I have just arrived home. I feel compelled to tell you that I saw a man today. A man standing in my father’s house. My old prison. A man standing by the kitchen window. He was dark, like me. My father’s house was lit up. Not grey and hidden as it has been for the last eighteen months since his death. I was shocked to say the least, haunted even. I have a bad habit of peeking into the old place. Curiosity gets the better of me and I can’t help but look back. Perhaps if I wasn’t living in the same area as my abuser, I would not even think about our home.
As I’ve mentioned before, I pass my abuser’s home every day to and from work. It’s highly depressing and unfortunately unavoidable. However, this unexpectedly ghostly figure could be the answer to my prayers. The house has clearly been sold and the time has finally come to move on. I can look at this as a positive step forward out of the darkness.
It has felt like an age, and although it is disturbing to witness someone else in my last home, it is also a relief. I hope their lives are more enjoyable in it than mine was. That house holds so many awful memories in it for me; for my mother. I want one day to never see it again. It belongs in my past.
Seeing a man by the window was upsetting. His build was not that dissimilar from my father’s. It was only for a few seconds but it was long enough for me to feel queasy.
Thankfully, I did not get too upset. As I got off the tube and made my way onto the bus home, I felt nothing. There is no more room for tears, I have no emotion left for him or that house. The windows had steamed up from the heated bus and the heavy rain. I could not see a thing. I leant over to the clouded pane and drew the only thing that could put a smile on my face.
My father’s favourite insult was to call me “filthy”. Filthy in mind, behaviour and nature. I was a vile creature to him who lived a dirty life. His obsession with order and precision, his love for appearances were the very things that kept his power over me burning so strong. He rarely cleaned the house himself. That was a “woman’s job”. It wasn’t his fault his wife left him so why should he have to take over in that aspect? I was the woman of the house. It was my role to take care of it. Except it wasn’t my role. I had a job of my own, I had a life and I was not about to step into the role of my mother to take care of this abusive man. I had no duty to him, I did not owe him anything. I looked after myself and where I lived to the best of my ability. However taking care of a five bedroom house is no mean feat. Things were missed and under his careful inspection, these mistakes were regularly pointed out. After I left home, my father had to step up. There was nobody to look after him. For once, he had to look after himself. The house fell apart a little. He no longer had someone to dump chores on. It became clear that cleaning the house was a very big job for one person. He liked to think he was on top of things but when I visited, I understood immediately how hard things really were. I dared not say anything. He would see it as an attack and push the blame onto me for “leaving” him. I had learned from previous mistakes to keep my mouth shut. This toaster was a prime example of how dirty he lived, how dangerous he was and how blasé he’d become. My father always boasted about being invincible. Looking at this picture disgusts me. He would often blame me for leaving him with too much work and say (in 2012) that I deliberately caused it. That he had been cleaning up my mess for the last two years.
Look at the way you lived. You caused it. Not me.
I look at this photo in amazement. My lonely black chair beside a singular mirror. Who lived there? Nothing suggests this is home to anyone. Yet it was my home, my prison, my shelter, my room. The red walls only magnify my emotions at the time; my anger and hurt growing from the daily abuse. The emptiness echoed my loneliness. This was what I looked at for fifteen years of my life. A blank space. I wasn’t allowed possessions, I was afraid to keep them. Mostly in fear of him and his many, many rules. The fear of him finding a personal touch or something new stopped me in my tracks. So I kept it sparse to pacify him and keep my head above the water. That was until he found a tissue on the floor or a glass on the table and the contents of my drawers would be strewn across the floor. I took a set of photos before I left the house for good. Here is a series of the sadness.
Since my father died, I have an abundance of old notes made about his incessant nitpicking and abuse. On February the 4th 2005, my father picked an argument with me over the smallest thing. The note highlights how trapped I was in his company, the fear that encroached me and the endless demands he made.
He has guests coming in the evening. His routine of obsessive cleaning is taking place. I’ve locked myself in my bedroom. I’m too scared to come out and be forced to be a part of his army drills. I can hear him coughing loudly downstairs. What’s wrong? Something’s wrong.
I went downstairs, he called me there. He was waiting. There was a mark on the floor. My make up. He found it while he was hoovering. He saw it a while ago but it’s not his job to clean it. It’s mine. He needs to prove a point. I made the mess. That one little mark on the floor. A quick wipe is all it needs but I have to do it. Me. He told me to mop it up today before his friends come. I’m fed up. I want to retreat back to safer ground – my bedroom. I went upstairs mumbling something under my breath. He heard.
“What??” he shouted.
“Nothing” I replied.
He bounded up the stairs behind me. I quickened my pace.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
I shut my bedroom door. I was safe again, “Nothing!” I shouted back.
“If you are nasty then I will be nasty. If you are good then I will be good”.
I’m 23 in under a month. What kind of a father days that? He has never treated me like a daughter, never. He never lets me feel anything, I’m not allowed emotion. I have to be a robot at all times. I cannot cry, that’s wrong. I cannot get angry, that’s wrong too. I can’t even act like a child sometimes. I’m not allowed ‘bad moments’. I have to be perfect. I have no free will. He keeps using money as a threat. If he ever gives me anything he has accounts for how much, when and where. I can’t breathe! Let me breathe.
This was how my father behaved nine years ago. Yet right up until his death he never changed. He had the same attitude towards me till the very end. He held all the power. Not any more.
You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.
He is dead and gone.
I never have to see his face again.
Yet I do see him every day. Every day, on my way to work and every day on my way back home, there he is – the abuser. Since moving in with my mother, I have the unfortunate daily routine of passing his house on the train. The tube rarely travels overground in London except in some cases. The tracks run, for a short while, behind my childhood home. The prison where he kept me under his control. The garden with no way out into the world, trapped by those blasted tracks. The building that never sheltered me from the storm raging in my father or protect me from his thunderous nature.
Every day I have to pass it.
The residence of torture and his haven of abuse. That solitary confinement that controlled and watched over me. His sadistic dungeon of emotional perversion. I know it is coming as soon as light appears after the darkness of the tunnel. I am expecting it, awaiting it and fearing it. I have tried to avoid it by sitting with my back to it and although physically it helps, mentally I am completely aware of what is burning into my back. It is unfortunate my mother lives in the same area as my father did and that I have to endure this journey each day.
Occasionally, I peer in. Worse, if the train stops by the house (which it can do), I am forced to stare into each room. Nothing has changed which only sparks more anxiety in me as if he’ll appear at any moment. I look hard to see any shadow but nothing materializes. Instead the rooms look the same as when I left them. The stress and panic in me builds within a few short seconds. By then he has imprinted himself in my mind.
We will move out of this area. That is a guarantee. I cannot do with this daily torture for the rest of my life. I never want to see that house again.
The final thing I uncovered from my bedroom was a bunch of folded, hidden papers. I only read them recently and was thrown back in time to seventeen years of age.
It was all so angry, so upsetting. My husband was silent when he read them; shocked by my words and frustration. It was a side of me I rarely show. I am not an angry woman but reading the words I had written brought the despair back.
I had clearly written all over the sheets of paper in one go. Fury flooded over me and painful words bled out, piercing my heart. I felt sorry for myself, upset that my seventeen year old self had suffered so much. I was mad that I didn’t do something earlier and save myself a long time ago.
I was talking directly to him. My words were barely readable as I’d written them without thinking, it was just flowing from my soul. Endless words, strings of nonsense sentences, a desperate cry to be loved.
Swearing and hate filled one page and left me in shock as I looked at the continuous course of contempt for him and myself. My resentment echoed through the sheet, my hatred for him beamed from the page and my self-loathing radiated wildly.
The ache to be loved was a key element of my ranting. I just needed love. I just wanted to feel self-worth. A reiteration of failure played over and over as I read through the countless sheets of heartache.
After reading it all, there was nothing left to say.