It seems that I've been having an onslaught of memories lately. Strange, random memories. Some good, most bad.
When I was five, I was homeless, but that's not what this post is about. It's about a time when we lived on "the ranch." It was after the birth of my brother. I was six. My parents (my mother and the worst man that ever lived) broke and trained thoroughbreds for racing. They were good at their jobs. We lived in a trailer on the ranch. It was small. Just a tin box, really. But it was a nice change of pace to the old, green army tent we inhabited prior to the ranch.
This place was every little tomgirl's dream. Barns filled with stacks of hay, creating a variety of stair steps spanning to the highest reaches of the barn. I would climb all the way to the top. Big, expansive trees with low-hanging branches that were perfect for climbing. And I would climb to the tops and back. Fields of hay that provided hours of imaginary entertainment with my vast array of imaginary friends.
And horses. Big horses. Baby horses. Cats and dogs and chickens abounded. It was paradise. Or so I thought. And all of these things. All of these distractions were just that: distractions from a reality that was hard and painful and consuming.
My parents were drinkers. My mother was barely in her twenties and her husband was just around thirty. They drank liquor and beer and consumed "other" things. But I'd seen this my whole life. I didn't bat an eye at their antics.
When we lived in that old, green army tent, I came home on more than one occasion to find our things scattered beneath its canvas top. Things were broken, shattered, and strewn. And I would stand there alone waiting for my mother to come get me. But sometimes, the shattered would become shattered around my own head. My eyes taking in the display before me.
On this night, in our tiny tin box, such a display occurred. They'd been drinking. They were drunk. And they were angry. I don't remember why. I don't remember what set it off. I do remember silverware being flung. Plates propelled. Punches connecting with my mother's face. Blood spewing forth from gashes beneath her eye. Purpling of skin. Yelling. Begging. Cussing. Crying.
I remember my mother screaming at him. Telling him, "Hit me, motherfucker. Hit me!" As she launched her tiny 110 lb frame forward to connect her own fist with his face. He threw her against the wall. I screamed and I ran. I ran out of the trailer. I ran as fast as I could. I ran to the office. I went inside and I watched that trailer, knowing what was happening. And then they ran. They ran out of the trailer, but not because they were looking for me. My mother jumped in the truck and took off, chasing him around the ranch, gravel spewing from beneath the bald tires. Screams coming forth from the open windows as she slammed in gear and headed toward again and again and again.
And as I sat there, I was afraid. I knew I was watching my mother trying to kill a man. And what was worse was that I had once been in the vehicle with my own father as he tried to run my mother over. This was all too familiar. All too much to see, as the headlights went around and around and around that open space. As he screamed, "You crazy bitch; I'll fucking kill you."
I ran. I ran to the only place I knew to go. I went to the owner. They were home and getting ready to go to an Easter celebration. I don't remember exactly what I told them, but I did tell them something, and they took me with them. I remember being there. In some type of hall. You know, with the hollow sounds that exemplify the sliding of metal chairs upon the cheap, tile floor. And I was safe.
As we pulled into the long drive that led back to my home, we saw flashing lights. No longer were the headlights of that old trucks dancing across the open spaces. They had overtaken by red and blue lights that danced in the night sky. As we pulled up, I saw my mother's face, battered and torn. I saw the worry in her eyes and tears streaming. And as I stepped out, she ran to me. She was afraid I was gone. She didn't know where I went. She had lost me.
We weren't at the ranch much longer after that event. Mom had caused some pretty big damage in her drunken tirade across the ranch. I sometimes think the only reason they let us stay as long as they did was because they wanted to protect me. I mean, this was Texas. You don't get too involved in other people's business. But I think they knew I needed something stable, and they were trying to provide that. They were nice people, and I've always wondered what happened to them.
I would love to say that night marked the end of my mother's relationship with that man. But that would be a lie. They continued on for sometimes after that. And I continued to be part of the chaos.