When I was about seven or eight, I was playing outside of my little country trailer house with my favorite playmate and cousin, Jessie, a year or so younger than me. We would run around dirty, forts, cow chips, riding stick horses, but mostly real ones. Jessie always got to be rodeo queen. Hmph.
This one night we were on my trailer side of the property. A few acres of blooming green alfalfa separated our homes. Her’s a large country ranch house, handed down a generation or two. Big barn. The most beautiful barn I’ve ever remembered, though beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.
As we played, we heard a crash, then another, and another. Finally we realized that the windows in the little white trailer were being smashed out, one by one, down the skinny tin building. I knew what to do: Get the heck out of dodge! Fight or flight kicks in easy for me.
I told Jessie we needed to get to her house and we needed to do it quickly and stealthy. I probably didn’t use that language. We scrambled, on all fours, to get through the alfalfa. Fully covered in green stain by the time we made it to the small bridge over the creek. We ran with our last breaths about 100 yards to the open door Jessie’s mom held for us. She instructed us to get in and hide, he was coming to get me.
The most intense level of hide-n-seek would then enfold as I heard the man downstairs yelling for me. I hid Jessie inside of me-we were both behind a door that swung open and back to an outstretched wall, creating a triangular space. I held onto the door knob white knuckled, sure this would save us.
The man searched for us up the stairs. Doors opening and closing to the other two rooms, soon to our bedroom, his hand on the other side of the hardware. Two little hearts pumping, fear beating deep within us as we waited. Breathing so fast, yet we were so good, so quiet.
The man yelled for me as he went back down the stairs, “Where is Dana? This is her fault, too.”
Aunt Kim plead for him to leave. She threatened to call the authorities. He left. Started back up the stairs. Left again. And, the rest of the night we were safe.
The rest of my life, however, I would always acknowledge, that this is my fault. That the bad stuff, windows broken out, leaving the man in want, the not winning, the not being fast enough, good enough, right enough… that’s my fault. That if someone is upset at you for any reason, it entitles them to chaos, destruction, and violence. It entitles them to yell at you and put you in your place, and it’s always your fault. And when life just sucks, it’s your fault, too. You’re to blame. It’s a hard place to live. Always on the lookout for people you have displeased and need to escape from. It’s a very hard place to live.