Several tumultuous events have taken place since the first time I landed in LA to the most recent visit. The following is a revised journal piece I wrote during this time. When this was written, I had only been back to work a few months. I started back to work shortly after Christmas. I went back part-time because it felt like a manageable amount of hours. However, at times four hours a day felt like too much because many of my nights were restless and filled with things I’d rather forget. Many of my days I struggled to keep my mind present, not wander off into the dark corners of my mind…
Today a lot of memories weaved in and out of my mind. I again remembered being forced to stand next to grandma, beside grandpa’s coffin. The thick smell of incense lingers in the already stuffy air, silent tears roll down my cheeks as I stand beside Father Tom as an altar girl, my grandpa’s dead body in front of me. I remember my uncle, dad, and a few others struggling to carry the coffin in and out of the little church.
I stood expressionless, fighting tears, as grandpa was laid to rest. It was a sunny day, but I didn’t feel sunny inside. Mom stood beside me at the burial, fighting tears. I would not cry, I told myself. Crying equaled weakness and weakness, I now realize, signaled pain and humiliation. Biting the inside of my mouth, I cried very little. And when I did cry, I turned my tightly-curled head away from her. To this day, I struggle with showing emotion in front of people. Other than my husband (and even with him I try not to show a lot of emotion), I don’t show emotion to family members. Sometimes, I still feel awkward when I start to feel emotional taking to auntie. It is like I fear being told to grow up and shut up because I have no right to feel anything. She is the first person that I have allowed myself to feel emotional with. It is a healing feeling. It is like I did not allow myself to feel anything, and had arrived at a point where I struggled to feel at all.
Everything agitated me today.
Trying to sleep, but waking up in a cold sweat, the smell of urine lingers in the air. I cannot stop smelling urine. Do I smell myself or is it my imagination again? Darkness and the bathroom-two very scary triggers. Earlier in the night, I placed a pillow over my head. It reminded me of the sensation of a pillow being forced over my head, blocking out air, and leaving me feeling like I might die. Panic set in and I threw the pillow onto the floor. Lately, I wake up in a panic and become convinced that I have a disease or something and, as a result, am certainly going to die soon. I don’t know for sure who would have put the pillow over my head.
I remember my heart pounding in my chest as I hear mom’s footsteps coming up the stairs, each step signaling danger. The doorknob turns and I can hear her muttering about the door being shut again. I hold my breath, go somewhere in my head. The footsteps retreat back down the stairs. All is safe. Many of nights, I lay in bed, panicking that she will catch me awake. Sleeping equaled uncertainty. If I had to use the bathroom then I would be in trouble.
One time I went to the bathroom, feet touching the cool laminate floor, and I could feel her feet stomping up the stairs. I jumped up and locked the door to protect myself. This merely made her even angrier. She began pounding on the door.
“Let me in this door. Right now! Or I’m getting ahold of you,” She threatened.
I was trapped. If I didn’t open the door the beating maybe worse. Maybe I could escape the beating if I just opened it now? So I opened it and I was belted. After that, if I had to use the bathroom, I learned to pee in the tub and work to cover it up by pouring a cup of water into the tub.
I remember her taking a hot washcloth and scrubbing at my vagina because I wasn’t clean enough. It stung and I begged her to stop. “Please mom, I’ll do it myself.” I moaned. She did not listen. It continued. Baths with the door open lasted until late elementary school. Privacy was off-limits. It is six-o’clock. I’ve slept for four hours and I have to be at work in two hours. I stare at the ceiling another forty-five minutes and then push myself off the bed.