Love is Blind: 1985-1991

“What kind of love from a *****would black your eye?
What kind of love from a ***** every night make you cry?
What kind of love from a *****make you wish he would die?
I mean shit he bought you things and gave you diamond rings
But them things wasn’t worth none of the pain that he brings
And you stayed, what made you fall for him?
That ***** had the power to make you crawl for him
I thought you was a doctor be on call for him…”-Eve

My Uncle Philip scared me when I was a child. When I was five years old I came to stay with my Grandma. My mother, who was in the Navy, received orders for duty on a naval carrier. As a result I would spend that year in Seattle with my maternal family and complete kindergarten there.  My Uncle lived with my Grandma. At first I thought he was funny. He would tell jokes and sing songs by Whodini and Run-DMC. But I soon learned that Uncle Philip was quite moody and could fly into a rage for no reason. My fear of him started one morning before school. My Grandma had prepared her customary breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs for me. I grabbed a bottle of Lawry’s seasoning salt to sprinkle over my eggs. Being young and clumsy I didn’t realize how quick the seasoning salt would spill out through the larger holes of the filter. Before I knew it I had inadvertently dumped the equivalent of two tablespoons onto my eggs. My Grandma noticed immediately.
“Chile WHY would you pour all that salt on yo’ eggs?”
“I didn’t mean to Grandma it was-”
“Don’t talk back to me!”

My Uncle heard her yelling and joined in the commotion.

“Mama what’s going on?”
“This girl done heaped all this salt over her food! D go in there to your uncle!”

I rose from the kitchen table and went into the living room, where Uncle Philip was still laying down on the sofa, wrapped in a sleeping bag.
“Yes sir?” I said.

“Come closer”, he barked at me. I stepped closer. He grabbed the neck of my shirt and shook me roughly.

“You bet not do that again, you understand me? Wasting food like that! No go finish it”, he said, pushing me away. I walked back to the table, head down, tears in my eyes. I didn’t see why I had to be yelled at and treated like that. It wasn’t like it was intentional. But even at five years old I knew better than to press the issue. I sat at the table and finished my breakfast, the taste of my eggs completely overwhelmed by the Lawry’s.

I didn’t like my Uncle Philip. But I adored the young woman that he started dating that year, Lisa. Lisa was eighteen; my uncle in his early twenties. A free-spirited, unconventional thinker Lisa didn;t treat us in the strict fashion that other adults did. The notion that children were to be seen and not heard was foreign to her. She was vivacious and fun. But I would only get to see that side of her for so long. Within months of taking up with Uncle Philip the bruises appeared. The first time it was a black eye. I can remember how quiet she seemed all of a sudden, the haunting contrast of her ivory skin with the indigo bruises(Auntie Lisa was White). I would leave Seattle that summer and return to Cali with my Mom and new stepfather. When I came back to Seattle to stay with my Grandma again in 1989-this time for six months while my Mom was in rehab-I saw Lisa again. Her fun-loving side was on display, demonstrated in all the trips and activities she planned for my cousins and myself. By then Lisa and my uncle had two daughters together. But the arrival of my cousins had not changed the dynamic at all. The telltale marks of Lisa’s abuse were still there, and my family knew about it. When discussing my uncle;s abuse of Lisa my relatives acted as if there was some kind of balance present. My Uncle and Lisa were both derided as being ‘crazy as ticks’ and that was that. It didn’t make sense to me that Lisa was assigned any responsibility. How could she be called ‘crazy’ like that when she was the only one sustaining physical and emotional scars?

It is now 1991. My temporary visits to Seattle have now come to an end; my Mother moved us permanently in November of the previous year. Since our move to Seattle did nothing to improve my Mom’s addiction-indeed I might argue it exacerbated it-I am now living with my Grandma for good. One Saturday evening we are sitting in the living room together, watching Wheel of Fortune. Uncle Philip and Aunty Lisa lived above us at the time. They get into an argument. There is lots of yelling. The yelling gives way to Lisa’s screams as my Uncle hits her. I can hear her pleas to him to stop in my head to this day. Her begging does no good. I look at the phone to my right. We should call the police, I think to myself.  Grandma is sitting in the loveseat. I know she can hear it as well as I can, as none of her senses have been compromised by age yet. But Grandma makes no move for the phone. So I don’t either.

Someone else DOES call the police though. They arrive and take my uncle away. That night marks the beginning of the end for Lisa. Within a month she leaves him for good. Surprisingly enough it is a clean break. He does not stalk her or beg her to come back. It would soon become apparent that he had already met and groomed his next victim.

 

 

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