A friend and I recently got into a conversation on the nature of truth. I was taking notes and the conversation took an unexpected path. Reviewing my notes, I asked if I could share what was said and he consented.
Fair warning; what follows may make some readers uncomfortable.
I learned about the price of truth when I was a kid. A child, probably. Before I was ten, anyway.
My dad was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, I think. He started yelling. He yelled a lot. If he wasn’t yelling, he was making fun of us or telling us we were stupid.
Anyway, he yelled for my sister and me to come. My sister is older than me by five years. She got there first. He was standing by the sink, pointing at a glob of toothpaste in the sink.
Truth be told, I don’t even remember what it was. I think it was some toothpaste.
I do remember he stood over us and pointed at whatever it was and asked who left that there.
My sister said she didn’t do it. “Who did?” I don’t know, she said.
He looked at me. “Did you do that?”
No, dad. I didn’t.
“Well, you’re the only two in the house. I didn’t do it and I know your mother didn’t do it, so who did do it if neither of you did it?”
To fully get this you have to flashback to when I was about 1-2 years old. My room was on the top floor of our house, down a hall from my parents’ room. Halfway between was a staircase downstairs and downstairs was my sisters’ room. I have two sisters, both older than me.
So one night I woke up and wanted to go see my sisters. I don’t know why. Who knows what a kid does at 1-2 years old? So I got up, turned on the hall light and got to the top of the stairs.
Well, my father came rushing out of his room, my mother close behind, and he lifted my up by my right arm. He began hitting my behind. Not tapping, not even lightly slapping. This was a full grown man holding me up by my arm and smacking my backside so hard I was rocking back and forth like a pendulum in a bad clock.
I started screaming, my mother started screaming, I could hear my sisters screaming, and my father is still yelling at me “Where are you going? You get back in your bed! Where are you going? You get back in your bed!” with each tick of the clock.
And I started to pee. Maybe that’s why I got up, maybe I needed to pee and wanted my sisters to get the potty seat for me, I don’t know.
But I started to pee and I’m making a puddle on the floor and my father’s really bellowing now and he shouts at the top of his lungs “Did you do that?”
And I’m crying and I’m screaming and there’s more tears coming out of my eyes than there’s piss on the floor and I’m swinging by my arm and I’ve bitten my lip swinging back and forth and I can’t stop pissing and I’m screaming back at him, “No No No No NO” and looking back it was stupid, of course. I was pissing right there on the floor in front of him, so now he calls me a liar and if you thought he was having at me before, you didn’t know my dad. He use to beat me with a rubber hose he got when he installed a clotheswasher for my mother. That’s another one for you, a full grown man, strong to begin with, swinging a three foot long rubber hose at his baby kid because something didn’t go right in his god-damn day.
So I’d learned early on that no matter what happened, it would end up with me getting hit.
But this time, standing in front of the sink, our father getting louder and louder yelling at us, seeing my sister’s face get redder and redder, I basically decided fuck it. It didn’t matter.
Remember I said I had two sisters? For as long as I remember my oldest sister had this scar on her wrist, not like an attempted suicide scar, this was like a regular hospital scar and you could see where the stitches were and stuff. My parents and aunts and uncles always said my sister got bit by a goose and I always thought that was odd because we never lived anywhere near any geese. I found out years later my father had broken her arm. He’d thrown her down the stairs for some reason, before I was born, and they’d taken her to the emergency room to fix her up.
But back to the bathroom. I decided it didn’t matter. I looked at my dad and I said, “I did it.”
My sister let out her breathe.
“Why did you lie to me?”
Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I tell you the truth or if I lie. If you want to hit someone you’re going to hit someone, so it doesn’t matter and I might as well tell you the truth.
My mother was always telling people I was a deep thinker. I read a lot when I was a kid. Still do. So I’m not sure if I said it just like that, but that’s pretty much what I said.
Well, my father stared at me. I could tell he wanted to hit me but I’d told the truth and told him the other truth, that he was a bully and a bastard and it didn’t matter what the truth was, all that mattered was if he needed to hit somebody and that somebody was going to be me. I knew he wouldn’t hit my sister. She was getting older and for some reason he had real taboos about hitting a woman. I think because his father, my grandfather, use to beat the crap out of my grandmother when he was a kid. Hell, that’s probably where he learned it.
Anyway, he told me to go to my room but from then on he plotted. I think I scared him with what I said. I would catch him watching me, looking for excuses. One time I accidentally emptied a box of dishwashing soap into the sink. My mother asked me to do the dishes, I said sure but I didn’t realize how loose the cover was on the box and I spilt most of it in the sink.
My dad was out in the garage working on something and not getting it fixed, so he was already frustrated all to hell and he’d come in for some coffee, and when I emptied the box, I don’t know, it was some kind of challenge to his manhood or something. I think I was ten or twelve when this happened and he backed me into a corner of the kitchen and was punching me in the stomach, in the face, he was boxing me, again a full grown, strong man punching the shit out of a kid, not holding back, punching me as if I was coming after him. I don’t know. After a few minutes he quit. I guess he was tired at that point. My eyes are black, my lips are swollen, my stomach’s aching because he’s hammered me to the point that I can’t breath.
He storms out of the kitchen, back to the garage and my mother’s patching me up. She didn’t try to stop him, oh no, but once he’s done she comes in to patch me up. She was always like that. Thank god it had already been established at school that I was a clumsy kid and always falling down stairs, over things, tripping over my own feet.
I wonder why it took so long to people become aware of child abuse sometimes. After I left home I asked my mother why she never nailed him on the back of the head with a frying pan. “He’s your father,” she said. Oh, okay. He’s absolved.
But I’d already learned the price of truth was power, and you always get power when you tell the truth. I’m not talking about always telling the truth when you’re with friends or that kind of thing, I’m talking about telling the truth when it makes a difference.
That day in the bathroom I got power over my dad and he’s never forgiven me for it.
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