The shudder of the door filled it’s frame as she slammed it shut with her back. The coolness of the wood reaching through the sour wetness of her shirt to the heat emanating from her skin, bringing her down from the hot, rabid frenzy she was amidst. Her heart beating so fast and hard, she fancied she saw it, desperate, eager angry, trying to escape from her chest as she fought to understand all that had just occurred. Her left eye stung slightly as baubles of sweat dripped into it, the discomfort of which anchoring her in the present, holding her body fast in the realm of the physical and almost simultaneously she registered that a trickle began to run down her left thigh, escaping the epicentre and main source of this fever. She melted through the memories in quick succession and smiled to herself…..
In the space of a nano-second, the language of her body stopped in its tracks as she heard the familiar rumble of her dad’s blue transit van entering the drive. Fear immediately invaded her senses and fight was never her response to conflict with this man, so she ran for the safety of the bathroom, locked the door and began to run a shower; feeling certain he would recognise the betrayal of his trust, his fear of violence driven obedience in her eyes as she instinctively saw the betrayal of her mother’s (and hers) in his every time he faltered.
Looking back to that very pivotal moment in time (and womanhood) for her, Suzanne realised it had been almost twenty years to the day since she had written “dearest diary, today…I have become a woman, for today diary dearest I have lost my virginity!!!”. Wincing at the thought of quite how ridiculous that sounded and how naïve she had been, she pondered on this last two decades and what exactly she had learnt. Twenty years full to the brim with many men, some would argue too many men, a lot of hurt and pain (from all angles), snippets of love, a virtual cornucopia of lust, confusion, confusion…more confusion, more fun perhaps than any human being has any right to have and let’s not forget the babies, for isn’t that ultimately what sex and one’s body (as a woman) is for?
On the one hand, Suzanne felt that she had done, albeit sub-consciously, what she had set out to do, which was to be different to her parents, to be more liberated, more in touch with herself, more honest and more fulfilled. But on the other she also felt the power of the hand of fate in all her dealings and dalliances in this last twenty years; her promiscuity, her emotional abstractions when it came to black men, her awkwardness around intimacy, her issues around trust and men in general – all in her mind could be traced neatly back to her parents relationship and the effect it had had upon her.
Suzanne lay sobbing into her pillow as her mother tried desperately to console her, knowing deep down that the only consolation available was ignorance and things had gone too far for that. She herself had known for many years that her husband was unfaithful but like many women (she imagined) she chose to ignore the fact, using the excuse of not wanting to be that nagging wife, not wanting to, above all have to endure the terrors and shame of being a single parent. A bad husband was far better than no husband after all, but how could she possibly reconcile that within her little girl? How could she have known that whilst she chose to ignore the signs, hide from their burning opaqueness, the curiosity of a child would never allow such a thing? Suzanne looked up at her mother’s face, taut with repressed feeling and thought twice about telling her that she remembered quite vividly being about seven years old and her mother asking her father when and if he intended to come back that evening. The almighty argument and then him pushing her down the stairs. The sight of her mother’s heavily pregnant form lying crumpled below filled her with a fear she was all too used to, already at this age…but still (and always would) felt keenly. She also refrained from disclosing to her mother that her first ever memory, aged three was of her mother holding a knife to her father’s throat and demanding to know where he had been for the weekend. Her older sister, who would have been just nine, had been instructed to take her and their little baby sister, just a few months old, into their parents’ bed and not come out. The sound of the back patio doors smashing would stay with her forever. I do not love the sound of breaking glass…it is the opposite of breaking free, it is a tangible object that continues to break me. She remembers this stirring them all to move and run into the landing to see their mother, high on new baby hormones, desperation, fear and utter rage stood at the top of the stairs with the knife and their father edging his way up them…she doesn’t want to think about why she cannot remember anything after this point and part of her has always wanted to ask but even at the tender and inexperienced vantage point of sixteen, Suzanne knew her mother didn’t need reminding of these incidents or to know that she, her daughter remembered them. Beneath the almost searing resentment she felt towards her mother for staying with a man who kept her and her children in check with not merely the threat of violence and whom she must have known was sleeping with other women, Suzanne knew that it was somehow beyond her ken and not fair for her to express that judgement. So there both women sat, with a multitude of emotions raging beneath the masks of their faces and too many words on the tips of their tongues to say anything lest the truth spill forth.
Suzanne looked at the curve and swells of her body in the mirror and felt pride in her new physique. She liked the look of her body pregnant and loved the fact that her body was able to do this magical and marvellous act of growing a human being. She loved being a woman, especially at points like this. Suddenly though, she was gripped by a feeling of uncontrollable sadness and almost terror as she pleaded for this relationship to last, this family to work. At points she felt like her quest to never become her mother in respect to what she perceived as her mother’s weakness at letting herself be walked all over, had made her into quite a difficult woman to get close to and perhaps some of the many relationships she had entered into may have been more fulfilling if she hadn’t forced the respective men to prove themselves innocent of a guilt that was never theirs to own. Perhaps she did put too much pressure on the father of her first child and perhaps it was her fault he went off with a woman young enough to be his daughter whilst she was pregnant with a child he had literally begged her to have and perhaps her fear and baggage was pushing Jeremy, baby father number two away also. Her mind was too muddled with hormones and lack of sleep to decipher this fully but she knew somewhere deep down that at least part of the answer lay in all that occurred twenty years prior and the lasting impact that has had upon her. The discomfort she felt from her own past and inability to circle too many squares, blinding her slightly to the reality of the fact that Jeremy himself and the unhealthy ways in which he did the opposite of balance her, her choosing him, was more tied up in her baggage of ‘self-destruct’ than she would realise for years to come.
About a year before her entrance into womanhood, Suzanne’s father, seeing all too clearly her growing awareness of herself as a woman and the attention she was receiving from men due to her seemingly sprung over- night womanly physique, decided it was time for a talk.
Suzanne sat in the passenger seat of the blue transit van. It was her father’s pride and joy at that moment and it angered her that her mother had probably worked her backside off, in her three part time jobs, whilst her father made a pittance following his dream of being a musician. What angered her more was her own inability to be honest about her frustrations towards him, her own succumbing to the threat of physical violence, which although he hadn’t dealt out of late, was ever present, had worked it’s magic through years of deliverance. She looked across at him and registered that his face betrayed no signs of what she anticipated was to come. He launched straight into his little speech, no warm up or intro required. “Suzanne, when I came to pick you up from school yesterday, I noticed that you were talking to two white boys, who were they?” His voice resonated through her being and held her will in the usual state of submissiveness he effected. She found herself mumbling something about how she had been talking to them about a new teacher but knew she sounded like the liar that she was. “Alright, what I have to say I want you to listen to carefully as I won’t be having this chat with you again. As far as boyfriends are concerned, you are not to have any until you have finished your education and that means when you have finished University…and….if I ever see you hanging around with white boys again there will be a price to pay, for you and your mum…do you understand?” Despite the torrent of anger and bitter sting of resentment that welled up inside her, Suzanne could not quite bring herself to say what she felt, the fear of violence muting her, shutting down her energies, so instead she just mumbled “yes dad” and looked hard out of the window of the van, letting the fierceness of the breeze blow away the imminence of tears in her eyes. At that very moment, the wheels were set in motion for that fated diary extract and for the repeated patterns of the last twenty years.
She wouldn’t leave him, despite what she had said. Even at that very tender vantage point of sixteen, Suzanne knew that if she was going to, she would have done so by now, surely. So knowing that boundaries did not have to pushed too far to get an extreme reaction, she began to push harder. Push deeper, further into the pit of darkness, the empty heart of her father. Make him react.
She/I fucked him in the graveyard. The ground was bouncy and cool and damp. His cock was too hard and I/she was not ready to feel it in all it’s glory. It hurt but the pain made her/me feel real and alive. She knew more was coming. I knew I wasn’t going home that night and the distortion to the peaceful unrest in her familial home that this action would cause.
The next day, on the way to college. Mum and dad’s car pulled up from out of no where, dad getting out and striding angrily towards her and her posse. The fuckee looked terrified. I/she felt resplendent. Glowing. Knowing. That the pinnacle was almost in reach. Just a few more painful moves and freedom was in sight.
Suzanne was ordered to leave by her father. Leave the family home and not only never ever return, but also never see her sister, brother, mother again. Attempts to do so would result in violence towards them. That oh so familiar coercion and manipulation of her feelings. She packed three bin-liners and left. Aged 17.
The birth of the second child was magical. Bleached out so much pain from before…only to open up another chasm at the same time. Suzanne (unfortunately) now knew, deep in her deepest that this coupling was not quite the opposite of looking at a star lit sky, as she had initially thought. This was her repeating dangerous patterns from her past. Seeking immersion in a void. The arrow of time points forward though, with only gravity to err in its path. So onwards and upwards she went, despite the weight that pulled her down, growing muscles in places she never knew she had.