Stealing Booze and Crash-Landing (part two)

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Within hours of Joey’s departure, I was drunk. All I cared about was escaping the pain. Running away always seemed to be a solution, like when I was a little girl and ran to the arms of the eucalyptus trees. I threw clothes into a suitcase and got a cab to the bus station, where I boarded a Greyhound for New York City. Why New York? Who knows?

Two days later, disheveled, hungry, and with little money, I checked into a sleazy hotel in New York City. In sheer panic, I called my supervisor and quit my beloved job, pretending a lengthy family emergency.

Just prior to my entering the six-week stewardess training program, I had begun dating a handsome man sixteen years my senior. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Bill held a Bachelor of Science degree and was a showroom  manager  at the Miami Playboy Club. Suave and debonair, he began pressuring me to marry him within weeks of our initial meeting. Although he was thirty-six, he had never married. I took his interest in me to be true love. I did not return his attention with a feeling of “love,” but  I was interested in his seeming maturity, self- assurance, and sincerity. I had half-heartedly  considered his offer, pondering if after my first marital experience I would ever feel comfortable with a man of worldly experience.


Like a Bundle of Dirty Laundry


ONE AFTERNOON, WHEN I was buying a pair of shoes, I flirted with a cute shoe salesman. Slight of build, with blond hair and deep dimples, he seemed funny and engaging.  After he insisted that I try on nearly every pair of shoes in the store, I finally left with a pair of shoes I could afford and a date that very evening. We both loved to jitterbug and there was a great band that night at a local nightclub.  He was to pick me up, and dancing we would go.

My date rang the doorbell promptly at eight. He was a perfect gentleman in opening the car door for me and being attentive throughout the evening. We had such fun as we danced the night away. Both a little drunk, we left one club and decided that we would drop into a similar dance club nearby. First, he wanted to stop by his apartment to pick up his sport jacket. Fortified with alcohol, and without a care in the world, I followed him up to his apartment when he insisted I see the new and unusual fish he had just purchased. I wasn’t into fish, but what the hell? I giggled a little sloppily as I stepped into his apartment.

Once inside, the fear I felt was instant and surprising—almost sobering—when I heard the locks click shut on his door. I heard three loud clicks, which immediately registered in my brain as odd since we were supposed to leave after fish-gazing and jacket-fetching.

Before I knew what was happening, I was body slammed against the wall. My head snapped back against the wall, then bounced forward into his face, which made him angry.

“You filthy slut!”


Like the victim of a black widow spider

So the memory of June’s husband molesting her daughter and the nightmare of Uncle Bill were with me as I watched June oozing herself into our living room. I always felt as if her dull, brown, preying eyes were secretly watching me. Like the victim of a black widow spider, I was sure if she looked at me she could ensnare me in a web of poison. It didn’t help that the inevitable conversation made my stomach feel as though it were absorbing sticky venom from the air.




AT SIXTEEN I felt sorry for my mother and grandmother’s bleak lives, but I desperately wanted to leave the house. I felt mired in a spiderweb of yuck. This was made worse by their close friendship with the most disgusting person I had ever met. My stomach turned every time I saw her, which was often.

June White  had crusty, light brown hair that spilled its dandruff everywhere.  Her  face and arms were covered in open sores and she stunk. She always smelled like twenty-year-old sheets might if they were stuffed into  an old pillowcase, yellowed by age, and  forgotten amidst spiderwebs in a filthy garage. June had regressed into a physical depository of ills since we had met her eight years before.


Growing Up in Marilyn’s Shadow




WITH NINETEEN YEARS separating us, I was only a toddler, just learning to say my name, when Norma Jeane was getting used to signing autographs with the new name Twentieth Century Fox Studios had made  up for her:  MARILYN MONROE. Before I suffered the embarrassment of needing my first training bra, Marilyn was making it obvious that the more a girl had “up top” and was willing to show it off, the more she would be remembered and sought after.


A Sin To Be Left-handed

Fire in a fieldAnd then there was school. The weight of dread stooped my shoulders as I approached the steps of my Catholic classroom. Sister Rose Ileana was almost as terrifying as my dad. She carried a large yard-stick, sometimes whacking children without provocation.  At that time, it was a sin to be left-handed. A sin worthy of daily ruler whacks that turned my left hand red and sore and flooded my body with shame. I knew that something at the very core of me was evil. I deserved to be hit. They said so. They hit. I accepted.


Fire and Child Abuse

first holy communion 2SUMMER, 1952. Hot, dry, and windy. Tumbleweeds blew everywhere. I obsessed about them. I hated them. They were the reason my life was ugly. That  I was ugly. The tinder-dry conditions of a vacant field filled with tumbleweeds was perfect for my plan. Just one match from the small matchbook hidden inside the back pocket of my scruffy navy blue pedal pushers, coupled with my seven-year-old  rage—rage that was large enough for another Hiroshima—was all that was needed to eliminate the tumbleweeds, the source of my pain. I was sure of it.


A Filthy Old Horse Named Dolly



Swayback3The only thing that made those weekend visits to my dad’s bearable was a neighbor’s filthy old horse named Dolly. I thought her to be very sad, and she was horribly swaybacked, but somehow we understood each other intimately. Dolly allowed me to climb up onto her weary, old, bare back, where I would slide down to the lowest part to feel cradled. She and I, ever so slowly, would walk way out into the big pasture, where we would daydream our way through the day. Sometimes I would cry into her matted mane while she nuzzled my neck. I always brought Dolly any carrots I could find when scavenging in the dumpsters. Like the big old eucalyptus trees and broken dolls I befriended, Dolly never cared about my filthy feet or matted hair. We became good friends over the three years I was forced to go to that wretched trailer.


What is child sexual abuse?

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Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet (Child Sexual Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Touching behaviors may involve touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral-genital contact, or sexual intercourse. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography.


When Hugging Feels Creepy (Ragdoll Redeemed)



Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, an elderly couple, lived two doors away from us. Mrs. Kelly was always kind to me. She freely offered fruit from her trees and fresh-baked peanut butter cookies with a glass of lemonade. Unlike my home, theirs was sunny, clean, and smelled like lavender soap. I was delighted to even set foot in their home, because no other neighbor ever invited me in. Mrs. Kelly even allowed me to sit on their furniture, albeit while it was covered in plastic. Mr. Kelly would show me his coin collection and give me long hugs. I didn’t like the hugging part; somehow it always felt creepy, though I didn’t know why.