As I said in my last blog post, from here on I will share the occasional excerpt from the SEQUEL I am writing to my true story of incest, “NO TEARS FOR MY FATHER”. I hope you enjoy this segment from Chapter 9. In our second year of marriage we travelled from Ontario to the west coast of Canada and then headed south along the famous Hwy 1 of the California Coast. Comments, observations and feedback invited and welcomed. Thanks for reading.
“Gees John!” I screamed. I was absolutely and thoroughly terrified. Even my father hadn’t terrified me like this! “We’re going to go over the edge!”
“Calm down woman!” John was laughing. He was actually enjoying this while I was ready to vomit. My knees felt like jelly as I applied imaginary brakes to a car I wasn’t driving.
“If you’re that scared, stop looking out the window. Yelling like that is not helping my concentration. Just let me drive!” There was an edge of annoyance in John’s voice, so I shut up immediately. My father had taught me well to do what a man says. Old habits die hard.
We were flying down Highway 1 on the California coast. All I could see out the passenger side window was the drop at the edge of the road…with no sign of the road beneath the car. Just the slightest turn of the wheel to the right and down we’d go to join the other wrecks I had spotted at the foot of the sheer cliffs that plummeted to meet the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I was beside myself with fear. My fingers were clammy and my heart was racing. How many more miles of this highway were left before we got onto wider roads and away from the cliff edge? All those movies I’d ever seen of snazzy sports cars zipping down coastal roads and suddenly going over the edge and tumbling down in a fiery ball of flames were playing non-stop in my Hollywood head.
I couldn’t look anymore. I closed my eyes as tightly as I could, just as I used to when my father would tell me to stop squirming and relax because I was making things worse. I couldn’t relax then nor now. Fear consumed me.
“I can’t stand this!” I blurted out, despite my attempts to stay quiet. “Can you at least slow down?”
John shot me a look that silenced me immediately. I shrunk even lower in the seat and squeezed my eyes shut again. Wells Fargo had fixed us up with new travellers cheques. We’d celebrated with a huge American breakfast of bacon and eggs on hot buttered toast, all of which was now sitting very badly on my super nervous stomach and threatening to come back up.
“John, can you pull over? I think I’m going to be sick.”
Again he glanced at me quickly, not daring to take his eyes off the road for more than a second. “Honey, there’s nowhere to pull over! If you haven’t noticed, this is a 2-lane highway with no lane either side?”
Of course I’d noticed! I wasn’t stupid! But the exasperation in his voice had certainly made me feel stupid even though I knew he never intended it. His speaking to me that way made me cringe. I felt like a turtle that had just bravely poked its head out, and immediately retreated back inside the safety of its shell. That shell that I’d grown to help me survive was hard enough to cope with the physical, and even sexual abuse, but not the mental battering. That was something else. Even now, the most innocent comment directed at me could plunge me over a precipice to wallow in a pit of self-loathing. I felt that way a bit now. But I was healing: instead of dwelling on old hurts, I was focussed on the present. Right now I just wanted to survive this drive and come out of it alive!
Hairpin bends, black tar that suddenly loomed like a 50 foot high wall as we rounded a corner, and I was grabbing my seat while my heart leapt into my mouth and nearly choked me with fear. I glanced at John. He was all concentration. If he was feeling nervous at all, he hid it well, only speaking every so often to admonish me to calm down. When we finally hauled into a parking area of the incredible Redwood Forests, I nearly fell out of the car in my frightened rush to stand on solid ground again. Ever the gentleman, John had come around to my side to help me up. His eyes were twinkling and he looked exhilarated as if he’d just had a good workout:
“Wow! Wasn’t that some ride! I’ve never driven on a highway like that before!”
“And I never want to ride on one like it again!” I countered, trying to laugh. I felt weak, sick to my stomach and my need to pee was desperate.
“Oh come on woman! That was fun! Where’s your sense of adventure?”
I wanted to tell him I’d lost it the first time my father had taken off his leather strap and lashed me into obedience as a little child. Or in later years, when he’d mocked and derided me for not enjoying the sex that he’d found enjoyable. I’d closed my eyes and ears and blocked out all that was happening to me those times too. It was my way of coping with fear. And I’d done that now on that crazy ride. Now that it was over, just like then, I put on a smile:
“A regular James Bond, aren’t you! Now, I need you to help me find a loo!”