I’ve felt off for the past five days that not even a kickass Cinco de Mayo with my dear, awesome girl, Jewels, could remedy. I know what my problem is though, and unfortunately one of the curses of being a writer is that writing is sometimes the only thing that gives us solace. I guess I could write this all out and keep it to myself, but there would not be stores filled with thousands of books if writers were content to form words for themselves. It’s another curse of being a writer.
For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the man in this story as my “father”, though the fact that he was briefly married to my mother and donated a bit of his DNA to create me hardly qualifies him for the title. “Stepbitch” is my stepmother, but not even for simplicity’s sake will I call her “mother”, unless it’s followed by “fucker”.
I had always hated when I had to stay the weekend at my father’s, but there was a period when I was about seven that I particularly hated it. During that time my father and stepbitch had, I guess, “reconnected” with my aunt Karen and her current husband, and every Saturday, they would drag me, my sister and my toddler brother to her apartment where we would be quarantined with her obnoxious four-year-old son, Ian, in a small bedroom while the adults would drink in the dining room. We would get there after dinner and stay until at least two in the morning. One time I fell asleep on the living room floor and woke to find my father and stepbitch sleeping on the couch and the sun filtering through the blinds. I remember that I was somewhat fascinated because I didn’t know that adults had slumber parties.
My aunt would greet us at the door, beer already in hand, and smile her blinding white smile. There was something that I didn’t like about my aunt Karen. Every once in a while her perpetual brilliant smile would fall from her face and I would see something cold and reptilian in her black eyes. I couldn’t explain exactly what I saw, but I instinctively knew that this was not someone to be trusted.
“You’re some lucky kids, getting to stay up so late!” she would tell us as she closed the bedroom door with a decisive click.
I didn’t feel lucky at all. And that’s what I hated the most: that the adults tried to make it sound like they were doing us a favour. I had suspected that this wasn’t the case before, but it was confirmed one time when I wandered from the confines of my cousin’s bedroom and into the dining room where the adults were gathered around laughing loudly.
“What’s wrong, Kat?” stepbitch immediately asked in annoyance.
“Nothing. I just wanted to come out here and visit.”
“Well, it’s adult time right now. Go back in the bedroom and play.”
I glanced around the table. Any traces of laughter were gone from the four adult faces. My gaze fell on my aunt, and again I sensed danger in those black basilisk eyes. The hackles raised on the back of my neck, and for some stupid reason I looked up to my father for protection. As usual, he did not even bother to return my gaze, so I retreated back to the bedroom in silence.
Sometimes my aunt’s husbands two sons, Tim and Shawn, would be visiting, and then the tiny bedroom would be even more cramped. Ironically I liked my step-cousins better than Ian who was my blood-cousin. Tim was the same age as I and he hated our situation as much as I did. I felt an especial kinship to Tim because one time, the adults called the two of us from the bedroom because they wanted to see who was taller. I was already self-conscious about my height so to have it the subject of scrutiny made me want to hunch down. The adults couldn’t tell by looking at us side by side who was taller, so my aunt’s husband grabbed me and spun me around. I was instantly filled with terror at a man putting his hands on me, but panicked tears filled my eyes as I realized that he was pressing my back against Tim’s. I started to shake as I realized that my butt was touching his butt, but I clenched my teeth and forced myself to stand as still as possible, telling myself that it would be over soon. When the adults finally released us, I noticed that there were tears in Tim’s eyes as well. We walked back to the bedroom in silence, but a look of understanding passed between us before he opened the bedroom door, and when my sister asked me why I was crying I just told her that I hated daddy. It wasn’t a lie.
On one particular occasion Tim had brought a cassette player and a stack of tapes with him. I was thoroughly impressed because I had only recently discovered the world of cassette tapes and was just starting to collect them myself. Tim pulled one of tapes from it’s case.
“This one’s cool,” he told me as he put the tape into the player and pushed play.
“KICK IT!” suddenly blared from the speakers.
I listened in rapt silence to the first two stanzas, but my the third chorus I was screaming, “You gotta fight! For your right! To paaaaaar-tay!”
I insisted that Tim play the song again, and then again, and by the third listen I was screaming the entire song, though the chorus remained the highlight. The other kids joined in, and soon we were all screaming and laughing. While I did enjoy screaming just for screaming’s sake, there was some tiny part of me that knew that I was being noisy because I wanted to get the attention of the adults and make my anger known. Stepbitch did eventually burst through the door and explode at us to shut up, but for once her wrath didn’t matter. Disappointing my father didn’t matter. For one brief moment, I wasn’t powerless and I had made my voice heard.
Decades later I still think of that night at my aunt’s whenever I hear “(You Gotta) Fight for You Right (To Party). It was, in fact, the only memory that I could easily recall of those visits to my aunt’s. It wasn’t until Adam Yauch died, and I was consumed by this, frankly absurd, feeling of grief over his death, that I realized the gift that Adam’s song gave to me. All of these years I could have been plagued with only horrible memories of my aunt’s apartment, but instead the song and that one evening were the only things that I would spring to mind. I’ve realized that in some warped way that I’ve felt as though Adam Yauch created that song specifically to save me that night. He provided the protection that I so desperately wanted before I was able to defend myself. Adams’ passing has made me feel like I lost the older brother that I’d always thought would keep me safe, one that lead by example and told me that it was okay to not be happy with the behaviour of adults.
Thank you, and sleep well, brother-I-never-knew. You helped your “little sister” more than you could ever know.
(Many thanks to my friend Emmet at The Momus Report, for finding this.)
(Also, no comments necessary. Sometimes there’s just nothing to say. I’ll be back tomorrow, stronger and kicking ass harder. Because I’m a rockstar.)