My Only Escape

Chapter 30

Pain...

The word has so many varied definitions when you live the kind of life that I do.

It's hard to really pinpoint what 'pain' really is anymore. How do I gauge the severity of it from one moment to another when I can't really figure out where the tolerated abuse and the unbearable suffering begins and ends at any given moment? I've been wearing this mask for so long that hiding my emotional agony from the rest of the world has become second nature to me. I've built up an emotional callous that allows me to survive, despite the fact that I have to deal with horrors that would break most people down into a traumatic fit of tears and suicidal thoughts.

I'm trying! Honestly...I'm trying so hard!

But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't wish that I could just go to sleep one night...and simply never wake up again.

It may sound morbid to most. But to me? It sounds like heaven. It sounds like 'peace'...even if I'm not around to appreciate it.

If only I could spend those moments of peace in Brody's loving arms.

If only...

I sat down on my bed for a few restless moments, trying to contain the burning rage within me. It was difficult to figure out what I was feeling at that moment. Was I mad at Brody for forcing his way into my house and trying to bully me into letting him help me? Was I angry at my dad for being an obstacle that was determined to keep me and Brody apart for the rest of our natural lives? Or was I just...angry at myself? Angry because I couldn't decide whether my father's constant abuse and the potential threat of the 'ultimate' punishment meant more to me than Brody's loving kiss. Because I wanted to kiss him again so badly that it HURT to have to swallow those feelings down where my father couldn't find them. And the hurt didn't just come from the restraint alone...but from the shame I felt for having to restrain myself at all.

God...I'm so screwed up.

How could Brody find anything to love about me at all? Seriously...because I just can't see anything appealing about me at all. Maybe I'm just cursed that way.

I stood up from my bed, and paced back and forth for a bit. It was like I had this...'energy' burning inside of me, and it wouldn't let me sit still. But I still had this habit of suppressing my feelings to the point of numbing myself to their potentially destructive effects on my psyche as a whole. So I sat back down again.

Then I got restless, and stood up to pace again.

What the fuck was WRONG with me???

Ok, I've got to...ummm...I've got to let off some steam. I just...I need to get this burning fury out of my system so I can get back to finding some kind of normal again. Just a little bit of it. Then I can regulate my emotions a little bit better. I swear.

I was wiggling and uncomfortable in my seated position, so I stood up again, but this time I looked over to my desk, and I saw my notebook sitting there staring back at me.

There was an extended moment of hesitation. There really was.

I could feel this intense craving to truly vent all of my frustrations, all of my grievances, all of my hatred, in a single, drawn out, scroll that would document my years and years of horrific abuse and harsh treatment. A diatribe that might actually cause the pages I wrote my words upon to burst into flames if I ever found the guts to actually tell the TRUTH about what my life was like. But...

But...

There was, like, this impenetrable WALL between my deepest emotions and my ability to translate them into words at all. It wrapped itself around my throat and kept me from ever telling my truth. There was soooo much fear. What if he finds out? What if I tell, and he gets REALLY angry? Like...angry on a level that I've never seen before. What if he decides that me saying the words out loud was the final straw? What if he really hurts me this time? What if he hurts my mom?

She doesn't deserve that. My mom is my only saving grace. She's the only reason that I bothered to live through another day, instead of slitting my own wrists and getting it over with.

I just wish I knew what to do. I'm such a baby! I'm afraid of everything. I'm afraid ALL THE TIME!!! And I hate myself for it! I hate hating myself! I hate hating my life in general! I just want to escape for a while. I want to lay my head down and dream about cute boys like Brody, holding me close...telling me that everything is going to be ok. Telling me that I'm good enough to warrant some level of happiness without always feeling like shit. Always waiting for the moment when my life would inevitably fall apart again. Just like it always does.

I feel like I'm always standing on a thin layer of ice...and that feeling never goes away. Not ever.

I envy the people who didn't have to grow up this way. The people who can't even fathom what it's like to hate myself the way I do, and don't have to work so hard to compensate for that self hatred by creating a false face for the public. Just hoping and praying that someone...anyone...will finally love me the way that I wish I could be loved.

I keep thinking that Brody might actually be that boy...but...how would I know?

My perspective is too tainted to see things from a 'common sense' point of view.

There was an intense pressure in my chest that kept pushing me to sit down and write it out. I was trying to hold it off for a little while longer...keep it at bay until I came to my senses and abandoned the idea altogether. I'll only be making more trouble for myself. I mean, my adolescent experience might be a great big bowl of shit more times than not...but at least I know what to expect from my particular station in life. Despite what other people may see, from the outside looking in...I've learned to deal with the torture that I've been subjected to so far. I've learned to maneuver and navigate around the problems in my life. I taught myself how to hide the pain, avoid the visible scars and bruises, and put on a convincing act that would keep most people out of my business so they can go back to believing that this kind of thing doesn't happen to boys like me. I didn't put all this work in, and go through all of that intense suffering, just to toss my dependable defense mechanisms away now. Certainly not for empty promises of love and a fantasy 'happily ever after' scenario with a boy that deserves somebody SO much better than a damaged wad of sickening alley trash like me.

And yet...the pressure remained.

It had been growing ever since my first kiss with Brody, like a thriving seed in the center of my heart, and having him defiantly come over here today to let me know that he was determined to help, and more than willing to fight for me if necessary...I don't know...

Something about it called to me. For a few short moments, I almost thought that I might be able to...actually change things. You know?

Brody made me want to believe that such a thing was possible. He gave me...dare I say it...hope.

I can't really say that I've ever had 'hope' before. It's a weird feeling, to be honest. It's like spending years in a dark prison, and someone comes along and tells you that the door to your cell has been unlocked and standing wide open the whole time. I mean, what are you supposed to do with that?

I looked at my notebook again. Then I looked away. I paced some more...but as the pressure inside caused tears to well up my eyes...I began moving closer to my desk...and I pulled out my chair to sit down and take hold of my favorite pen.

What are you doing, Zack? Don't! Just...take a break. Lay down on the bed, scream and cry into your pillow for a few minutes, and then go the 'safe route' by just cramming those pointless expressions down into the pit of your gut where they belong. Why provoke your father's rage? Why make things worse for yourself? You didn't survive this long by being rebellious. That's not how this works. It's not a matter of pride, it's a matter of survival. Self preservation is my only goal here.

And yet....I stared at that blank page...and it stared right back at me. Almost daring me to hide the pain for a moment longer. Begging me to stop making excuses. To stop allowing my fears and doubts to control me to the point of staying silent. And eventually...with a trembling hand, I put my pen on the notebook page...and I wrote my first sentence.

"This is the life I have...but not the life that I ever expected to have..."

I stared at that sentence for nearly five minutes straight. It looked so wrong to me. So dangerous. But everything about it felt right. In fact, as I made the decision to add more onto that very first sentence, that inner emotional 'push' that I was feeling caused a single tear to drip from my right eye, and roll down my cheek.

Can I do this? I mean...is it finally time for me to write this story, and dig up all of the hurtful and psychotically destructive memories that comes with it? Because every word that I put on that page seem to truly hurt me, like a bullet through the core of my heart. I had to dig deep into all of the areas of my life that I've been trying to run away from in order to keep from going completely insane. I had to think about my father. I had to see his face in my mind, and the hatred in his glare. I had to relive the slaps, and the punches, and the shoves, and every hurtful string of words that he ever hurled at my head with the direct intent of doing as much psychological damage as humanly possible. Deliberately trying to ruin me, and make it impossible for me to ever fit in with the rest of humanity in a way that felt normal. Comfortable. I had to think about how he destroyed my ability to look at my own reflection and see anything worthy of any love at all. And it hurts. It really hurts.

I don't think anybody will ever understand how deep these wounds go...and I'm glad. Because I wouldn't wish this torment on anybody. There's nothing more devastating than a complete and total betrayal of self.

No wonder Brody hates me...

He shouldn't have loved me in the first place. That was a mistake on both our parts.

I sat there at my desk, with my bedroom door closed, writing out my feelings as best as I could. The strange thing is, once I found the courage to tackle some of the things that were really bothering me, the floodgates began to open up, and it was almost like I couldn't stop. It was like taking a harsh look at myself and finally being able to tell the world what I see. What I expect them to see. And I kept writing and writing for the next forty five minutes straight without a single break, practically vomiting BLOOD on the page as my tired fingers worked hard to keep up with my chaotic state of mind. It was an exercise in self loathing that brought a lot of awful memories to the surface for the first time in years...but it was also a liberating release of pent up frustrations and long forgotten cuts, gashes, and lacerations, that had been weighing me down a lot more than I ever realized. Not until I revisited those harsh parts of my childhood...and was forced to explain them in words that some random may be able to understand some day. So I kept on writing. Even with tears streaming down my face, and my heart throbbing with misery the whole way through...I kept going. I needed this. I needed to get the poison out of my system...by any means necessary.

I, eventually, had to reach for some tissues to blow my nose. My face was a mess. I didn't think that writing about 'him' would ache so much...but it does. And a big part of that came from what Brody told me. My life doesn't have to be like this. He was totally right. I've been allowing my father to abuse me and take out all of his anger on me for more years than I care to count. And I've gotten so used to it that I wasn't sure what my life would be like if I didn't have that cruel dialogue, that despicable mantra, running through my thoughts all day, every day, of my natural life.

I'm never good enough. I'm never working hard enough. I'm never doing things fast enough. No matter what I do...there's always something there to tell me that I'm less than human. Somebody ALWAYS has to say something to make me feel like shit again. And even when it doesn't happen, I find myself waiting for it. Anticipating the moment when some asshole has to make it their mission to tear me down and demand more from me than I can possibly give. Maybe that's my curse. Maybe that's all I'll ever be to some people. 'Fuel' for what they want...whether they give me any fuel in return or not.

It makes me wonder if they're just as damaged as I am. Just in a different way.

I heard a light knock at my bedroom door, and swiftly grabbed a few more tissues to wipe my teary eyes and blow my nose as I slammed my notebook shut. I'm pretty sure that I was finished writing for the evening anyway. My heart was aching to the point where I felt emotionally drained and weak on the inside. I don't think I could take much more 'honest expression' tonight.

"Yeah?" I called out, and my mom opened the door to peek her head in.

"You busy with homework?" She asked, quietly.

I held back my sniffles, and said, "Ummm...yeah. I've got a paper due in Mr. Raffe's class on Friday. I'm just trying to make it good enough so he doesn't, like...hate it like he usually does."

With a calming voice, breezing over my shoulder, my mom said, "Stop that. I'm sure your writing teacher is just trying to bring the best out of you, that's all."

But I responded with, "No, Mom. Trust me. He hates my writing. All he does is criticize me and make it seem like my stories are trash. Nasty little, backhanded comments here...demoralizing and sarcastic comments there...then it's like, 'Why do you think I hate your stories, Zack?' Gee, I don't know...maybe it's every word that comes out of your fuckin' mouth?" I realized what I said, and immediately felt bad for it. "Sorry."

I don't like to curse in front of my mom. It doesn't happen often, but I was a bit of an emotional wreck at the moment.

She came into my room and wrapped her arms around me from behind. "Baby...you just keep searching for your voice, and you write what feels good to you. Ok? Maybe it doesn't fit a certain format or mesh well with a certain curriculum...but it's your voice. And, at the end of the day, your voice is all you've really got to show the world who you are. Take pride in it. Own it. And one day...people will thank you for having the courage to say what you needed to say. If it's important to you, it'll be important to someone else too."

Just feeling her embrace wrapping me up in such a tender way, listening to her words, having her just....love me for no reason at all...

It made the pressure infinitely worse. But I held back the tears. I had to hold my breath to do so, especially when she kissed me on the cheek to further accentuate the affection that she was showing me in that moment...but I managed to keep myself from crying out loud. "I'll try, Mom. Promise." I said, my voice trembling, but not giving too much away.

"I'm making baked chicken and some mashed potatoes for dinner tonight. Sound good?" She asked, letting me go...allowing the frigid winds of my tortured life rush back in to take the place of her motherly hug.

Disappointed, I said, "Yeah. Sounds, good." I sniffled a bit, and I think she heard me this time.

"You're not catching a cold, are you?"

"No. I don't think so."

She said, "Well, take a cap full of flu medicine tonight before bed. Ok? Just in case."

"I will." I said.

My mom left the room to start dinner, but I found myself even more emotionally disturbed than I was before. I was, literally shaking at this point. I could hear my father's footsteps stomping through the apartment...I could almost feel the vibrations through the floor. I thought about my friends, about my mom, about Brody telling me that he could have the police come to my house right NOW if the idea of it didn't terrify me so much!

My breath got shorter and shorter. In fact, I began gasping for oxygen as a mini panic attack took hold of me, and I had to stand up to hold on to the wall as my vision went blurry.

What's happening to me? Calm down, Zack. Calm the fuck down.

Oh god...it's not working. I need...huff huff...I need AIR!

My mom's going to find out! The whole world is going to find out! My dad is going to know that I told! He'll hurt us both! He might even kill us! KILL us!!! I need to...I need to run! I have to get out of this house! I don't know why this hysteria was suddenly thrusting me into a state of insanity where I could barely stand still...but I just felt like I'd die if I didn't get out of that house, right then and there. I needed to...I had to...GO! I have to go!

RUN, Zack!!!! RUN!!! Hurry up!

I grabbed my notebook, with all of the incriminating evidence inside of it, and I waited until it was safe for me to creep out of the back door, undetected.

I rushed down the steps and felt myself breathing so hard that I was nearly dizzy with breathlessness.

I didn't know where else to go, so I just...I crossed the alley and rang Adam's doorbell.

He opened the door, not expecting my random visit, and the moment his eyes met mine and he asked me what I was doing there...that intense emotional pressure within me slammed against the gates of my restriction and my sense of normality...and I began to cry. Not just a few stray tears, but wracking sobs that made me so weak in the legs that I fell to my knees and sobbed openly in front of him, holding my notebook close to my chest. I wept, and Adam quickly put his hand on my shoulder to ask me if I was ok.

And all I could do was utter two words. Two words that I was hoping would finally bring me some peace.

"...Save me..."