Go Ahead – Anonymous
I was so excited; I was lying in bed rubbing my feet together. I was up late waiting for Daddy to come home. The next day was my first day of kindergarten, and I knew he would be there to take me to school. I was his baby girl and I was spoiled to death. He always seemed to surprise me with something. I remember one day he picked me up from school, and when I got home he told me to look in the closet. I pulled the door open and there was a cat waiting for me. He was golden with hazel eyes and I loved him dearly. I named him Lucky. At five years old I already knew how he got it. I knew my parents stole and robbed to provide for me. They weren’t afraid to do it in front of me.
When morning finally appeared, so did my daddy. It was time to get ready for school. My mom began to comb my hair, and boy did it hurt! I am mixed with African American, and my mommy, being Caucasian and Latina, didn’t know how to handle my hair. My dad yelled, “Stop, Jamie, you’re hurting her!” My mom demanded he be quiet or comb my hair himself. He took the brush and gave me a matted knot in the middle of my head, but just knowing that he didn’t want me to hurt was good enough for me. Then he dressed me up, making sure I looked just how I liked—girly, in purple and pink. He bedazzled me in jewelry, a plastic polka dot white and purple bracelet, earrings, and rings. I felt like the princesses from one of my books.
Mommy and Daddy didn’t get along too well. Their fights led to things being thrown and broken and Mommy having big bruises. One day when I was four or five they argued about cigarettes. I stood in the doorway, listening to the screaming and cussing, my big brown eyes staring blankly. I shut them tightly hoping I could make everything disappear like a game of hide and seek. But they just kept going, and by the time I opened my eyes, tears were falling down my cheeks. I knew it was over when Mommy threw a shoe at Daddy, and Daddy pounced on her like an angry lion that had gone too long without food.
It hurt me to see my parents abuse each other. It hurt even more that they didn’t consider how my seeing it would affect me later. They didn’t think that one day I would be sitting in class, trying to be successful in a way they never were, and I would get a flash back to their fighting that would make my stomach turn. Soon Daddy stopped coming home. When he would pick me up, he took me to his wife’s house. He never married my mom so seeing him with another woman and hearing him call her his wife was upsetting to my four-year-old heart. To top off my confusion he still kissed my mom and they went in their room, closed the door, and shared each other’s bodies. He was doing this with both women and I began to believe it was a normal way of life. I wanted to have a baby and share bodies with a man just like him.
At five years old I knew too much. I knew my mom was addicted to substances and she couldn’t really be the mother she wanted to be. I knew in order to make it and be happy we had to steal. I knew my mother was lonely and felt like she needed a man. Sometimes I wish I could’ve been enough for her. I knew that Grandma had a drinking problem, and that she was drinking away her whole family that she’d lost in the blink of an eye in the famous Jonestown tragedy. One day I was lying on the couch with my grandma when we got a phone call from my dad. He said, “Mo Mo, Daddy’s in jail, give the phone to Granny.” I didn’t trip; I just knew he would be home soon. What I didn’t know was that that phone call would mark the beginning of his ten-year incarceration.
I became a different person after my dad went away. In middle school I became bitter and violent. I remember my dad used to get into fights on the streets. He always told me, “If someone hits you, hit them back.” Well, I guess I took that to heart, because after he left I started fighting a lot. Every time I fought, my mind went blank and I lost control. I would think about him and I couldn’t feel anything except emptiness and loss.
Around eight or nine years old I started blocking my dad out. I stopped writing, sending pictures, and started dreading his return date. We never had interesting phone calls. When he did call I didn’t even get to hear his voice. It was an operator reading what my dad typed. Then, when I finished responding and wanted his reply, I had to say, “Go ahead, Operator,” so the operator knew I was ready to send the message to my dad. How was I supposed to tell my dad what I really felt through an operator? It was bad enough that the last time I saw him I was seven. My family never had time to take me to see him. They couldn’t find a day to take me for eight years. I began to forget what my father looked like. I didn’t know how tall he was compared to me. I couldn’t even remember what his voice sounded like. Didn’t I have the right to see, speak to, and touch my father during his incarceration?
I have very few memories of you not in jail. I tried to forget them all, but I get flashbacks that I can’t control. I’ll just be sitting here and out of nowhere the memories come seeping in and I can’t get rid of them. One thing that always seems to come across my mind is your and Mommy’s fights, how you guys used to beat each other and go rounds like I wasn’t even there. I remember how Mommy got thrown into the laundry closet and the time you bit her. I remember how Mommy hit you with shoes and clawed at your skin. Those are the things I remember about you, Dad. But I also remember that no matter what type of guy you were to the world, you loved me. Why did you have to be away for so long? Why didn’t anyone realize I need you? Go ahead, Operator.
How was I supposed to connect with you? How was I supposed to tell you that your little girl needed you? You wouldn’t have been able to come. How was I supposed to tell you my mother let a man come in on a whim and take over our whole lives? Or that he didn’t allow me to hang out with my friends? How could I express to you that this man that came in and beat his daughter in front of us? He would be up all hours of the night on the phone degrading my mom and I, saying I was fast because I like make-up and scented lotion. He never failed to remind me I would pay for it one day and he was right, I did. How was I supposed to tell you your little girl was raped at age thirteen on February 16th, by someone she didn’t even know? My innocence was taken away and I’ll never be the same. I don’t know myself anymore, and I always feel dirty no matter how hard I try to feel clean. Ever since then I suffer from stomach pains and the doctors can’t even tell me what’s wrong. Sometimes I feel like drinking and smoking my life away. I needed you, Dad, and you weren’t there. How was I supposed to tell you that, Dad? Go ahead, Operator.
Today you constantly remind me how I’m not the person I used to be. You want me to be this innocent five-year-old, but she never existed. I’m sour and mean and I don’t care. How could I care about anything, when I don’t even know who I am anymore? How can I remain happy and joyful? It seemed like every year of your incarceration you would tell me you’d be out the next year. I got so used to you being away that when you finally came home when I was fifteen, it wasn’t exciting or eye opening or amazing; it was just whatever.
It’s only been four months since my dad got out. But sometimes it still feels like I’m still talking to an operator on the phone. I want to say how I truly feel but I just can’t because I got used to distancing my life from him. When he found out about the things I went through while he was gone, he acted out in anger. His reaction upset me, and he has a hard time coming to terms with that. I know he wants to tell me he’s upset with himself but has too much pride or fear to do so. It feels like he’s a stranger. Being with him feels awkward, like we don’t have much to talk about. It’s like the operator is still here with us transmitting messages.
Dad, even though you’re home it doesn’t feel like you’re my dad. Rebuilding what was broken for ten years is scary, right? Are you scared too? I miss you, Daddy. I missed you then and I miss you right now. Go ahead, Operator.