on the stairs he,
he has just been
screaming, screaming at my
mother. I don’t know if he will
stop. I don’t know how to speak
and I want it to stop. don’t want
him to come up to my room. what will he take?
I gather my toys together. I have told
this before. I gather myself together and I go to the
top of the stairs. I want him to stop. And I, in my
little girl voice — the little girl who wears pink, soft, curlers to
bed and surrounds herself in blankets — I say “please.” I say
“please don’t hurt…” and I can’t remember what else I say. He stops.
I wish this wasn’t my story. I wish that I still didn’t feel like
I’m at the top of the stairs, bringing myself to courage.
Every time I speak my mind. I do. Little girl with
a little voice who wants it to stop. Only, sometimes
I scream too. want to scream at the world sometimes.

I wrote this in a memoir writing workshop in 2007. It was a defining moment in my life and one that I’m still trying to come to terms with. I don’t want you to read this and see a man who was a monster and a little girl who was powerless. I don’t believe that.

My first step-father raped and beat his boys and first wife. His boys grew up to do the same to women and girls. One was me. His boys never had a chance. My first step-father drank every night but no one called him an alcoholic. His sons ended up doing hard drugs. One ended up in prison. When I look back on my childhood I think I am lucky to be alive. I never had a chance.

Yet, in this moment I was brave. I remember how it took all my courage to go to the top of the stairs and say something. But I learned, in that moment, that I had a voice even when I felt lost and alone.

I was the girl who stood at the top of the stairs and said no. No, I will not accept this. I will not sit by quietly and do and say nothing. There have been a lot of top of the stairs moments in my life.

And in that moment, I also learned how to scream. I learned what rage is.

I talk sometimes about wanting to live in a world where I love the villain, I’m not a victim, and I don’t have to be the hero.

I think, sometimes people think this is because I have not looked terror in the eyes. And I’m here to say I have seen it in the mirror. I have known rage intimately. I don’t want you to read this and see me differently and I’m afraid you will but I have been waiting all of my life for someone to say what I’m saying. To say, I know this too.

You are not alone. I know this too.

I know what it’s like to have come from the darkness and stand in the light. So, when I talk about living in the light it is because of this and every moment like this in my life.

I love my life now. I wake up every day and am grateful to be alive.

My deepest wish is that what I’ve been through will not be for nothing. That I’ve learned something deep and real about compassion and love and that this gives something back to the world.

I have no idea what happened to my first step-father but I have a feeling he never had a chance. He died when I was 12 or 13. I didn’t go to the funeral and don’t talk to anyone from that family anymore. And today, well, I wish I could look him in the eyes and tell him I love him and that I wish he hadn’t been in so much pain. I would ask him what happened. I would sit with him. …And, who knows, maybe I just did.