You Don’t Know My Shame (revisited)

“Don’t look at me with disgust in your eyes. If you don’t know my name, then you don’t know my shame.”

My memory goes back to early days and I see it all. It comes in flashes like photographs being snapped. The music playing, something about “flashlight” and Momma laughing and dancing. The smoke, the smell that floated the room, and made my eyes burn. The more it burned the louder they became. I was in my crib all the time watching them. They never talked to me, they just partied as if I wasn’t there.

Momma sleeps all day. I want to eat, I want to play, I want to be loved but she won’t get up, and all I do is cry. She wakes up mad, not to feed me but to knock me across the room.

“Shut the fuck up little bitch, I ain’t cooking for no crying ass baby, not a damn thing.”

I cry harder, even though I’ve heard this before.

“Stupid child. Keep pissing on yourself  funky. Get your stankin’ ass away from me.”

Nobody ever showed me how to use the bathroom and my soiled underwear were stuck to my skin like another part of me. My privates burned. And my tears were dry. All I wanted was my Momma. I saw her there,  but she wasn’t present.

My stomach was a ball of rubbles, but food was never around. I was so hungry, I started eating the walls. It was chalky, and not that good but I ate it until my stomach burned, and the colored warm liquid running down my legs was my normal. I found a can of beans one day, and tried to cut the can open with a knife. I remember a big commotion and a lot of blood. Screaming followed by fire trucks and police men. Where is momma? I’m laying on a firm bed with clean white sheets. My hand is bandaged,  and a lady in a white uniform says that I had sliced the tip of my finger off real good with a butcher knife. Yes I remember the pain, the blood gushing out, and then I faded away.

I’m staying with Miss Odessa now. She is Momma’s friend. She agreed to take me for a while because Momma wasn’t doing right by me.  Miss Odessa is a big woman and she is full of love and hugs and smells of Johnsons baby powder. She feeds me until my stomach aches but, I can’t stop eating. I learned how to use the bathroom and count from one to one hundred. I love the warm bubble baths and the clean underwear I get every night. Life was good with Miss Odessa and then,  Momma came back. She begged Miss Odessa to take me back saying, “she’s my only daughter Odessa, and a girl child needs to be with her momma.”

Miss Odessa reluctantly agreed, she didn’t want to but Momma’s threats reminded her that she didn’t have no real claims to me.

“Ella, If you take this child from here, you bets do right by her. You got ta feed and bathe her, and give her some love. I see you all fixed up girl, with your fine suit and hat on, and you got a shiny new ring on your finger which I’m assuming it means you got a new man in your life. That’s good I guess, a woman needs a man in her life, but you come strutting up in here uprooting this child like this, you sure better do right by her because next time they might lock your behind up in the jailhouse.”

Momma grabbed my hand and gave Miss Odessa a “bitch please” kind of look. I didn’t want to go with Momma even if I still loved her. As we walked up the dirt road, I looked back until I couldn’t see Miss Odessa no more. My eyes were full of puddles as I waved goodbye to the only somebody who ever showed me any kind of love.

This new man of Momma’s is a scary creature. He smiles all the time, and his smile stretches the full length of his face. Momma picks me up and plants me on his lap and says,
“Baby, this here is your new daddy. He’s gonna take care of us. Look at Momma’s pretty ring. He loves us, but he loves me best, ain’t that right Rufus baby.”

Momma drops a wet kiss on my new daddy’s lips and his tongue shoots down her throat and they continue to kiss for what seems like forever. While he is kissing Momma, his hand travels up my dress and down my panties. I jump off his lap and I quickly stood behind momma. Momma pushes me away and tells me to go into the kitchen and eat the box of cereal on the counter while she takes care of Daddy Rufus. I watch them leave and I sit there at the table with my dry cereal.

The room Momma has me in is more like a closet. I’m sleeping on a cot, and there isn’t any room to play or even stretch. I hear a sound like daddy Rufus is beating Momma’s brains out with a belt. It confuses me, because Momma seems to enjoy it. I hear her saying,

“punish me Rufus, that’s right Daddy, I deserve it.”

I drifted off to sleep and woke up suddenly to the sound of heavy breathing and a hand covering my mouth. Even in the dark, I could see that wide smile and I sure hoped he wasn’t about to whoop me like he did momma.
“Little girl, Daddy got a special treat for you. You do good and I will get you some candy tomorrow and maybe a quarter.”
I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t right. I knew I hurt all over. I couldn’t make a sound. He said something about igniting my passion. I didn’t even know what that meant. I closed my eyes tight and dreamed of death. Flowers, caskets, and death. I prayed for it all night, but death did not come.

It was always the same. I ate dry cereal everyday, unless Daddy Rufus gave me a special candy treat. I could barely walk anymore. Something was wrong in my private area. At night,  he came to my small room and breathed heavy and jugged, and pushed on me some more. I always tried to die. I could see the cssket, see me laying in it. The desire was so strong but try as I might, death would not come. If I can’t die, I have to tell Momma so she can make him stop. I told Momma about what her new Daddy had been doing to me every night. I waited for momma to throw him out. To beat him upside the head with a frying pan or something, but she turned to me.

“You little slut bitch. Tried to come in here and take my man, what the hell would he want with your stankin’ ass huh? Lying whore. I’m getting you the hell out if my house. And you not going back to Odessa, you going to the state. I regret the day your ugly ass was born.”

After Momma gave me up to the state, it was one foster home after another. I spent most of my days in fear and isolation, followed by anger. In this world, fighting is a must. The other kids in the group home, or foster home all seemed to fight over territory. I wasn’t a fighter,  but I sure learned quick.

School was a new challenge. When I was with Momma, I never went to school. Reading and writing never made since to me. Everytime I tried to read, a whole bunch of noise would start in my brain. Voices. The voices were so loud that I would often scream, “SHUTUP”. The teacher would then move away from me without bothering to help. Speaking of these voices in my head, they became harder and harder to turn off. When I found out nobody could hear them but me, I felt special. Special enough until the doctor told me I was clinical crazy, and I had to start taking these weird little pills. I took the pills, but the voices continued to make noise anyway. School still made no sense, and I was teased and called dummy so much that I believed that to be my real name.  Speaking of my name, I didn’t even know common things about myself like my last name or my date of birth. I guess I really was crazy and stupid like Sister Inez at the group home told me.

I was thirteen the first time I ended up pregnant. I was living with a married couple named Clarence and Gertrude Simmons. The Simmons didn’t have any children of their own, but told me they had raised many children through the foster care program. If I played my cards right and minded my manners and gave them no trouble, I could live there until my 18th birthday. It seemed easy enough to do, but I didn’t know playing my cards right meant allowing Mr. Clarence to jump up and down on me at night. When I became pregnant, the Simmons tried to sneak me off to have an abortion. While I was given that abortion, the receptionists had a feeling about it, and she reported it to the state.
Now I’m back in the group home and fighting occurs daily. The bedwetting problem I developed after Daddy Rufus messed my insides up, was still here. I tried to control it, but I couldn’t.  Everyone started calling me, pissy Chrissy. I hated it. I hated them. I hated myself too, but everyone else hated me, so that was normal. When Johnny offered me to run away with him to cop some weed and heroine,  I said sure, why not.

I didn’t know how to smoke weed. Johnny taught me.

I didn’t know how to sniff heroine. Johnny showed me.

Now,  I feel like somebody. I feel like a Queen. And nobody is tougher than me. I am the prettiest, and I’m the smartest too. I feel no pain when this powder enters my life. I feel no pain.

Something else had disappeared since I started sniffing the powder. The voices. The heroine took care of those voices better than the little pills did. Everytime I was called down to take my pills, I’d hold it under my tongue and flush the pills down the toilet. Powder was my medication of choice.

In exchange for the powder,  I let Johnny jump up and down on me and I put my mouth on his thing like he asked me to. He told me if I learned how to put my mouth on him real good, I could do it for other people and make money. For as long as I could remember men had been sticking things inside me and picking at my privates. If I could really get paid for it like Johnny said, and I could buy my own powder, it was an easy choice for me.

I started running off, meeting men in the park. I mostly put my mouth on them. But whatever they asked me to do, I didn’t object. It was painful, and made me numb to life. I still felt the pain of being with Momma too. And all I wanted was more powder to take the pain away. I screwed so many men, that when I missed my period, I had no idea who the daddy could be. Stupid Johnny thought it was him, even though he knew what I did in the park. He pretended that he didn’t. “You just let them stick it in your mouth right Chrissy?”

Johnny said we had to run away from the group home because wasn’t nobody killing his baby. He was selling weed to make money and even though I was pregnant, I still kept my appointments in the park. Johnny found a small cheap little one bedroom for rent. If you didn’t count the rats and roaches,  it was just us.

I was sixteen when my baby boy was born. He was full of wrinkles, with lots of hair. His body was blue and he weighed just under five pounds so he stayed in the hospital for a while. I called the baby Little Johnny. I couldn’t write it, so I told the nurse, his name is Little Johnny. She said, “Johnny?” I corrected her, “Not just Johnny, it’s Little Johnny.” When Johnny saw the birth certificate he cussed me out good.
“You gotta be the dumbest bitch alive. You named the baby first name Little, and last name Johnny? Well I be damned, I reckon they don’t come no dumber than you.

When the baby came home, all he did was cry. I put him in his crib and let him go for it. Holding him made me feel icky inside. When I looked in his eyes, I saw my Momma,  and I would hurry up and lay him back in the crib. The crying drove me crazy,  so I left the house for a while.  I found someone in the park to do my buisness with so I could get my powder. When I had that,  Little Johnny could cry all day and I wouldn’t hear a thing.

I don’t know how long I had been gone,  but when I walked in the door, a hammer hit me upside the head. I was dazed, confused, and the last thing I remembered before drifting away was hearing that damn crying ass baby.

I had a big open wound on my head from
Johnny hitting me with that hammer. He found some lady to put stitches in my head and told me, if I ever left his son for two days again, he’d kill me. Two days? I thought I was only gone for a few hours. 

I’m 18 years old now, and six months pregnant. Just like with Little Johnny, I didn’t know who the daddy was. I should have let the doctor put that thing inside me so I couldn’t get pregnant. I don’t want anymore kids. I want to love them, but I don’t know how. Little Johnny still crying all the time. I hand him a bottle and let him cry all day. I never take him out of that crib.

Johnny rarely comes home anymore,  and when he does its only to fight. He shoots his heroine now.  I wanted me to try it, but I told him no, all the things that has been stuck in me over the years,  a needle was out of the question.  He was always begging me for my welfare check,  selling my food stamps. I got so sick of Johnny that I signed up for one of those subsidized units over on the westside. When they called me, I quietly left while Johnny was on one of his dope shooting binges, and I never hooked back up with that fool again.  It’s hard to make money while pushing a baby in a stroller, but I made it work. Sometimes, I left little Johnny at home in his crib. Big Johnny wasn’t around to hit me in the head with another hammer, so the hell with what he said.

I ended up having another boy. To my surprise, he was healthy. I didn’t know what to call him so I named him after a boy at one of the foster homes I stayed at. I told the nurse to write Jamal on the birth certificate.  Just like his brother,  he cried all the time.  I laid him in the crib with Little Johnny and they cried together. I couldn’t hold or kiss them. I tried, but something inside wouldn’t let me love them. I hated these babies.

The voices were back.

The babies were crying.

I needed some heroine.

I couldn’t leave the babies alone since nosey Miss Jenkins across the hall said she would call the cops on me if I did. Taking the babies wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I needed to keep getting my state check.

I packed the babies up in a double stroller,  and I kept them with me while I went to my job in the park. Some men would see the babies and say nevermind,  but most would just pretend just like the babies weren’t there.

I made two hundred dollars in the park today. I had enough money to last for a while. I didn’t need to take one more job, but I was greedy so I agreed to it. I knew I shouldn’t have took that job. While I was on my knees, that fool put a gun to my head and told me to give him all my money. I pleaded with him saying, “this is money for my kids milk and pampers,  please don’t take it, it’s all we have.”
He hit me with the gun and said,  “you a damn lie, that money is for you to get high, them crying ass babies ain’t never gonna get fed anyway,  so I’m taking it.  The hell with you and them kids.”

All I could do was cry. I was hurting and now, it was no way to stop the pain. The voices on my head were shouting, and it was no way to make them stop. I strolled the babies onto the train so I could go to the eastside to try and find Johnny. I was sick and I needed to get high.

On the train, the babies wouldn’t stop crying. Everyone was looking at me like they wanted me to make them stop. I was so damn mad, I wanted to throw them from the train. Before I could think,  I started screaming at the babies, “man , would yall shut the fuck up. Y’all get on my damn nerves crying all the time. SHUT-UP.”

Everyone on the train is looking at me like they can’t believe it. I don’t care what they think. My whole life nobody has ever cared about me, so I don’t care either. A lady sits across from me, and she takes out a pen and pad and starts writing things down as she stares me down. Her eyes shift from the kids, to me, back to the kids again. Her eyes are wet, and then I see a single tear.
I wonder what she is writing on that notepad of hers.
This lady has no right to look at me this way. She doesn’t even know my name, nor does she know my shame.

I exit the train with the babies still crying. The lady on the train with the writing pad seems to have eyes that burn through my soul. I sat on a bench,  and suddenly, I decided to pick the boys up and place them on my lap. Just like that,  they stopped crying.  I have to find somebody to teach me how to love these babies. I have to get help. I have to get clean. I have to break this cycle.

Copyright © 2014 D.Lavon- All rights reserved

The story above is a work of fiction. It is purely of MY OWN imagination and based on a poem I wrote over two years ago after witnessing a young mother berate her small children to death on a public metro train. It invoked ugly thoughts in my head and made me look at the young mother with disgust. Yes, I judged her. Every one on the train judged her. And somehow, the other people’s judgements of her made me feel uncomfortable. I took out my notebook and started writing. A poem, and then the story is what I wrote that day.

I’m sorry if the story offended anyone or if the subject matter was a little….rough. This wasn’t suppose to be a friendly story. And if it made you feel the least bit uncomfortable,  then I was successful in my attempt. Abuse,  childhood abuse, domestic abuse, drug abuse. These are all very real issues going on within our community. Hurt people hurt people, and if you were hurt, and abused a child, chances are, you may grow up to repeat the cycle. I only want to create a dialog here.  An awareness really. Maybe even help someone get free. These issues exist. And every time you see someone acting completely out of their mind, think for a moment how they may have gotten that way. A whole two years later, I’m still affected by the young mother I witnessed attacking her babies on the train. I still pray for her, that she found the help she needed to cope with motherhood or whatever underlying issues she may have had. I can’t stop talking about these issues. I won’t stop. Abuse on any level needs to stop. By sharing a story, by volunteering,  by raising awareness, I have to keep going.
Let me know any thoughts, comments,  or questions you may have. Thanks for reading my story. Be blessed. Each one,  teach one.

Peace and love

  1. This is a really well written piece. I hope my own work is as good!

    • I appreciate that. Wrote it a while back and been tossing the idea around about continuing this story as I truly feel it’s one that needs to be heard. We all have strokes if brilliance. It’s relative. The brilliance, the writing.. All relative and I’m sure you have it. I’ll be checking out your blog. Thanks so much for reading my piece —xoxo

      • Thank you! I really appreciate that.

  2. This story… It’s so heart-wrenching. You say it’s fiction, but I know that this is a lot of daughters’ story–being born to mothers that won’t or don’t know how to love their daughters. It crosses economic, cultural and ethnicities lines. The stories may be different, but the shame, pain and isolation is the same. Thank you for sharing this well-written story.

    • I always say, this is somebody’s story. I just don’t know who. And it had to be told. Thanks for your wonderful comments. I appreciate it.

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