Some kids tell lies and get told they will go to time-out, some kids are told that they will get a spanking – some even do. My cousins and I were told that if we didn’t shape our shit up, we would get The White Belt with Silver Things on it.
Truth be told, there was a white belt with silver things on it, but it never made contact with my skin. It was ammo, a threat, an “I dare you.”
My mother worked for the head-start program at my elementary school while we still lived in Colorado. For most, “normal” kids, this might compel them to keep some act right in their back pocket. Me? I wasn’t normal.
I am affectionate. I like to touch, hug, kiss, etc. Friend, family, whomever really. I will punch your arm, hug you, touch your cheek in adoration, or brush your hair off your face. I can’t help myself, really.
One afternoon, while I waited for my mother to collect me, I was in an exceptionally weird state. I was in second grade, lacking boundaries, and in the mood for a hug and testing the waters. Margaret, who was probably 5, was not in the mood for a hug. I chased her around my school’s cafeteria, just so I could wrap my arms around her, making her fall out and cry. I was told to knock it off immediately, so I retreated to the stage, dangled my legs over the edge and proceeded to scoop paste from the tub and eat it.
Did I want to eat paste? Not quite. In retrospect it was overwhelmingly obvious that I was having a pay-attention-to-me moment. After some time, the woman with the over-processed frizz framing her face and ill fitting lingerie, PAID attention to me.
Fucking finally – insert eye roll.
She simultaneously jogged and stomped her feet in my direction, snatched the paste covered popsicle stick out of my hand and declared, “THAT IS IT! I’m telling your mother everything”!
Being that my mother worked with children herself and that listening to adults was common knowledge, I did the only thing that seemed the most sensible. I burst out into academy award winning tears, “NOOOOOOOOO! You can’t! She’ll get out The White Belt With Silver Things On It.” The woman froze, a horrified look on her face. “Oh, okay. Um, how long has this been going on? Where does she hit you”?
I lapped it up like a lost kitten lapping up warm milk from your grandmother’s hands. I told her, pouted lips and big-eyed that I couldn’t remember, it had been going on so long…
I got all the there-there’s I had been after. The hair stroking, the hand patting, and the attention I had been seeking was finally there. The problem was that I wasn’t a stupid seven year old. That pit in my stomach that was only there when I had lied or I knew I was in big trouble starting growing up into my throat. This was bad.
Finally my mom came and got me. There were no words from the Frizzy Haired Woman, nobody ratted out my behavior, there was no mention of any belt. Phew, I thought to myself, thank God that’s over.
The next day got off to a fairly normal start. Immediately after lunch I was approached by a gentle looking man in his mid-thirties asking if I was okay with talking with him.
And so it began.
I fixated my eyes onto the floor, between my feet. Gum had been stuck to the shitty, flat school carpet at one point and was now just a black mass. Tears stung the corners of my eyes and that familiar lump in my throat returned. I wasn’t holding back tears because I was finally safe, I was holding them back because I knew I fucked up. Big time.
A slew of questions ensued. How long? How often? By whom? Where?
I knew how large the lie I created had become. But then all I could muster was “I don’t know’s” and “I don’t remember’s.”
When we arrived at our apartment that afternoon there was a business card wedged into the door. The card read something about protective services and my mother whipped around with that what-did-you-do look.
I sank to two inches tall.
The questions at school stopped. About a week later, I arrived at home to see my mother already there. She was curled up on the end of the couch, closest to the sliding glass door that had been cracked. The smoke from her cigarette billowing through the sun rays had casted a screen around her face. I remember thinking of it as a shield that she couldn’t fully see me through. At least I hoped she couldn’t.
She was calm, asking me what had happened at school. If I had any idea why Child Protective Services wanted to talk to her…
She asked if I had any idea what would happen to me if I got taken away? I still played stupid, complete with shoulder shrugs and side-eyes.
I don’t remember too much about the incident after that day. My mother had never spanked me with anything other than her hand and truth be told, I don’t remember a lot of spankings those days. My childhood was backwards in a lot of ways, something I’m grateful for now I suppose.
I remember how horrified I was about being taken away from her. I knew I had fucked up when I lied, but THAT?! Taken AWAY?!
I could never be away from her. After all, the whole situation transpired over a HUG.
Man, I was kind of an asshole.