When I was younger I wrote poems for my mother. They weren’t anything fancy, nothing award winning or of literary sensation—just short, small, not-even-more-than-a-few-lines poems; the kind short enough to be haikus but just lacking that rhyming scheme. I was sitting on her custom designed Windows computer—customized to be an easy-to-use gadget for the blind (even though she never used it)—and just fooling around.
“Mommy, come here!” I’d said.
“I’ve wrote you some poems. Listen to them.” When I was done reading my novice poetry, she said she liked them, that they were “good”. That was my first time writing anything I felt proud of, and the last time, for many, many years. It was also the first sign I should have had that my mother was sick.
Of course, thinking back on it, she was never quite right. She slept all the time and never seemed to have too much interest in what was going on with me. When I was a child I never thought anything of it. It was routine, a mundane cycle. Just how she was. Now though…I just should have realized.
My mother had fallen into our bath tub and was taken to a hospital one weekend. There, my older sister had to make the call of putting her into a caring facility for the elderly. I had been at my sister’s house the weekend it happened. For whatever reason, she had fell, and in the process, lost her mind, as well as her freedom.
Not that it was a real issue. It might have even been a good thing. Weeks before, I had read a letter saying that our house had got foreclosed on. We were eventually going to be homeless. Perhaps the reality of that knocked the wind out of her in the bathroom of our house that night. Or maybe the air pushed her.
With mom in the hospital, the only person I could live with was my sister and her family. Not that this was a bad thing, I mean, I love my sister. It was her husband who was the problem.
He was just…mean. I guess being in the Military makes you stricter than you sometimes ought to be, and I guess having a bad childhood only makes it worse, but the guy was tyrannical. He yelled all the time, had a drinking problem, and a severe case of PTSD. He was just an all-‘round angry guy. And with my mother in a nursing home, he was suddenly my provider. I was suddenly his kid. A nine year old girl who still told people that she wanted to go to college to be a baby sister—like there was a class that said BABYSITTING 101 that I could get a degree in, a child who was afraid of cemeteries because she believed that, because of the one time she had gotten her foot stuck in the mud of a grave, all cemeteries had zombies in the ground, waiting to suck her under. I was an innocent, ignorant child thrust into a suddenly angry world.
It was bad enough I was afraid of him. It was even worse when I moved in with him. The beginning of my sixth grade year, my brother-in-law—my sister’s husband, John—had came home from a tour in Iraq. Having already been living with them for two years, I had already decided I didn’t like him, and while he had been gone my sister had decided to divorce him. So when I came home from my first day of middle school and he was there, announcing our imminent and immediate move the next day to Wisconsin, and that there were no ‘ifs, ands, or buts about it’, I was, well…the loss of words here explains it all.
And that’s where this story really starts. Wisconsin. See, things were bad. Not the kind of bad that you think of when someone isn’t having a good day or when a child doesn’t listen to their parents—I mean bad. The kind of bad that can change a person’s life for the worst. The kind of bad that makes a person just go through life without an ability to care.
It was because John is abusive. But not to my sister. Not to his kids. Not to his family members. No, at the time, John was abusive to me. That doesn’t mean he didn’t belittle everyone else around him, because he did, but when it came to physically venting his anger about something on anyone, I was the go to. If it was a really bad day, and he thought I did something I didn’t do, he’d charge at me, cussing me out and yelling at me as he got right up in my face, using his whole hand like a pointing finger, curving in the thumb, to tell me how badly it angered him. If I tried saying something to it—even if to just explain my side, or say I had no idea what he was talking about—that hand would just flex; quick, sharp, hard, connecting with my cheek before fixing itself right back in its place. If it was a really bad day, after that first, initial slap, I’d be backed up against things—walls, tables, refrigerators, floors—and pinned, terrified, crying, as he delivered a blow after the next, telling me how if Military personal didn’t speak that way to him, neither was I.
So I turned to music, books, and the privacy of my bedroom. I figured, if everything I said and did got me hit, then I just wouldn’t do anything at all. I have rather been alone, then downstairs with my family where I knew that one tongue slip and I’d be crying.
It was then that I started writing. Lyrics, I mean. I had no desire to be a writer at the time, but the thought of becoming a singer was still in my head, and it seemed like, through the books and the music, and the walls I had built inside myself, that writing those songs were the only thing I could do to keep myself together, and even then, it didn’t work much. Still, though, with every song I’d think up and jot down I’d remember that first initial time of writing those poems for my mother, and the calm that had taken me when I had. Around this very same time, I was, at my new middle school, in International Club. International Club was a club where we learned about different cultures and got to pen pal and know the people from other countries. The assignment we had was to write a short story so they could be sent overseas. This assignment was the first time I had ever written anything that wasn’t words to a tune.
The story was called “May Belle Finds a Lost Puppy” and it was about a little girl who finds a lost puppy in the marketplace and desperately wants to keep it, but her mother at first says no. I had printed off a copy, ran home (we lived right behind Tomah Middle school, so the back parking lot was like an add-on to my backyard,) and read my story to my niece and nephews. Then John turned to me and said, “Not bad. You might actually have a gift at this sort of thing.” I remember spending days editing it with John’s mother’s help, trying to make it perfect.
After that, I just started writing. I wrote lyrics, fan fictions, and poetry. Eventually, I even wrote my own stories. Then, in Utah, my sophomore year, I wrote this short, Halloween story about a ghost sister obsessed with her brother and submitted it to my school’s Literary Magazine…and it got accepted. Published, when the magazine came out later that year, as the first publication in the whole book. I was excited, happy. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt like I was a good writer, but at the same time, I’d felt like it was the first time I had ever had proof of being a good writer.
Then, it happened. After John had had a major flip out (which he took out on me, of course), I wrote a poem, saying in few, short lines, everything that needed to be said. Slap by Alexis Meyer. That’s what it said when he and my sister found it in Teen Ink’s monthly magazine, March, 2010 issue, after I had submitted it to the Teen Ink website, and it had been selected to be printed. It was the first time, I think, that he realized exactly how I felt about him, or that, the reason why I had first started writing to begin with was because it was the only other option for me as a result of having him has parental figure, unless I wanted to hurt myself, or something.
However, it was that moment, seeing my words in newspaper print, which made me realize that if I wanted, I could do it. Be a writer. Become a somebody. Have my words read by millions and millions of people, and become an editor, where I could read the words of others, falling in love with works of genius and turning nobodies into somebodies. Like me. Or, maybe, every person who’s ever picked up a pen or pencil and just written. I began reading novels and noticing grammatical errors in the print, or reading a text message from a friend and thinking to myself, “You wrote that wrong”. Sometimes, it’s annoying, even for me. Other days, I’m surprised I even noticed these mistakes at all, and then just decide that it’s an early indicator of destiny. Cheesy, I know, but I have yet to find a reason to think otherwise.