Thursday, August 30, 2012


Running is getting harder. There are a few things going on. For one thing I am dealing with the cumulative of suddenly doing massive amounts of exercise when I have never done so before. It's an experience. But mostly I am struggling because of how my body is changing. As I lose weight/change shape/harden/whatever I can feel the bones of my brother Tommy coming through in my face.

This is weird and hard to describe. The more time I spend looking at Calli and the more time I spend running the more conscious I am of how my skull resembles my brother. And my running gait is embarrassingly like his. Embarrassing because Tommy had a severe traumatic brain injury. He didn't run. He lurched. He looked awkward and weird. It was a miracle he walked at all so folks considered it a real big deal.

One year, in Apple Valley, he was on a disabled kids sports team, softball. I remember how Tommy looked running the bases. I move like that. I feel weird when I run. I lurch awkwardly to the side. I have trouble figuring out how to balance my weight. I almost trip a lot. I kind of go back and forth on the side walk.

Except for sometimes when I hit my stride just right and I feel like I am flying. Then I feel Tommy. Then I remember how he would smile the few times he really managed to get going quickly. That wild ebullition on his face. I feel that way when I am running really fast.

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had lived in one place. If someone had looked at me as a small child and said, "Running quickly makes you feel good. Let's work with this." I was told to go to my room with a book and shut up. So I'm pretty awkward when I run. I have run more this year than the entire rest of my life combined.

Tommy hated me. Before the accident he was nasty and mean, "No one wanted you. Why were you born? Can't you die already?" After the accident he was brutal and vicious.

Tommy's speech was very difficult to understand. He had trouble enunciating and an average sentence would take multiple breaths and minutes to deliver. He hated me because I could hear the first three words and finish his sentences. "You rude, stupid bitch." He hit me a lot. A really lot. When I think of myself as "not being all that physically abused" what I mean is my mom gave me four really memorable beatings and that's it. My siblings hurt me all the time. That "didn't count."

Once, Tommy was screaming at me. I don't remember what I did. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. I don't know. He got as far as, "You are" and I finished, "a stupid worthless bitch, yeah I know" and I didn't even look up from my book.

I remember the sound of inhaled breath. Then I don't remember anything until I woke up on the floor. He hit me in the head. I don't know how long I was unconscious. No one paid attention or cared. I don't think I was unconscious very long. I think I managed to scramble up and away before he managed the physical dexterity to kick me. Either that or he did it once before I was awake. Regardless I got away just as he was trying to deliver a hard kick. He fell down. He crawled after me screaming that he was going to kill me. He wasn't going to deal with such a stupid bitch any longer. He should have killed me a long time ago.

That was why I spent a lot of time in the willow tree in the yard. He didn't have the arm strength to climb any more. I love climbing trees. I still love climbing trees.

That was Tuesday.

Essentially what I'm saying is: having running be a constant reminder of my brother is a mixed thing. I kind of wish I knew what Jimmy looks like when he runs. I'm not sure I have ever seen him run. In high school he was a state finalist. He was quite good.

Running fast is a gene. You have it or you don't. (Based on what I've read.) I don't know if I truly have it or not but I know I have never tried. It's not until you are an adult many years later that you can admit to yourself that as a kid you never tried. You never really gave it a go. You have to be honest with yourself.

The only time I ran was when someone was chasing me. I rarely got away. Usually I was caught and had the shit beat out of me.

I think I am afraid of Shanna getting older. She is so like me. I'm afraid she is going to be a lightning rod for people who want to beat the hell out of her as well. I hope not.

When I was nineteen I asked Tom to crucify me. We used rope instead of nails (I'm not that hard core) and we built a padded back board with a cross piece together. Even if you are just tied to a board, being suspended in that position with all of your weight hanging is rather intense. Especially if you stay up for a long time. I certainly got to the point of hallucination from insufficient air and blood circulation.

I saw Tommy and I saw my dad. At that point they had been dead for about three years. The hallucinations didn't talk to me at all. They just looked at me kind of dispassionately. I am not theirs but I don't belong to any one else. When I was nineteen I felt it was pretty clear that I was good for one thing--being hurt a lot. That was the one currency I had to buy affection. I can take a lot of pain. I can take a lot of degradation. It just feels normal to me.

I'm having this weird body experience as  I run. I can tell where my body is going to start siphoning energy from fat stores. I've watched the various fat pockets on my body (I have a lot of them) over this year. As I run the fat jiggles, quite a bit--really. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being you can barely feel it and 10 being "cut my leg off because it hurts so much" then my fat jiggling is normally in the 2-3 range. I can feel it but it doesn't hurt. Except when my body is nursing from a given area. I can't find a better way of thinking about it. We are actively stealing from that spot right now. When I can feel my body stealing from a spot that fat pocket starts hurting at more like the 4-5 level. It starts to feel like pain. Then a week or so later I notice that it is a lot smaller. It's kind of weird. I didn't know bodies did this.

I am doing a lot of compensatory eating. I'm a little more than ten pounds heavier than I was in March for the half marathon. I'm very depressed. I'm eating a lot of sugar and crying while I do it. I don't want my body to be smaller. I hate that I feel more and more like Tommy. Fuck that. I'll eat ice cream. There's a lot of ice cream in this world. I don't have to fucking feel Tommy's bones coming through. Fuck him. Fuck him. Fuck him.

Yesterday was an eight mile run then the girls and I did a round trip three mile walk for the park. I'm sore and tired. But I'll do five miles today. And eighteen miles on Saturday.

I'm not going to let Tommy take this away from me. I'm pretty sure he has hurt me enough for one life.


  1. You know, in all of the years I've thought about being beaten up by my sister, I've never before acknowledged that that was another form of abuse by my parents. They pretty much caused it, by abusing her, and they never really stopped it in any case.

    I always feel weird speaking from my experience about your experience, because they're not very much alike at all. Except in that way that all abuse experiences are alike. But, still, I want to tell you: you can look like someone else and share their genes and be nothing at all like them. I need reminders about that pretty constantly, but my family is happy to provide. When my mom is scared I'll do something deeply petty to her, when my parents both express ongoing surprise that I took the kids in, when they act as if my geniality means I'll eventually forget and let the kids ease back into the unsafe territory of being alone with them... I think "you just don't know me at all, do you? And that's because I'm NOTHING like you."

    From everything I've ever heard or read of your story, you're NOTHING like Tommy.

    1. I'm really not. I have never been particularly charming. :)