Yes, I’m home for summer, and if you follow what’s been going on, you’ll know a lot has happened. So, I drove home with my mom and my youngest brother. Yes, it was the most relaxed and least stressful road trip I’ve been on since I was ten, even though I had a ten page paper to be writing. But it was weird. We weren’t crazy packed into the car, and I didn’t have a man yelling at me, my mother, and brothers for 16 hours. I didn’t know how to be in a car with these two other people without being stressed out of my mind.
I didn’t know how to not be on I75 without being pushed to tears. I didn’t know how to not stare at wind farms wishing I was on top of one where I wouldn’t feel or hear anything. I didn’t know how to not feel like I should scream at the top of my lungs and bail out of the back seat by the time we hit Missouri.
I didn’t know how to be happy to get back in the car after stretching for more than three minutes at a rest stop. I didn’t know how to talk to my mom and brother in an open conversation. I didn’t know how to not pray for the sweet relief of the hills of my hometown of northern Arkansas.
Of course, my ‘home’ hadn’t been abandoned completely. The man had left. Most of his things were gone. The aftermath of a brutal month in the household. Following a pretty brutal decade of a relationship. I don’t know, there was a lot of really mixed feelings, at least on my part. At first. The first 12 years. But since I’ve been home I’ve found out about a lot of stuff that’s been going on. There was lying, deception, adultry, and so much more. And then my feelings weren’t mixed anymore.
I’ve been home for a week. I want to be out of here. I so badly wanted to go stay at my girls house with just her mom and our puppy. But I couldn’t. My mom and brother needed me. This week has been a crucial week for everyone. I feel trapped, my anxiety is worsening by the minute, but I’ve never been in this house, with so much quiet. Never have these walls had more than a week without fighting. Never have these doors gone a week without slamming. And never have I ever not felt confined to the tiny lavender room in the back that I haven’t called mine for two years.
When I say coming home to abandon, I mean coming home to houses I abandoned two years ago. Yeah, I still have things in the houses. Yeah, I still know where most things are in the kitchen. But they don’t feel like home. My childhood home with my father was made uninhabitable for me six years ago. This house, two years ago when I started college. I knew I could always come home if I needed to. I knew my parents would always make room for me. But I didn’t want to be there. I still don’t want to be in either of these houses. Every house I’ve called home has traumatic stories linked to them. Trauma that I’m still learning to deal with. Trauma that I still feel.
Two weeks ago I finally deleted that evil woman’s (my last step mother) number from my phone. I kind of forgot that I even had it, I was procrastinating studying for finals and I decided a good stress relief would be to tidy up my contact list. Somewhere deep down I knew I had kept the number. I never expected her to really be out of my dads life. They settled their divorce in late October of my freshman year. I didn’t know until thanksgiving that there were problems that bad. So, when I came home a month later for Christmas and I went to stay with my father, it was weird staying in a mostly empty house, with no disgusting house shoes scraping our linoleum floor, warning me of the danger that was inherently coming for me. Gone was the witch, and gone were all of her ridiculous burlap “decorations” that made my allergies so bad for two years I could barely stand to be in the house even without the constant internal screaming. I didn’t know how to be ok with my brother and dad missing a few crumbs on the counter after eating, because I could still hear the woman demanding that I clean the entire kitchen because somehow six crumbs means the entire kitchen is disgusting.
And when I came ‘home’ I hadn’t mastered the obsessive overdrive I still go into when I clean. And a year later I still struggle to not feel the need to scrub every inch of every surface of the house I am staying in. If I see crumbs, I still panic. If I see streaky glass, my arms stiffen. And when I hear shoes scratching and dragging across a floor, on bad days, I am instantly in tears.
So when people ask me if I’m happy to be home I give them a shaky hand and say so-so. I never tell them that being home is a completely other stress that drives me to panic attacks just as much as finals week. I never tell them that I’m only happy to be home because I miss good food. I never tell them that I’m happy to be home because I can finally see the one person in the world who never ceases to make me happy. And I never tell anyone, that all these white cars in this tiny town, still make me queasy. Because that’s not what they want to hear. They want to see the bubbly giggly girl I was, the one they thought they knew.
I abandoned myself a long time ago. But, I grew a new shell. And I’m ready to continue being happy. My home, is the arms of a brown eyed girl, with short curly dark hair, and the best smile in the world. She’s the one home that I haven’t been able to abandon. I don’t want to abandon her. So, for now, I won’t go home to abandon. I’ll go home to warmth and love, and I’ll sleep for the first time, soundly, in over a month.
Signing off now, in the hopes of finding sleep. –Jaile
Image credit: Me