This is a story about the beginning of my journey . . .
I knew a woman who as a little girl was afraid to come outside and play. She was afraid of making too much noise or causing too much attention and disturbing an angry drunken father.
She told me how she learned to play quietly at a very young age. She use to play in places like her bedroom closet and beneath her bed. She always explained to her dolls why they needed to be quiet.
I know about this because she wrote to me and told me what happened to her. I cannot say why she chose to tell me specifically. “It’s because of the way you write,” my friend said in her message. “I can’t do that like you can.”
This message was sent to me long ago. My friend told me what happened to her and what “They” did to her when she was a little girl. She told me what it feels like to have a ruined childhood.
“Maybe you can write about me,” she said.
“Maybe you can help me make sense of all this.”
In her message, my friend wrote, “I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but somehow I feel like you understand. And oh well, even if you can’t help me, at least you read my message and that makes me feel a little better too.”
I received this message during the early part of my fatherhood years. I was young and new to my commitment of writing on a daily basis. My friend was a reader of mine. She read a collection of my poems and the short stories, which I kept as a blog on a tattoo website.
I thought of this woman and what she grew from. I wondered to myself how a child could withstand such an upbringing. This woman was beautiful to me. She was beautifully aged too. She was not young by any means, nor was she the typical woman to be heavily tattooed. As I read her message, I could not fight back the rage and contempt I felt towards those who had harmed her.
How could something like this happen?
Occasionally, I see a television commercial with a dog that has been abused and stranded. Left in the cold, and abandoned, the dog was chained to a tree in rundown, beaten yard. The rescuers come for the dog, but the dog is too frightened to go with them. Either the dog fears the beating or the dog is unaware of how deserving it is to be loved.
This was my friend; beautiful and stranded. She was abandoned in some ways, neglected, put down, and like a dog, she was chained to a life that she was too afraid to leave.
As I read this message, I looked at a photograph of my daughter. She was only two at the time. She was two and I was newly divorced. I was not around to see many of my daughter’s early life’s accomplishments. I was a weekend dad. And no sooner did I see my little girl’s picture after reading this message from a friend; my eyes rained with tears.
How could someone do that to a little girl?
How could a mother and father beat or abandon their child the same way a person could chain a dog to a fence and walk away?
This is the poem I wrote for my freind
Written for someone very special:
Once upon a time, she had no voice
she was too afraid to speak
and too afraid to laugh
But little girl,
you can come out now.
She used to hide beneath the bed,
clutching her teddy bear,
as she hoped to God
that she wasn’t in trouble again.
The sun has come out
and there is no end to what you can do
The playgrounds are waiting
and you can skip rope or go down the slides
You can run in the grass and play after sundown
because the world is yours now
Once upon a time,
She played “make-believe”
and held tea parties in her closet
This way, she wouldn’t disturb Mommy.
She sat in a circle with each of her dolls
and explained why they all had to be quiet.
But it’s okay, little girl
you can come out now
She was supposed to be like the saying,
“Sugar and spice and all things nice.”
Too bad no one ever told her.
She smiled as bright as any child
she swung high on the swing sets
and tried to kick the moon.
Her hope was bigger than the world
but she never knew how beautiful she was
because deep inside,
she thought she was stained…
Little girl, you can come out now.
What “They” did is not your fault
And it’s not your fault that no one listened
when you tried to tell the truth
She covered the bruises and battle scars,
which was proof of her stolen childhood
The innocence that she deserved was taken
and games like Simon Says,
or Red-light Green-light,
lose their way to frightened memories
All she remembers
is the belt that was strapped against her skin
She remembers the hand that had no right to touch her.
All she remembers is that when she cried
….no one ever listened
That little girl stayed her closet
She hid because it was the only way
she could protect herself
And for too long,
she had no voice
Well . . .
What kind of friend would I be
if I didn’t lend her mine?
It’s okay, little girl
You can come out now.
They’re all gone now and I promise
no one will ever hurt you again
So help me God
Sometimes I lose sight of why I began this journey. I wonder about the reader and worry about the critics. Then I think of my friend and I remember exactly why I started this trip