‘Bees suckling at the vipers breast, the honeysuckle wilting in the darkness of beastly breath,
Lurking in the undergrowth of poison ivy the thief awaits, a net of warped kindness his gift to humankind. Down the rabbit hole is a tortorous smile, laced with magic venom to lull you into a never ending slumber’
Part I: Aged 0-8
We live in a state where we are judged for straying from the norm, for having the audacity to step outside of societies limitations and attempting to brave the world alone. Both women and men are criticized for having free-will, for having the strength to be unique in a state that thrives on homogeniety. I am this woman, a ‘social outcast’ in the eyes of society because I have the strength to reject the bull**** that they are feeding me. But I wasn’t always like this, I was once too afraid to be different, paranoid that the chorus of jeering laughs that I could hear would soon become the soundtrack to my life.I lived life in a constant panic, afraid of the unknown because I had never had a secure base to call my own. It took me a long time to realize that I had the power to control my own destiny and nothing, not even the bruising blows that tarnished my skin could ever take that away from me.
Let me start at the beginning, the year is 1993 and my mother has been in labour with me for over 24 hours, struggling to permit me passage to view the world. In a way it would become a symbol of how the wheel of fortune outwitted me time and time again. I was an unplanned pregnancy, my father was 21 and my mother was 19 when she gave birth to me; old enough to handle responsibility but too young to understand her role as a mother. Before long my mum had enough and left my dad to cope with a 2 year old in the middle of night. Although I did not know the reason at the time I found out that it was another man and in later years she had told me she did it ‘because he did not want to get married’. Until the age of six me and my father lived in idyllic happiness, he would do anything for his precious first born child and I basked in his undying love and glory. How things would change when ‘E’ came along.
‘E’ conforms to the typical archetype of ‘the wicked stepmother’ abusive,controlling and domineering all things that my father was not. Unlike Cinderella there is no fairytale ending nor did she ever get her comeuppance. I remember the day clearly as though it was yesterday, the day that ‘E’ came home and destroyed my childhood. My dad asked her to come home with him and from that moment on she ruled the roost. At first she was ‘sweet’ and ‘charming’ but one day when my dad was at work the abuse began. The name calling, the neglect and deprivation and the repeatedly violent incidents that would shatter my confidence and self-esteem. Soon my dad would come to realize that he had met a monster but it was too late. By the time he had found out she had reeled him into her enchanted nest of manipulation. He was the puppet and I was his accomplice, victims of ‘E’ the famed puppeteer.
I caught them in the act but I was too innocent to know what it was at the time… I was six and it was on that day that my dad’s fate was truly sealed. ‘E’ knew that the only way to keep him interested was children and it was the children that would eventually supplant my place in their household. Priscilla was born when I was seven and I was prohibited from even looking at her. If I wanted to play with Priscilla I had to do it in secret otherwise I would be screamed at and called hurtful names. E was the woman who was meant to be my substitute mother but she was like the stepmother from hell, feeding off my youth to hide her own insecurities. I could take the beating and the hurtful names but what hurt me the most was that my dad stood by and did not do a thing. If that was my daughter I would leave my partner because she is more important than a woman who abuses her. I guess we think differently, I possess a strength that my father dosen’t and that is the power to be me. I will not be bullied into submission nor am I a victim. I am a survivor of abuse and proud to share my story with those too afraid to speak out.
It upsets me that the dad I knew and loved was beginning to change before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to reverse time. At the age of eight my dad became married to the monster that took away my identity, all while I was at school. Was he that ashamed of me that he didn’t even want me at his own wedding? I know ‘E’ was behind this deceit but nevertheless I wish that my dad had the strength to break free from her manipulative claws. I don’t resent my dad at all and forgave him because I knew he was not strong enough to fight back. What I do resent is ‘E’ taking away his free will and in the proccess making him blind to the destruction she had imposed on my family. E did everything she could to erase my identity: I was starved, my passport was thrown away, the dolls that I had called my own broken before my own eyes.
I had a crush on ‘W’ and wrote him a Valentines card eager to give my love to someone that might recipricate it. E ripped it up in front of me, laughing at the thought that someone as ‘ugly’ as myself would ever find love. I was too young for love admittedly but I craved the attention that I never received at home. Sometimes ‘E’ would make me take a sick day, she would whisper in my ear ‘ pretend your sick’ chanting it like the curse it would become. I was frightened and told my dad I was ill like she requested. My dad never believed me and she would scream and beat me as though she did not tell me to whisper those very words. My birth mum got in touch, by then she had another child and husband and wanted to speak to me on the phone. My stepmum made me say words with itent to wound relishing the rift between mother and daughter that would widen over time. It was seven long years before I saw my mother again and it was because of ‘E’ that our bond was lost.
To be continued….
Photography- Jumanna Khanom