My dad was arrested for abusing my little brother in the bathroom of our elementary school.
I’ve never told anyone this story.
Everyone knows this story.
I remember this day clearly. I remember it for the wrong reasons.
It was a special day at school. We got to wear our pajamas and read books on the floor. Those days were a rarity. I knew how to appreciate a good thing.
My mom came and picked me up early. My parents are divorced. My parents lived down the street from each other. They were devoted to keeping us together. It was weird seeing my mom at school. It was not out of the ordinary. I did not know about the story.
The story is about my brother. I don’t remember him being there. I remember leaving school. I remember going home. It seemed normal.
No one thought to tell me what was going on. I guess they thought I already knew. I was a bright kid. I wasn’t Professor X. I was ten. No one told me the story.
Two ladies were waiting for me when I got home. They wore skirt suits with giant shoulder pads. I thought the shoulder pads were ugly. I like fashion. We had to sit at the dining room table. We only sat at the dining room table on Thanksgiving. It was the beginning of March. The women kept asking me if I felt safe in my house. The women kept asking me if I always had someone to talk to.
I answered their questions the way I was supposed to. My dad told me how to answer those questions. He took care of us. He was devoted to God. He knew this day was coming. My dad said bad people wanted to take us away. I didn’t want to be taken away. I was devoted. God loved me. Everything at home was just fine. I didn’t know what was going on. No one had told me the story.
I remember having a cold. I had to take cough medicine. My mom and my older sister went to the grocery store. This was normal. My dad was in jail. That was not normal. We didn’t talk about it. I ate Ramen. I called it porridge.
My dad called on the phone. The kitchen phone was on the wall. It had a cord. I’d twist the phone cord around my finger. I saw people do that on TV.
My dad said that everything was alright. He was crying. He was not alright. I hung up. I was not alright. I threw up on my bed. Regurgitated Ramen looks like worms. Throwing up makes you feel better. I will throw up again in the future.
My brother and I went to school the next morning.
Kids go to school. That’s normal.
We were devoted students.
Everyone at school knew the story. Classmates and teachers talked about what happened. They didn’t talk to me. They talked about me. I was a character. Someone told me their version of the story. I didn’t like it. The central plot was weak and the characters lacked sustenance. They didn’t ask for my version of the story. I don’t have a version. I don’t know the story.
I didn’t have thoughts then. I was too confused. I have thoughts now.
I write in my diary. I try to understand my old self.
I don’t think I should be alone.
My dad was sent hate mail.
The letters were intrusive. People were very invested in the story. They were devoted. My dad read some out loud to me. lt was the worst bedtime story.
I remember the letters. I don’t want to remember the letters. I think about them a lot. One said that I would kill myself by the time I was sixteen. It said I had SEVERE EMOTIONAL TRAUMA. They needed to put that in all capital letters. That was important to their story.
I didn’t say it then, but they were right.
I did want to die.
I was the hot topic of the fifth grade for the next six days. It was a newfound popularity. I never wanted to be popular. I was popular because of a story. I didn’t know the story.
Six days isn’t a long time. All of the attention disappeared.
Three weeks later was my birthday. I had a party. It was at my dad’s house. He was there the entire time. All of my friends came. We had cupcakes with pink and purple frosting. We jumped on the trampoline. My shorts had flowers on them. The sun was out. It was fun.
No one mentioned the story.
There was never any follow-up. The women with the shoulder pads never came back. Were they devoted? Did they believe my lies? I’m a good liar. I’m a bad liar. No one asked me about that day again.
Everyone knew the story.
I turned 12. I told my parents I wanted to kill myself. My mom told me she didn’t think I needed pills to be happy. My dad told me to stop being sad. I went to a psychiatrist. Was she devoted? I’m pretty sure she knew the story. Nothing changes when people know the story. I wanted to go home. My mom took me home.
No one cared about the story.
I don’t remember there being a trial. That was not included in my version of the story. I don’t have a version of the story. The story takes place over three weeks. The conclusion is anticlimactic. There isn’ta conclusion. Everything went back to the way it was before.
I have yet to hear the story.
Everyone knows I am being abused.
I do not know I am being abused.
In school, you’re told that you’re supposed to tell if someone is hurting you. They do not tell you what to do if everyone finds out that someone is hurting you but nothing changes and you still get hurt.
Maybe they don’t know that story.
I hate my life. My life is normal. I think my brother wants to die.
I shouldn’t have lied to the women in shoulder pads.
God hates me.
No one talked about my dad being abusive for another five years. That was when we got to stop living with him. That was when they decided it was ‘too much.’ Things changed. Nothing changed. Was I devoted? I was free. My brain wasn’t free. I have bad dreams. Dreams are only in your head. I was free.
New people had gotten a hold of the story.
I didn’t know I was allowed to be angry.
My dad hinted at his version of the story. It was my seventeenth birthday. We were at a Chinese restaurant. I was eating pizza. I didn’t like his version of the story. I yelled at him. I was devoted. I’m glad I didn’t die. The people sitting next to us were uncomfortable. They looked like they wanted to know the story. I wouldn’t know how to tell them.
Only one time did we try to address the elephant in the room.
“What’s the worst thing that he ever did to you?” my brother asked.
My mom, sister, and I said that we didn’t feel comfortable.
We knew there were worse stories.
We don’t tell stories.
God hates me.
I don’t tell this story.
Too many people know this story.
This story was on the news. You can Google this story. Don’t Google this story. My friends know this story. They don’t know it’s my story. This story changed me. This story didn’t change anything at all.
Sometimes I think about this story. It makes me very sad. I don’t cry. Tears, like this story, don’t mean anything.
I ask myself questions. Would I be a better person without this story? Am I a bad person? Why didn’t I try harder? Why did no one help us? Would I be happier? Is this love? Would I not have anxiety? Do I hate myself? Did we deserve it?
I do not answer these questions.
I had a thought.
If you weave all of the stories together, you’ll get a complete narrative.
I had a realization.
People are shit storytellers.
Samaria is sometimes a freelance writer. She is more fun than this essay makes her appear.