Monday, November 7, 2011

To Hate What You Love Or the Other Way Around

One of the most difficult things through all of this has been realizing that I still have real, true love for this person who has betrayed me so fundamentally. That has really been a central struggle. How do you go about loving someone who in a lot of ways, you hate? How do you reconcile the person you have known for as long as you can remember, with their secrets? I think most young adults have some kinds of revelations about their parents...realizing that they are full and flawed people who have made mistakes and decisions that you might not agree with. This experience has been like that, but in overdrive.
For some reason, it was a much more natural process to see the flaws in the rest of my parental figures(biological mom, biological dad, and stepmother). My naturally analytical mind has been picking these poor people apart since I knew how to think. Mom doesn't know how to handle stress, Dad's never there when we need him, etc. etc. For some inexplicable reason however, my step father was mostly immune to these types of criticism. He has always been flawed, no doubt, but somehow the story of him overpowered him as a reality. Three tours in Iraq, been in love with my mom since he was a teenager, taught me how to ride a bike. These are the things we all focused on. But now... Are these things no longer true? Or are they just no longer enough?
Maybe it's just that for the first time, I am seeing him as a whole person, and let me tell you... the view is complicated. After his initial arrest, more and more truths have been revealed. We learned that my step father was sexually abused repeatedly over a long period of time while he was away at boarding school. He even ran away at one point and told his mother what was happening, but she just sent him back. As a psychology major i know about the relationship between abuse, and abusive behavior, but what do i do with that? Does it excuse him hiding outside of my sister's window and taking pictures of her? 100% no, not even close. Let me say that again, NO! NONONONO! That is something I doubt I will ever get past, but do I feel for him? For the struggles he's faced and the shame and guilt he must have been carrying around for all of these years? The short answer is yes, I do feel for him. I have an empathetic personality and I can't help but put myself in other people's shoes. However, those feelings of empathy really just complicate things for me.
I feel so bogged down by all of these conflicting emotions that shouldn't be able to coexist! But they do! I feel love and hate and anger and understanding all at the same time, and it really depends on the moment which one is the strongest. So the real question (which I'm pretty certain has no answer) is what the FUCK am i supposed to do with all of this?


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Postcard I'll Never Send

- Kati

Father Figure: A Short Story

Kati wrote this short story based on the day we found out about our stepdad. She wrote it for her fiction writing class over the summer, and I think it was very therapeutic for her. There's no way one story can capture all of the complicated emotions we've had throughout this experience, but this is the first thing either one of us wrote about it and was a really important step towards beginning to heal.

Father Figure
    The picture hangs in the living room. I’ve memorized every detail, not because I’ve studied it or because it’s miraculous in any way, but because I’ve passed the spot where it hangs countless times over the last twelve years. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the house. In it, a woman in a delicately crocheted, white dress looks up at a man in a crisp, black suit. Her brown hair is pinned back away from her face with tiny flowers, but the picture has been blown up so large that you can see a few wisps grazing her eyebrows. His eyes seem glued to those wisps as he smiles down at her, the corners of his mouth pointing up ever-so slightly under her thumb which strokes his face. One of his hands holds hers, his squared fingers wrapped tight around her slender ones. The other is perched lightly on her back as if he’s trying not to squeeze too hard and break her. The two of them are the only things in focus, the rest of the picture swirling into a blur around them. 
    My old, rusted bicycle is propped up against the brick wall where the picture hangs. It has pink streamers spurting from each handle and the seat is peeling up where it once rubbed incessantly against my infinite pairs of spandex shorts. I remember learning to ride it; those squared fingers holding my hips straight as I tentatively pushed down on one pedal, then the other. I remember how foreign my scream sounded as the bike tilted and almost fell, caught at the last moment by those rough, square hands. I had lifted my hand off the handlebar to swat at my bangs which were sticking uncomfortably into my eyes beneath the bulky, glittery helmet strapped to my head.
    “Whoa there,” he had said as he grabbed at my waist and steadied me over the rubber seat. I was eight and wearing a yellow shirt with rhinestones arranged into a heart on my pre-pubescent chest.
Next to the bike is a chubby, green arm chair he used to occupy at all hours of the night; the screen of his giant, red laptop obscuring all but his lined forehead. When I was smaller, I would climb onto the arm rest of that chair and perch there until he would inevitably scold me.
     “You’re gonna break my chair one of these days,” he’d say.
    I never did, but I always wondered what would happen if I had. I didn’t think he’d really mind.
There’s a trophy on the coffee table. It’s plastic with gold coating and sits atop a green base bearing the engraving “Number 1 Dad.” My sister and I purchased it for Father’s Day a few years back as a sign of the kind of solidarity that goes deeper than blood - emphasis on the removal of the word “step” in his title. A fat tear rolled down his right cheek when we handed it to him with sheepish grins. He pushed himself up off his arm chair and wrapped us in a hug, his curly arm hair tickling my nose.
    “I always tell people you’re my real daughters,” he whispered into our shoulders.
    By the door rests a pair of tan, lace up boots. Hanging above them is a light green and tan camouflaged jacket with “Sgt. Parrish” sewn into the pocket. I cried every day he was away, praying to a god I didn’t believe existed that he would somehow come home safe. He would write us emails about the endless sand and the unbearable heat and we would try and decide by his syntax if he had been shot at that week. When he finally came home, we drove to the base with balloons and posters in the back of his pick-up truck and waited for hours in a cold room with stale cookies. He stepped off the bus and we all rushed towards him at the same time. My little brother, Kyle, got there first and I felt his ear squishing into my stomach as I pressed into the hug and felt my mother’s tears in my hair.
    I press my hands against my eyes and blink against the pressure. I’m sitting in a cold, dark room filled with plastic chairs and the smell of stale smoke, despite the blaring red “No Smoking” signs above every door. I see him walking out, clad in a shocking orange jumpsuit which burns my eyes. I don’t understand what’s happening. A man in a black suit, similar to the one Bucky wears in the picture, walks out next to him. My step-father hangs his head and looks everywhere but at me.
    The man in the suit shuffles my mom, my sister and me into the hall. He’s saying things that I’ve heard before, but only on T.V. Things like, “this is a very serious offense,” and “five years to life.” My mom is crying, shaking, clutching my hand and I can’t feel my skin beneath the force of her grip. The suited man is talking about pictures.
    “The pictures they found included children as young as ten,” he says, his voice as low as possible without becoming a whisper. “And I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but there are several images which seem to have been taken from outside your daughter’s window while she was in various stages of undress.”
    I think, which daughter until I realize everyone’s looking at me and my mom is crying so hard I’m not even sure she’s breathing other than when she emits these weird, gulp-like hiccups. I don’t cry and I don’t understand.
    Once my mom posts bail, Bucky changes into his street clothes and comes out to meet us. His face looks the same and for some reason, that is the strangest thing of all. I know every detail of this face, every whisker, every wrinkle. I shut my eyes but his blue gaze still looms against the blackness. Nothing is different except now it hurts to look at him. It hurts like when I was afraid he was dead, but now I almost wish he was. Almost. I wish I could wish he was dead. That sounds better than this. Anything sounds better than this.
    When I walk through the front door of our home later that night, I slip off my shoes at the entrance out of habit. I put them back on. The tile feels colder than it ever has before; the grout between each square is rougher. I think about all the times I’ve padded across this floor in nothing but my underwear and I feel nauseous. I see his black camera case on the floor and I’m sure I’m about to puke.
    I remember straining my eyes against his flash and saying, “cheese” as I stand back to back with my sister, each of us holding our hands up to our faces like bullet-less, flesh guns; our lanky, twelve year old arms jutting out almost as sharply as our cocked hips. I wonder how many pictures of myself I haven’t seen. I walk into my bedroom and close the door. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always hated having my door closed at night. I used to crave the slivers of light that would snake in as Bucky sat up late in the living room, refilling his cup of iced tea every couple of hours – the sound of the ice machine, my favorite lullaby.
    My old cheerleading uniform is tacked to my bulletin board. I run my fingers across the polyester fibers and cringe at the familiar scratchiness on my skin. I always hated putting that thing on. He would tease me when I complained, saying something like, 
    “Don’t all girls want to be cheerleaders? What’s wrong with you?” 
    I would shrug and ask if he would be at the game later.
    “Of course,” he’d say. “Do I ever miss your cheerleading events?”
    He never did.
    The picture hangs above my headboard. In it, I stand right in front of my step-father and his hand is on my shoulder. My smile shows no teeth, but looks serene. I’m resting my cheek against his hand and leaning into his chest. Next to me, my sister looks up at him, her left hand placed on her hip, her face scrunched in laughter. My mom stands behind her, her slender fingers entwined in her husband’s squared ones. My little brother sits atop his shoulders, the spitting image of his father.
    I reach for the frame and remove it from the wall. I hold it up to my face and bits of light from my reading lamp glint off the glass, obscuring our faces with my reflection. Now the tears start to come. They plop onto the picture in hot droplets. For a moment, I watch them travel down the pane as if I were still eight years old watching the rain drops race down the car window as I sit, mesmerized in the back seat. Then, with all the strength I can muster, I chuck it to the ground and continue to cry. On the floor before me, the shards of glass mingle with my tears in a shattered, shiny mess. I try to pick up the pieces, but before long my fingers are littered with cuts and the mess seems only to have grown. I close my eyes and let the tears fall.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To Begin...

We are Dani and Kati, twenty one year old twin sisters currently living and going to school in Colorado. That's not really what this blog is about though; it's about pain and healing and expression and our personal experiences with these things. In June of 2011, our stepfather, who had been like a parent to us since we were seven years old, was arrested for possession of child pornography. It later came out that he had even secretly photographed me (Kati) from outside my window when I was changing as recently as my senior year of high school. Needless to say, coming to terms with this discovery has been heart-wrenching and confusing to say the least. Realizing that someone you loved and trusted is a totally different person than you thought they were is sort of like having to come to terms with their death. It just doesn't make sense no matter how many times you turn it over in your mind. A few days ago, he was convicted of eighteen months in prison (dramatically reduced from his original sentence) and ordered to turn himself in by January 4th, 2012, giving us a good chunk of winter break in the same town as him and certainly a lot of decisions to make. Here we try to make sense of it all in whatever means strikes our fancy at any given time. Our preferred forms of expression include but are not limited to poetry, drawing, collages, short stories, ranting blog posts and water color.