September 25, 2016

Surviving a House of Horrors: a Love Note to my Sister, my Savior.

Author's own, not for reuse


I started admiring you at a young age. I remember your silky black hair, almost always in a bob with bangs. You had a funny sense about you; my first partner in crime.

My favorite memory with you is turning our bedroom into a Barbie pool party. We worked hard, quickly filling huge pots with water to dump on the bedroom floor. Our quiet, wet pitter-patters moved back and forth from the kitchen to our room as the babysitter slept peacefully on the couch. That will always be the best pool party I’ve ever attended, despite Mom’s unwillingness to understand our creativity in that moment.

My earliest memories, though none my favorite, all go back to the white house on Lincoln Street—the house we now both dread. That house was not haunted, but it was undoubtedly filled with horror. You taught me that hiding was important to escape the horrors. You took me into a dark closet to play marbles or let me on the top bunk to cuddle when things got scary. They were often scary.

You always closed the door and found ways to protect me from fear and muffle the noises. Muffle the pounding. Muffle the sound of an open-fist connecting to Mom’s face. Muffle the whimpering and crying. It became second nature to hide every time he got angry at her.

As we both grew a little older, so did his addictions. Hitting Mom wasn’t the only vice he surrendered to. His outbursts became more blatant, more difficult for you to shield me from. His fits of rage increased. I remember when he threw a plate of spaghetti at the wall and proceeded to beat Mom for what felt like an eternity. The walls shook in our room. Once it stopped you rushed out to console her. Blue, smashed ceramic lay all over the kitchen floor. I couldn’t tell which stains were blood and which were spaghetti. I had a spelling test the next morning and threw up on myself before school thinking of the blood. Mom thought it was because I didn’t want to take my test.

I felt confusion as we sat across the table from him days later, in the same kitchen. Why was this monster back? Is he hurting Mom tonight? She always forgave and he always came back. It ended the same way every time—tears, blood, and if he hadn’t smashed the phone, the police. This sad excuse for a man caused my first bouts of anxiety, but you were always there to cheer me up with barbies and Selena music.

You taught me what it meant to have faith.

You were brave, and always beautiful. Somehow, you managed to maintain your humor. You’d dance around in embarrassing clogs and sing to us when he wasn’t around. The day he hurt you too—the day you were trying to protect Mom—was the day I knew you had superhero strength. You jumped onto his back to distract him and he shoved you into the coat rack. I looked up at you through the cracked closet door. Dark, red blood dripped down your face, but you were not defeated. You stopped him that time, and you were a warrior. I knew you’d keep me safe, and you did.

When he finally went to prison, I considered you my savior. I don’t think I’ve ever told you that.

Fourteen years later, you and I had our own drunken screaming match in your kitchen. I blamed Mom, you blamed him, and after lots of whiskey we mostly just started blaming each other. The little girls inside of us, years and years later, were still seeking answers to our tragedy. We rarely discussed our childhood. Memories like ours aren’t happy; they’re memories we want to forget. Being robbed of innocence at a young age shaped us into mistrusting, insecure creatures with a deep fear of abandonment. That robbery, however, shaped us in a lot of other ways as well.

We’re both loyal because we know what deception and pain looks like firsthand.

We are understanding and compassionate to humans and animals because we’ve experienced a beaten and broken soul.

We’re independent and self-sufficient.

Though its taken a while, I now understand that I was so young, and your memories far exceed mine. You were the invisible thread that held our family together. You were the beacon. You were Mom’s rescuer and my protector—two extremely difficult roles to fill, but you did. You taught me fundamental morals that will never fade.

You wear the scar he gave you on your face every day, and I hope when you look in the mirror, you see it for what it is:

The symbol of a survivor.


Author: Raquel Reyes

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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