CHAPTER SIX PAUL’S ARRIVAL
By June 1976, I had endured almost a year living with my father.
I had mixed feelings when my mother thought it would be good for my younger brother, Paul to come stay with us. After school let out in Oklahoma City, he would be on his way. Though my father seethed over this, he couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t come up with a legitimate excuse to disagree.
The better part of me thought it was a bad idea. However, another part of me thought it could possibly turn out to my advantage.
Paul was not quite thirteen years old. He would be living in our apartment. I would no longer be raped in my Father’s bed every night. How could he hide this from my brother?
I was wrong. Paul arrived in the beginning of July. My optimism vanished when Dad moved him into one of the hotel rooms down the hall out of earshot of our apartment. Dad would allow him in our flat only at certain times.
Dad hated Paul. He hated his intrusion. He expressed it in numerous ways that grew worse and worse. Paul turned thirteen on August 24th 1976, without as much as a birthday card. My mother’s card was sent to a P.O Box and Dad tossed into the trash.
For the year I had lived alone with my father, I learned to accept my abuse... I convinced myself it was normal. My father had conditioned me; I learned to cope, to survive. I had alcohol. I had diversions, social circles; numerous advantages that were denied to my brother.
I could at least take a shower or a shit when I wanted. Paul had to knock on our door and ask permission. Otherwise, he would have to go down to the first floor to perform his bodily functions, and he was limited to showering only when dad was working downstairs. I had given him a key to come and go without dad knowing.
Watching Paul’s abuse was different. I witnessed the horror that I had become used to and I couldn’t
believe what was unfolding before my eyes. Dad began hitting him for just about anything. After watching this for over a month, I started breaking down.
Paul learned that his survival depended on staying invisible around my dad. However, as much as he tried, Dad would seek him out. It was worse than a cat with a mouse. It wasn’t just physical, as if that were not bad enough. Watching my brother pulled around by the ear everyday made me turn away, ashamed that I was glad it wasn’t me. But it was almost more painful to listen to the taunts, jabs and put-downs my dad hurled at him every time he had the chance.
It always started with some vague accusation. My dad would come up with something, anything, real or imagined and start attacking my brother.
One afternoon, I reached the second floor of the hotel and turned down the main hallway leading to our flat. I paused at the top of the stairs as I heard my father’s voice. I saw him standing in the doorway of Paul’s small hotel room. I froze; all I could do was watch and witness.
I crouched down into a ball. I tried to protect myself; I shut my eyes tight, forcing my tears back down inside myself. I couldn’t do anything for Paul. He was on the way to another senseless trip to hell.
I watched my dad as he screamed into Paul’s face. “I want to know who left the mess on the kitchen table downstairs!”
“What mess, Dad?”
“You know what mess! It’s got your finger prints all over it!”
“But Dad, I didn’t do anything!”
After denying the offense, my dad twisted Paul’s reply into another reason to lambast him.
“That’s the point, you lazy little slob, you never do anything around here!”
With that, he slapped Paul on the side his head with an open hand, hitting his ear and temple, knocking him slightly off one foot.
“Dad, I’ll go and clean up the table…”
“There’s no bother now, you idiot! I already cleaned it up! Do you think I’d leave a mess just sitting like that? No! Do you want to the inspection people to come shut us down, just because you were too fucking lazy to clean up after yourself? God, when are you going to grow a brain, Paul?”
He shoved Paul hard on one shoulder, so hard that Paul stumbled off balance until he landed on the floor. I heard Paul whimpering in pain.
“God you disgust me. You can’t even stay on your feet, you clumsy little piece of shit! Don’t come into the apartment tonight. I don’t want to see your face until tomorrow.”
Dad slammed Paul’s door shut, leaving him stunned, lying on the floor, not sure what had just happened. My dad always hit him where it left no obvious bruises, his favorite being the smack on the side of Paul’s head. I knew what it felt like. I had experienced it too, just not as often. My dad used a closed fist on me, but less frequently.
The head slaps started to affect Paul. He told me they always gave him instant headaches but they eventually subsided. However, he had developed a ringing in his ears that wouldn’t go away. He said it was constant, now, and had gotten louder and harder to ignore.
I watched this type of exchange almost everyday. Dad constantly put Paul in a no-win situation. He accused him of some made up mistake just to chastise him. It never mattered what Paul’s response was, that wasn’t the point. Paul endured the abuse for the sole purpose of satisfying my father’s enjoyment in hurting him.
My little brother was a beautiful boy. He was soft and caring. He had a perfect face with a perfect mouth. He was almost as tall as I was now; He was medium build, though he had a soft physique. His complexion was smoother than mine.
His brown hair was shiny, straight and full. His bangs fell just past his eyelashes. I remember watching him toss his head to swish them out o his eyes. I was amused when a second later he’d repeat the slight toss because his bangs had already fallen back into his face.
His eyes were what struck me the most, his wonderful hazel eyes. Whether they were dancing with mischief or dark with sadness, they expressed his soul. When we looked each other eye to eye, we communicated in a way that is only understood by the two that are looking at each other. Gazing at each other, the sympathy, the empathy, the despair, the support, the determination was shared. We were not alone.
I didn’t know what to do. My helplessness left me so frustrated. I tried praying. All that did was leave me wondering why God hated us so much.
School gave Paul a respite from my dad, but he was the new kid, one with no friends or affiliations. The school’s student body was mostly Mexican and Indian children whose families had been in the area for several generations. A new, soft white kid was an easy target.
He was routinely attacked after school, in the alley behind the hotel. I found this out one day while preparing for the coming night’s shift. I was performing my normal prep chore of taking garbage out to the dumpster in the alley.
I saw Paul trudging towards me with a pack of kids following him. They were taunting him until finally one of them pushed Paul from behind. As he stumbled forward, he looked up and saw me. And I saw him.
He staggered to the brick wall of the hotel, leaned over and spit. I was already marching towards him, until he waved me off. “Don’t Susie, stay back.”
His tone was not familiar to me. He looked back at the pack of tormenters. He slowly shook his head, still looking at the ground.
I heard him mumble,” God, not again.”
I was ready to jump in at that instant with both fists flying, but it wasn’t necessary. He raised his head and stood up straight. He turned and faced his antagonists. He was not the least bit afraid. The weird smile that appeared on his face was scary. His gaze said, “I’m crazy; I have nothing to loose.”
In a startlingly calm and low voice, he let them know he was ready. He promised that even though they may beat him up, he would inflict some serious, low-down, dirty damage before the fight was through.
On this day, he was actually looking forward to the challenge, which is not what most bullies expect. They looked relieved when I reached out and grabbed Paul’s sleeve.
“Come on, you’re late, Dad’s looking for you!”
As the crowd dispersed, Paul stood frozen, in a different world. I kept shaking his coat as we watched the others disappear at the far end of the alley. Finally, he came out of the trance he was in. He looked at me, but didn’t recognize who I was. My voice brought him back.
“It’s me, Paul! It’s me! Come on, we need to get inside!” His eyes became my brother again.
I didn’t know this had been happening on a regular basis. Now, he was pretty much left alone. In fact, he was avoided.
I was proud that he stood up for himself. I was relieved he was not coming home with a black eye or busted lip, which I had assumed were from a late night confrontation with Dad.
Still, deep down something concerned me. It started eating away at me. I knew what it was but I didn’t want to admit it. It was watching the way Paul was beginning to not care….about anything.