I was a preteen when he and I officially met. I say "officially" because I had seen him in my mother's bed a few nights before as I had to tip-toe through her bedroom to get to the bathroom. The room was dark and they were curled up together, asleep under the covers. His boxer briefs and jeans were sprawled out on the floor and I had to quietly leap so I wouldn't step on his discarded clothing.
One afternoon I arrived home after school to discover him sitting at our kitchen table. He looked at me and I at him. We didn't say a word and I turned the corner to head upstairs to my bedroom. A few moments later my mother knocked on my door.
"Did you introduce yourself to Dickhead?"*
She led me downstairs and stood me right in front of him. I couldn't look him in the eye – let’s call it intuition. My mother nudged at my lower back with her knuckle, I introduced myself and held out my hand. He accepted with a firm grasp and we shook like adults. But then rather than respond with his name, he scolded me instead.
"Maybe next time you'll have manners."
He told me to sit down and tell him about school. I mentioned that I was in band and he rolled his eyes enough to see his own frontal lobe. Dickhead then regaled me with the tales of his youth as a star athlete, which he said gave him discipline. By this point my younger brother arrived home just in time to rescue me from our forced conversation.
Soon it was time for Dickhead and my mother to leave for a romantic night at the bar. My mother changed into a little black dress and used what looked like an entire bottle of hairspray on her teased roots. Her date was adorned in a Cowboys bubble jacket and faded Levi jeans. He had a permanent Skoal ring imprinted on his back pocket.
As much as I didn't trust him upon our first meeting, there was no denying how much my mother was glowing. It had been years since she felt desired and her smile beamed with excitement. I decided to give Dickhead a chance.
A few months later he moved in with us. He attempted to bond with my brother over sports. When my brother would disagree with him on scores or stats, Dickhead would either abruptly stop the conversation or start yelling that HE was the adult so HE was right. Dickhead's disdain for my brother grew.
One night around two o’clock in the morning, I awoke to him kicking my brother's bed and screaming that he needed to wake up and complete a household chore. I ran in and yelled at him to stop.
My mother meekly asked him to please calm down and he pushed her into their bedroom where he disappeared with her and slammed the door shut. I listened on the other side of the door to her sobbing and apologizing for speaking out.
My brother and I learned to mute ourselves around our mother's new beau for fear that if we said one wrong word we'd be judged and ridiculed. We didn't speak to him unless spoken to first, which is exactly what he wanted. We were giving him power over us by being too afraid to talk.
About a year later we all moved into a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood where my mother was keen on pretending we were a happy family. Dickhead said that since we now had a nice dining room, we should eat dinner together every evening.
For awhile this was, by far, the worst part of my day. The alpha male would talk about his day at work while we silently chewed our food as fast as we could in order to retreat to our bedrooms. Sometimes he would belittle my mother's cooking while we were all sitting there eating.
My mother said nothing. Finally, I spoke up. I told him to shut up and to leave her alone. To my surprise, he didn't speak.
The next morning my mother had a black eye and bruises on her arm.
This became a new trend. As I got older and started standing up for my family, Dickhead realized that he was losing control. He started beating my mother regularly to gain back power. My mother began drinking more, until she felt numb.
When my brother or I would plead for her to leave, she smiled, said she loved us, and that things would get better.
Things only got worse. A few weeks later my mother was admitted to the hospital after her boyfriend slammed her head on the wooden basement steps. She tried to hide what had happened but finally broke down one evening and revealed to me a three-inch line of staples holding together the crown of her head.
"Report him! Let's move!" I pleaded.
"No," she said, "Things will improve, you'll see."
I could be mute no longer.
The next day I told a teacher at my school what had happened. He told me he was going to alert social services and I agreed. A social worker pulled me from class and I described all of the horrible events.
Two days later when I got home from school, Dickhead was livid. He knew what I had done. A social worker came to the house while he was home. He put on his best Ward Cleaver face and let her in, giving her a tour of what seemed an ordinary home. I never heard from social services again.
"If you try anything like that again, you'll regret it. I could kill you, you know that, right?"
I ran out of the house with my bookbag still on my back. I bolted through our neighborhood and down the street to a nearby park where I cried until nightfall.
I worried for my brother and my mom so I returned home around 10 o’clock and was greeted by sounds of an argument coming from their bedroom. I crept into my room and listened. Dickhead was shouting at my mother, blaming her for my wild behavior.
The argument lasted so long that I fell asleep, only to be jolted awake by a loud thud. I quickly scrambled out of bed and put my ear to my door. My mom was on the floor right outside my bedroom pleading for her life, while Dickhead threatened her.
"Do you know what this knife could do to you?"
I grabbed my cell and dialed 911. I whispered into the receiver, hopeful that if the police arrived they could catch Dickhead in the act, and take him away for good.
A moment after I made my phone call there was silence. Then, a loud bang on my bedroom door.
"My friends have police scanners, bitch! I know you called! I told you not to try anything again!"
He tried stabbing at my locked bedroom door but the knife did nothing. I heard him stomp away and come back with something else. A hammer. He smashed holes into my door again and again, each time explaining what he was going to do when he got to me. We heard sirens and he stopped.
I immediately opened my door, preparing to run out and tell the authorities everything. Before I could take a step out into the hallway my mother grabbed me and begged me to lie to the police.
Dickhead escaped out the back entrance. My mother wiped the tears away from her face and fixed her hair. She escorted the officers into our living room. She told them that I didn't like her boyfriend so I had fabricated the story. According to her, I was just doing what teenagers do, being dramatic.
"Is that true?" they asked me.
I glanced over at my mother's death stare. I looked toward the hallway where a mere 20 feet away was my door, which now resembled swiss cheese. I was 18 and in my senior year of high school. If I could just hold on for a few more months I'd be rid of this place.
"Nothing happened," I replied.
I gave up. My last few months living in that house were hell, but since my mother and Dickhead were so thankful that I kept their secret, they backed off of me a bit.
It's been about eight years since my mother left her abuser and I've remained hushed about how sickening their relationship was. These days I'm very open about telling horror stories from my childhood but they never involve Dickhead.
Because I was forced to stay silent for so many years, his intimidation loomed in my brain long after he was gone from my life. That ends today. I'm no longer keeping his secret.
After Dickhead, my mother met an actual, real-life nice guy. She spent her last few years snuggled up with him and their cats on the couch, watching Jeopardy. As happy as she was, alcohol still ruled her body and took her from this world three years ago. I know it sounds odd, but to me, she died on her own terms.
I was thankful that she passed knowing she was loved, rather than due to the violence of an unhealthy relationship.
I didn't grow up in the best circumstances but it was those circumstances that taught me all I need to know about life and love. I now know the types of people I don't want in my life and I know the type of person I never want to become. I forgave my mother but I will never forgive her abuser.
Dickhead was never fined or arrested for all the fucked up things he did to my mother. As far as I know, he's still out there, possibly sucking the souls from another family.
Today, I'm taking a piece of my soul back.
* His name, obviously, has been changed.