We take so much abuse in life. As a child, I was bullied because I was effeminate. I remember a boy uprooting grass from the mud and slinging it across my face. I must have been eight years old then. I remember walking down a market with my father beside me. a man came across us and grabbed my genitals and squeezed. It hurt and I told my father. He said if I walked the way I did, it was meant to happen. Through my childhood, I saw the tantrums of an alcoholic father. He was caught up in the grips of his own addictive neuroses.
He banged the walls of the house with his fist. Each sound would reverberate through the house and I would find succour in the hands of my grandma. He would punch his fist into walls, doors, the floor. He would return home every day, smelling foul. He would slam doors shut or open, depending on his need. To this day, when a door slams, my heart grows cold. Today, the Zoomers would talk of emotional abuse being tantamount to physical abuse. I have heard it said, “first they hit near you, then they hit you.”
When my mom moved into her home, my parents attempted a reconciliation. But she forgot that she would be leaving a jobless alcoholic alone at home with her son. There was no grandmother around then. The beatings began when I was thirteen years old. He would ask something of me, an errand, a command, a threat and I would stand up to the bullying. In school, I was different and so, hounded and ridiculed. I would find a means to escape. I would flee to the lavatories, spend the recesses there. At home, I could not do that, he would have kicked the door down.
On hind sight, he would not have done that because then his abuse would be realized by my mother and my aunts. Instead, he would grip my neck, like Mr Spock in Star Trek. Of course, the pain was excruciating but I would not pass out. He would cuff me on the side of my head for disobeying an order. Sometimes he would throw food. As I grew, and realized who I was and became vocal and shameless about it, I decided to fight back.
The fights then grew worse. I pause as I think about them. I was thin and scrawny and he was massive then, fuelled by the force of alcohol. Eventually, I realized my homosexuality was his trigger. He admitted to me, about two years before he died, that he knew I was ‘like that” since I was two years old. I have known fathers who have allowed their 2 year old sons to dress up in skirts. My father did not belong to this tribe. The last time he laid hands on me, he nearly choked me to death. He probably would have, if my sister would not have yelled out to my maternal grandfather who had come visiting our home.
I remember how shaken up I was after that. Today, I have knowledge on where my anxiety stems from. There is this build-up of pressure. Knowing that there is this figure who is supposed to have protected you, waiting to attack if you do not do exactly what he says. There are people out there, in the midst of humanity, who are capable of the most gruesome horror. I have read about them and understood their reasons. I have been on the receiving end of violence. Physical, emotional and mental.
The men that followed in my life have stories of their own. I have been abandoned by two, I have been forsaken by one, and with the last who still stands by my side I have been left unheld. It is confusing to me at times that our languages of love are so problematic. Men who are intimate have no qualms in abandoning you at their whim and fancy. Men who are cold can love you without any sign of intimacy. It never really comes in a single package and I wonder if it ever will. My quest for a man who doesn’t abuse seems futile. I have not given up on the idea of being loved. I have given up on the idea of us being divine.
We are all flawed. Sometimes, terribly so. I have been a stern father, but I have been intimate and loving, too. I have been a demanding lover, but I have been honest and affectionate. There are no hard and fast rules on love. My father never beat my mother. In his own way, he loved her. He just drew a line at loving a son he didn’t expect to have. But isn’t that what love actually is? It’s a promise you make without expecting your own charter of rights to be fulfilled. For better or for worse.