That weird place between waking and sleeping that feels just like the space in my head between memory and imagination; it is, by turns, horrifying, fascinating, and confusing.
I walk down a dappled street, one side of the same block my childhood home exists on. The sun is gentle, filtering through the oaks and maples in the yards of the neighbors. One neighbor in particular is on a double lot. Their house fills out the space so even a child would notice the difference between it and all the others. As I walk along and pass before this house, I am pushing a chair: black with two big wheels, several straps, and squishy material where someone like me would be holding on to the handles. Inside the chair, mostly subdued, sits a child about my same age. Their face and mouth move just a little too much. They are trying to speak but the sounds are unimpeded by tongue and lips and teeth; they lack the ability to command their muscles to form speech I can understand. This child is a twin with a perfectly “normal” 9 year old that we left back at the house. However, this twin didn’t get the same nurture from nature. Their gestation didn’t get them the same amount of oxygen and nutrition as the other twin.
I smack her in the face.
My daddy taught me that anything that isn’t 100% healthy is a mental problem. Slapping this differently-abled person is supposed to snap them back to reality and “cure” them. Everyone will be so happy and thankful when I get back to the house with a perfectly “normal” person in tow.
But no matter what I say or how many times I slap them, they refuse to snap out of it. I say everything I can think of to try to shame them for their failure to fix themselves. I’m so angry with their stubbornness. Do they want to remain crippled? They must enjoy all the “special attention”.
I’ve been terrified by this “memory” for my entire life, thinking I was inexplicably monstrous to people in wheelchairs even though it didn’t sound like something I would do and there was no time when this would have been possible. I felt deep shame that I would treat another person with such disdain and disgust. But now I know the truth.
She is me.
This was a framing device my brain used to make sense of what was happening to me. My parent was abusive and my mind couldn’t deal so this “memory” is really a disassociative memory of my parent dealing with me. The rich neighbor is everybody around us that could see my pocked skin and my red face. And my parent couldn’t stand that. They could not let me bring such dishonor to our family name; if I insisted on having these “problems” and allergies that were “all in my head” then I deserved to be slapped until I snapped out of it.
You know what’s really terrifying? This parent was so good at dealing out shame and guilt that I could perpetuate the punishment upon myself after they stopped yelling at me. It was the perfect manipulation; train your children to think that they deserve to be treated like garbage and they will learn to harangue themselves and still desperately seek your approval. I learned to abuse myself.