled wildly and stared at Davey with loving eyes. He smiled back, laughing along the way. It almost felt like I was his little wife, and he was doing his part to keep me happy with entertainment. Whenever I would go to the bathroom to urinate, he would poke his head in, with a concerned expression painted across his face. Nobody else did that to me. It was what my mother and father used to do before they were separated. Despite all the guilt and shuffling around privately, he does seem to love me. Our secret is safe.
"Im almost there, I'm almost there."
I stared up blankly, awakening from a distant daydream. He was always "almost there." He always spoke succinctly, like he was in a hurry. I would feel disappointed that he didn't want to talk, but I felt worse when he would claim he's close but a family member would interrupt him, pushing me away and ordering me to redress myself. He never experienced this feeling that was "almost there," and I felt I have failed. Maybe this is different. I blush with further shame, and stare at his closed eyes.
"Okay, well I don't feel too good… could you finish now?"
Suddenly my eyes widened and I felt a sharp pressure inside me, almost like pushing frosting inside a doughnut. Something began to seep out of my crotch and I blushed wildly thinking I might have wet myself. I jolted up and rushed quickly to the bathroom, wailing with every step.
I stared at my bare little feet while sitting, removing the sticky solution with an endless number of tissue papers. A deep shame filled my face, as well as heavy confusion. This isn't mine, so where did it come from? Did he pee inside me? Has he always wanted to pee inside me? I was furious.
Davy poked his head through the ajar door with a concerned look in his face, the worried husband charade again. "Are you okay?" he cooed. I glared at him, my cheeks flaring. "You peed on me!" I wailed, "you did this on purpose, how could you! I hate it! It's filthy!"
"You're such a jerk!"
"I'm really sorry, I won't do it again, I promise. Don't be mad."
"There's more and more coming out, it won't stop!"
He had a pathetic look in his eyes, frowning and constantly looking back and forth for anyone that might hear my protests. I felt kind of powerful, like an angry wife scolding her partner, and it seemed he regretted it. Maybe he does love me? He said he would stop.
His later visits would sadly prove otherwise. With every breath of apology, I grew more and more resistant. Broken promises, constant shame whenever I remembered that area between my legs, fear that I would tell on him. I could curl up naked in the shower, looking at the droplets hit the tub, constantly feeling down there if there was any more ooze coming out. My crotch was sore, and I felt miserable giving it more attention.
I wanted to die, because a part of me felt like I asked for it, the part that thought he wanted to spend his life taking care of me. These promises of love, lovemaking, attempts to kiss me, mutilated and disfigured like an aborted monster twitching and bleeding, waiting to be discovered. The biggest shame was that it felt like I should enjoy the attention, enjoy the company. It wasn't really that much of a fairy tale to begin with.
And still he continued.
"Can we not do this?"
"But don't you love me?"
"Come over here, please."
"Get over here now, I'm just gonna talk to you."
"I don't want to!"
I darted back and forth between the tables, like a game of cat and mouse. Boldly, I noticed enough of a gap to rush towards the door, leaping towards the handle to open it to freedom. Locked. I struggled to unlock it in time to escape, but no. Not today. He pulled me and I clung to the door like my life depended on it. No. Not again. The first time I truly tried to escape and with no results. He was claiming his prey.
Like a rag doll, he ripped me away from my safety and carried me under his arm to the bedroom. I kicked and whimpered, repeatedly giving him different ideas of things to do. A movie? Bike riding? Looking at the newborn puppies? Anything that isn't lovemaking? Please?
It was the first time I genuinely felt a burning sensation, like my body was being ripped open. I begged for it to end, I was sick of it, sick of him, I wanted to tell, but I couldn't. I didn't want people to hurt him or take him away, I didn't want them to hurt me. The water and ice, Snoopy's yowls. I didn't want it to be me. How can I decide for it to end? How? Is the only solution for me to shut down and distract myself from his touch? Is that how a couple is meant to function?
"So how old are you?"
"Sixteen," he wheezed.
I looked at the ceiling, feeling the numbness again. The emptiness of a doll again, waiting to rest after an exhausting game. I wondered if dolls counted the minutes, distracted themselves with smalltalk, wondering what the owner would do to them next.
"I guess that means we're eleven years apart?"
"Why are you so quiet?," my father asked as he dressed me. I frowned and glanced at the fuzzy television screen, kicking my little shoes together. I know it was another one of those days, my father had to leave to work in another state at night, returning long after bedtime. I knew the babysitter, the perfect circumstance. Worst of all was how easy it has turned out to be.
"I don't really want to wear this," I pleaded.
"You look very pretty in this, sweetheart. You're a beautiful girl so you should wear only the best clothes!"
He twirled me around in my short little denim dress, the skirt raising up slightly in the air. I pulled it back down and adjusted my overalls. I did feel very pretty in it, but I also felt exposed. My father left soon after, leaving Davy to watch over my brother and I. I clung to my brother tightly.
"Why don't we play a game?," my brother said excitedly. He tugged at Davy's arm, smiling brightly at his best friend. I looked down and shuffled my feet. "There's a bunch of empty suitcases in the living room, maybe we can get in them and pretend that we're sailing in a boat," Davy explained, glancing at the luggage propped up on the carpet. I froze counting the number. If only there were more than two.
"So who is going in the suitcase?," asked my brother.
"Well, you can always take the smaller one," Davy said. My brother smiled and wandered over to the littler suitcase. I felt like my legs were melting in the same spot. "I guess we have to share," Davy said, grinning towards me.
I quickly rushed to my brother and pulled at his arm. "Maybe I can go in the little suitcase!," I pleaded. My brother looked annoyed. "No, you're little. You'd fit better in the bigger suitcase with Davy, me and him would be cramped."
"No, you wouldn't! We're the same size!"
"That's stupid. Just go to the bigger suitcase."
"Can we share, then?"
"The suitcase isn't big enough!"
"Come on, please… I just wanna be with you."
"Why are you making this hard? I wanna play the boat game now!"
I stared at the floor and then at Davy, who looked at me with disappointment. I didn't want to annoy my brother, and I felt a tightening in my throat. My head began to swell, I didn't want to play this game, but I didn't want to make a scene. He already looked suspicious, could my brother see it in me? Could he see what a shameful person I've been and what I've become? I frowned and wandered towards the larger suitcase, crawling inside first and sealing my fate.
I felt like I was trapped. It was a terrible feeling to not only know my secret was meant to be kept away from others, but that my whole body was buried away from the world in a package, with the only person to hold being the one I loathe the most. He quietly signaled for me to remove my underwear as he explained to my brother outside the suitcase about the game again. I obeyed, feeling the cold material touch against my exposed hip. I tugged at the underwear lying against my shoes, wishing it wouldn't be so easy.
My brother remained oblivious, it was just a cool new game to play. Davy knows what's going on, and I wish I could tell others, as he clutches me close to him hiding his moans so my brother doesn't feel suspicious.
"And the boat continues to sail for hours…"
"When are we arriving at the island, Dave?"
"Nghh, no we are stranded in the sea… We just have to float…"
My brother rocked his suitcase side to side, I could barely hear it from outside my cell, instead just feeling Davy's warm and rapid breaths, a deep moistness filling the confines. I gasped for fresh air, but he pulled me closer, preparing to finish.
I yearned and prayed for the game to end. At last I crawl out of the suitcase, wailing and screaming, rushing to the bathroom to clean myself once more. He still suspects nothing, I don't want my brother to know. He just assumes I am being a crybaby who peed herself. I guess that's better than being a whore.
This game again.
Why don't you just stop.
Why don't you realise that I don't like it.
You've expressed fear about me telling on you, and expressed fear when I refuse your advances, yet when I don't want to continue playing you won't allow me to be free.
Once again I pleaded with my brother to be in the suitcase with him. At one point in a past boat game, I even crawled out of the suitcase and knocked on my brother's suitcase, asking to be let in. It was only welcomed with a snarky response, to return back to Davy, and in the pitch black I would begrudgingly feel my way back to my fate.
They were preparing the game and I crawled in the suitcase. Davy was talking outside with my brother about the game and I sat inside, having already been instructed to take off my panties. I sat and closed my eyes, waiting. Fidgeting. Nothing but muffled noise, it was coming soon. He was going to join me inside the luggage, his body was going to be pressing against mine. His sticky solution was going to cover my bottom and thighs. I didn't want it, I didn't want any more of it. I quickly pulled up my underwear just as I heard Davy explaining that he was going to extend the game for the entire night and with my trembling voice, out came the words I always yearned to say.
"Por favor, no quiero que me hagas el amor…"
There was a deep silence. My brother quickly revolted into a fit of giggles and pointed to me. "Ah-HAH! I knew there was something you guys were doing!"
He clearly didn't know what I meant, but at the time I thought he did know. I thought my brother thought I was acting like a baby again because I wasn't giving myself to my older cousin, to the one that knows better. My eyes flooded with tears and with deep shame, I ran out the door into the yard where I was met by the night sky.
It felt like my life was over, there was nothing I could do. Everything is over, people will find out and I will be cast out into a sea of darkness. I couldn't even begin to imagine what might happen other than eternal darkness, at five I already felt like it was over. This is what I was made to accustom to for the past year, it felt like it was going to continue until I would grow old.
I didn't want to die, I didn't want my life to be over, so I quietly wandered back to apologise. Maybe I could set things to the way they were again. I would rather suffer than be taken away.
LEAVE US ALONE.
YOU'RE SUCH A JERK.
YOU'RE A BABY, GO AWAY.
I jolted back and shut the door, there was no retribution for me, no way to be forgiven for what has happened. What were they talking about? Why do they hate me? Did Davy tell my brother bad things about me? Did he not protect me? I once again made my spot on the steps, wiping the tears off my face and readjusting my underwear.
It was especially beautiful that night. The sky was gorgeous and blue, a mix of purple, the stars were clear. I pondered about the beauty of space, how long it would take to reach a star and poke it, if a star would ever be close enough for me to really observe. I smiled to myself, thinking about how pleasant it felt to be alone and free for just one moment to think. To dream and hope and wonder without interference. Maybe I won't die after all, maybe everything will be alright. Maybe I will grow up one day, wander through a park in a frilly white dress, have long brown hair, and maybe have a husband by my side. Maybe my husband will truly love me, love me in the way my father does. Hold my hand, laugh at my jokes, smile and be enthralled by my drawings and ideas. Maybe we will have a picnic, and I will sit peacefully amongst the grass, making a sandwich. Maybe I will go to school tomorrow, learn not to wet the bed anymore, learn not to keep picking at my skin and removing flesh. Most of all, I hoped this guilt that haunts me in the night, the guilt that creeps behind me every time I have a moment to think to myself, the guilt of wearing those open frilly clothes, the guilt of knowing I'm keeping a secret from those that truly love me, maybe that guilt will be gone.
My head swelled. I wondered how this night would truly end.
Suddenly I heard the door creep open, my father was back from work. Could it have been so late? I got up and walked towards him, he stared back in confusion, wondering why I hadn't tucked myself into bed yet. I just hugged him, I gave him the biggest hug I have ever given. He put his arm around me, and I felt safe. A touch I truly trusted, not a touch that would hurt me.
He held my hand and walked towards the door to greet my cousin and brother. They gave their goodbyes. My father looked at him with trusting eyes. I felt sick. My head began to pound.
He still doesn't know.
Maybe it's over because of what my brother heard. But no, I have to tell him myself. I have to tell him everything.
Telling him gave me strength. I wondered why I didn't do it sooner.
My father has never hurt me, my father will set things right.