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Column: Hauntings from the past

‘I tried reaching out for help.’

%22But+now+I+hide+my+own+face+underneath+a+mask+in+hopes+to+protect+myself+from+someone+who+may+treat+me+the+way+she+did.%22

"But now I hide my own face underneath a mask in hopes to protect myself from someone who may treat me the way she did."

Photo by Madison Ward

Photo by Madison Ward

"But now I hide my own face underneath a mask in hopes to protect myself from someone who may treat me the way she did."

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The old grey Dell laptop mouse clicked as I began playing the game Poptropica. I didn’t notice the shadow looming over me waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

My hands retracted, barely making it out of the snake’s trap as the computer screen was slammed shut.

“Get out,” the snake hissed. “Go to your room and pack a bag. Make sure you leave through the garage and shut it on your way out. Your father is out front.”

***

That night, I left everything behind for the second time in one year. This time I was willing to let it all go to leave the house full of her hatred.

“You’re so selfish, you only care about yourself,” her words repeated daily. “Makes sense since no one loves you.”

I fear people who wear masks to cover their actual feelings because she always wore her mask around my dad to hide her scales.

“Everything is your fault.”

I was the mouse in her family of snakes. They constantly preyed on me because I was a naive child. And as time went on I wondered if I would ever be able to call a place home again after losing contact with my mother.

The snake blamed everything on me. From the bruises and scratches on my skin because of her sons to not finishing all the chores because they were dumped on me.

She made me feel like I was nothing. She wore me down so she could keep her vile tail around me, watching my every move, making sure I never told my father.

I tried reaching out for help.

Tried.

When I cried, she’d say I was “seeking attention.” I was seen as an immature kid who didn’t have her mother around to give her what she wanted.

I feared falling asleep at night, scared to be woken up by screams and fights.

Feared of walking outside my room only to be striked at any chance because when my father wasn’t home.

I was blamed for every problem since I always “lied.”

I felt worthless. I only created issues within my father’s relationship. I wanted to disappear from her grasp.

When I left, it wasn’t because I spoke up. It was because her mask shattered on her wooden floors, showing her true wicked self, scales and all, to my father. She panicked knowing she couldn’t control the aftermath so she apologized but we were finally done with her fraudulent behavior.

On the highway at midnight driving to anywhere but her den, I broke in front of my father and told him.

Once I left, I thought I was free from her wickedness.

Free from her ice cold scales after holding a freshly opened bottle of beer and her I-am-going-to-ruin-you smiles.

But her words scratched my skin, leaving scars as reminders of those times.

“Ugly.”

“Rat.”

“Selfish.”

“A burden.”

“No one needs you.”

“Liar.”

Six years have passed and I am still haunted, never overcoming her cruel words hissed to my face or the venomous strikes from her tail.

But now I hide my own face underneath a mask in hopes to protect myself from someone who may treat me the way she did.

In hopes I’d learn to be able to trust myself again.

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Column: Hauntings from the past