Lesson Four: We’re always playing a game. (trigger warnings)

I have not studied abusers, how or why they do what they do. I have not looked deeply into the past of my father, because I don’t care very much about his past. Still, let it be known that most abusers have been previously abused themselves, and are coping poorly, to say the least.

I was about four or so when the abuse grooming began by my father. It was mild and basic. I was offered rewards consisting of diamond and ruby bracelets, a palm pilot (in 1992 that was a BFD), bouquets of flowers, etc. Sound like an odd mix of gifts for a child of five, no? Yes. It seemed normal to me. Most kids don’t have a large basis of comparison for most things.

Chores were given to me, as they would/should be given to any child. Other chores appeared that were not explained with words.

Each night, someone would sleep with my father.

Because of a court order, my father was not allowed to be alone with my siblings and I. Usually my grandmother, his mother, stayed with us. Sometimes an aunt would stay, or friends of my father. They were not always court approved. How do I know this? My father took me with him to the building where they keep all that shit on file and had me read. Hooked on Phonics had nothing on that. Then we’d swing by a bar, get Crown for him and cream soda for me, and drive home. Good ol’ Louisiana.

“Who’s sleeping with Daddy tonight?”

My brother, my sister, and I all shared a room. It was easily the size of two bedrooms. We were small, and the bed slept all three of us comfortably. We were all under the age of six. My father was making a room for Alexander (what he insisted on calling my brother) next to the garage. It was unfinished for a long time.

At dinner, he’d ask. We’d decide. I volunteered. Always.

I’d go to bed at the same time as my brother and sister, only in my father’s bed. My siblings would sleep in our bed. My grandmother would sleep on the small loveseat in our bedroom, basically between where I was and where my siblings slept.

My grandmother must have been a sound sleeper. Or so deeply in denial that I cannot fathom it. Again, I’m assured by family and by childhood memories of mudpies and piano playing that she loved me. I just think she loved my father more/differently? And I’ve been told she was mentally ill. Shocker, from these stunning genes.

My father loved watching Jeopardy. I remember the blue light from the Jeopardy game board, with the amount of money written in white. The blue reflected in his glasses, the red of the Camel burning into his mustache, and the blue filling the cloud he exhaled.

He’d come to bed. Sooner or later, he’d come to bed.

Thankfully, mercifully, I don’t remember everything. I have patches of dark in my memory, where I thank the gods that I must’ve closed my eyes.

I remember the mindset. I remember the early lessons I learned under my father’s strict, unconventional tutelage. I remember choosing to change my mind. It was one of the mornings after. He’d been at me that night, and I had spent the wee hours cleaning my child parts with wet balls of toilet paper. I went out to sit with my grandmother. She had her coffee early, with several cigarettes, on the front porch. She taught me how to catch dragonflies that summer. I spent my morning in a hazy bliss of choosing to forget. It was only a game. It was all a game.

Maybe Jim said that to me specifically, and maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was a notion I imagined. Lordisa knows I imagine all sorts of weird shit. But from a very young age, I was aware of a game that I was playing. We were all playing, but not everyone knew.

If I did my job, did what Daddy Jim told me to do when he told me to do it, I was playing well. The reward for that was the safety of my siblings, my mother not going to jail, and presents. The game wasn’t easy. It involved mind reading more than anything else.

This was part of being a big girl; an adult. This was something that I must’ve wanted, because my body betrayed me into huge hands, leaving me shuddering in ways that turn my stomach now. I was biologically healthy, and I responded thusly. For all the shame I feel, none of it is required. I did nothing wrong.

Doing all chores became a game. Talking to people became a game. I won’t go into the fucked-up games I played with boys I liked in high school (apologies will never be enough, guys). Playing the game, and especially keeping it a secret, was my drive in life. I loved lying. I loved making up bullshit to replace reality that I didn’t want. I didn’t want it, and didn’t believe it, and wouldn’t remember it.

My dad couldn’t have done that to me. Not my dad. Not the man who got me all the special toys on my shelf, and wakes me up early to go on long car rides, and who lets me stay up late because I’m the oldest. He wouldn’t make me hurt like that. It’s my fault anyway, right? It must be. I was a bad girl and didn’t play the game right, so that is what happened.

It got worse, as it does. The grooming thickened, and soon threats appeared. And probably for good reason, considering how much I talked to everyone. If I told, I’d get into trouble. I’d lose the game. That threat was successful for about a week. Maybe.

Then it was my mother he used. She’d be mad at me. She’d be taken away. She’d be sent far away, to a jail, even. I wouldn’t get to visit her in jail. I had no idea what happened in a jail, but no one seemed to want to go a second time. Most people wanted to avoid it altogether, from what minor details I’d gleaned.

Not long after, maybe due to my lack of obedience or my father’s unhealthy mind, my siblings became the main target.

The young Brittany was struck with Sibling Threat! It was highly effective!

As I worked, unconsciously, to block everything that happened in the night, I relied on my game idea more and more. When I found God, I built even more on the idea that people who are lost are stuck playing the game. (As opposed to those of us in the light, who are no longer lost.) Then I felt I’d been played by God in a game of religion. It was the advice I gave my brother in his letter, the day he was taken into the program.

“Just play the game.”

The problem with this game, these games, is that there are no rules. There isn’t an explanation on why this happens and that doesn’t happen. It’s insane to expect anyone to be able to win a game where the rules are never explained. It’s not even fair to make them play.

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